April 21, 2020
by Rev. Patti Duckworth, Associate Executive Minister
There are a lot of needs around us right now – keeping people safe, encouraged, fed, and connected, helping them not give into fear. To be sure, those needs take up a lot of time and energy. Rightly so.
At the same time, there are also some new opportunities, as others are pointing out. Many have noted efforts to provide worship services, messages or Bible studies are being seen, at least momentarily, by much larger audiences than usual. Apparently, people who might not otherwise think of God or spiritual things seem to be checking out churches “online,” looking for support, comfort, guidance and hope.
Essentially, we have two audiences: the people we know in our regular congregation, and people we do not know or know about.
The people we don’t know or know about are “overhearing” our conversations.
Consider carefully two things about people who are now listening in.
First, when our congregations are allowed to gather again, rejoice! But our online presence must continue. I am convinced some people participating with us online now will not come to our churches, at least not in the near future. Maybe not ever. But if they can keep contact with us virtually, they may find their way to Jesus.
Second, evaluate the language you use. Many of the people who are with us online don’t understand what we are talking about. While they may be aware of spiritual things, they may not understand our lingo. In a recent post, Carey Nieuwhof reminded us to “assume intelligence, not background.” (LINK)
Several years ago, I taught intro to religion classes at Malmstrom AFB. In the opening session, I made the statement that “religions, especially the historic ones, all believe that there is something more to people than minds and bodies. They all believe people have souls.” That’s a true statement. But more than one student would turn a foot ever so slightly and look at the bottom of his/her shoe. Catching that, I would repeat my sentence, only this time, I would say, “They all believe we have what some refer to as a spirit.” More often than not, someone would ask, “You mean, like we’re all ghosts?”
Their questions were completely sincere. Many had taken the religion class, not because they needed that particular humanities credit – there were other choices. Many shared openly they had questions and didn’t know where else to get credible, no-pressure answers. And the questions started with the basics: the essence of being human, who God is, and why does God matter so much. Ideas like atonement, grace, and resurrection, even Jesus is the Son of God, were foreign concepts, meaningless words.
I am convinced these are the people jumping our numbers online. The COVID pandemic is causing them to ask questions. Many are open to our thoughts, our beliefs, our convictions and especially whywe have hope. The question is are they able to understand what we are saying or do they get lost in our Jesus jargon?
As you prepare to put things online in the coming weeks, keep this picture in mind: you are having a conversation with someone, maybe even a Bible study, in a coffee shop or restaurant. There are other people at tables nearby, and they can overhear what you are saying quite plainly. Would they understand what you are talking about enough to be open to more? Or would they go away thinking God must not be for them because they did not understand anything being discussed?
Our conversations with our congregations are being overhead by others. Are we doing everything we can to help them understand what they are hearing?
Mission Northwest COVID-19 Resources Page
We at Mission Northwest have been collecting some of the more pertinent information for navigating ministry during the COVID-10 pandemic. Our WEB PAGE includes information about the following:
- Q & A about Paycheck Protection Program loans
- CARES Act checklist for churches
- REPORT: How Church Leaders Are Responding to the Challenges of COVID-19
- MMBB on the CARES Act — “Your Questions Answered”
The page also contains articles and information previously disseminated to Mission Northwest churches through email and Facebook postings.
If you need additional information and/or guidance during this season contact the region office at 208.777.2733 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We will do our best to assist you.