During times of panic and turmoil, humanity often tries to find some sort of stability to cling to. We try to find something that reminds us of the “normal” way things used to be. However, life can never go back to the way it used to be, nor is it supposed to, because any time a worldwide tragedy occurs it rewires the way people live and view life.
Pandemics and wars force people to truly think about what they value and put their time into. As an example, I have always questioned American sports events and Hollywood award shows as to why people put so much value and money into them when there are numerous careers that hold more significance. If we are honest, America and much of the world have made athletes and celebrities into idols, yet, as COVID-19 has rapidly spread, people have begun to realize that the people they need are not athletes or celebrities but instead doctors and nurses fighting for countless lives at the front lines. This pandemic has already begun shifting what we view as valuable.
As my family talked about the pandemic in relation to the church, my dad shared an interesting, convicting illustration. First, imagine going into a supermarket right now. What would that look like? Most likely it would consist of people walking around in face masks and gloves getting what they need before returning to isolation. It also consists of people respecting others’ space and keeping social distance practices.
Next, imagine going into church. What does that look like? Depending on one’s denomination, that may vary; however, personally, I have visited many churches and been able to gather a general idea of what to expect when walking into a Protestant church service. I have noticed that first and foremost church is a social event from the moment one walks through the doors.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with catching up with brothers and sisters in Christ, but what if we were to walk into church with the same respectful, serious attitude we have when we walk into grocery stores. Oftentimes, we get so wrapped up in the social aspect of church that it becomes an overly casual service when it is meant to be reverent and holy.
God desires more than our attendance at church, he desires our hearts and worship. What would happen if churches began putting more emphasis on sharing God’s love with their communities and building up relationships instead of their coffee bars and bookstores? Though those things are not inherently bad, they shift the way people view what church means.
We must get back to the roots of why we even go to church, and what better time to do that than during a pandemic? One reverend made the point that as a church we have to learn to “Talk less about buildings and more about relationships, talk less about the institution and more about our communities, [and] talk less about us and more about the love of God made known to us in Christ” (Walker). Less emphasis should be placed on material things and more emphasis needs to go to advancing the kingdom by building relationships. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus encourages us: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (ESV). So, when the time eventually comes to physically go back to church, do so with even more reverence, humility, and love than ever before by focusing on seeking God’s kingdom first.
I would also encourage you to take this time seriously and use it to grow in your relationship with and understanding of Christ. Start Bible plans, set aside prayer time, meet with friends in a small group, and simply spend time with God. Open your heart to changing what you value, and remember that despite everything going on, God is in control.
Our lives cannot and should not go back to the way they were before everything happened. Whether we like it or not, COVID-19 has forever affected us and has put the world in a place to reevaluate our priorities. Humanity has once again adapted and transformed due to a tragedy, and the world will not be the way it was before the pandemic and neither should any of us. We have this time to grow and learn, so let us not make the mistake of wishing to go back to what we perceive as normal when in reality a new and better normal is being formed.
As we all go about these strange times, recall this verse in Romans 8:28 where Paul says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV). May we each keep in mind God’s goodness and sovereignty, and allow him to bring about necessary changes in our lives in these times.