Thus Spake Pastor Lockdown
But, as something of a counterpoint*, I found this article by Ian Stackhouse equally helpful. Like myself and Jonny, Ian has a positive story to tell,
Like many other churches, we have seen an upsurge in interest in the gospel. People have joined us online, Alpha courses have flourished, and the general atmosphere seems, at least for the moment, conducive to faith. I have my own testimony of conversations with people which a year ago would have been inconceivable.
These opportunities and developments are certainly to be celebrated. Here at Gateway we have talked a lot about ‘the hidden work of God’ and pruning we are experiencing that might feel painful but will result in greater fruit. This is certainly a moment of opportunity for the church and her mission.
Despite all that is positive and encouraging Ian’s counterpoint is worth reflection (and worth reading in full).
1. Why it is that some of those who relish these times of opportunity regard this as ‘mutually exclusive’ to the call to engage in public debate about covid. I simply don’t understand that. After all, our faith is not just about saving souls, or even feeding mouths (both of which are central to our vocation), nor simply about being church (which I do regard as our primary calling), but also about speaking truth to power.
2. Another area of concern for me is the ease with which some people are consigning corporate gatherings to those things that pertain to the old world. I don’t think it is always stated as explicitly as this, but it certainly can be inferred from what is said in certain quarters. Church as we have known it is passe, so the argument runs.
3. Finally, I should like to question the use of the word opportunity to describe the church’s response over this last year. Opportunity speaks of boldness, creativity, courage, and risk. And although many of these things have been evident, too much of our decision-making has been determined, in my opinion, by an overuse of the precautionary principle. In which case, maybe a better word than opportunity is contingency. And the reason I would like to propose contingency is not to downplay the newness of this time, but to be honest about our chariness, and reflective, therefore, about what might need to happen next.
Yes, let’s celebrate the positive, and seize the opportunities; but while we’re ‘picking the daisies’ let’s keep a scythe in hand to battle the thistles.
*The technique of combining two or more melodic lines in such a way that they establish a harmonic relationship while retaining their linear individuality.