The Church is Not Normal
The week of February 15th is one that I, and many in our community will never forget. As we prepared for the week by stocking up on groceries, we had no idea just how long the power would be out, or how bad the conditions of the roads would be. When this reality became apparent, Judge Ron Cunningham contacted me regarding opening our church as a “warming center” for those needing heat, food, a shower, and/or a place to sleep. I did not hesitate in responding affirmatively, without actually thinking through what all this might entail for myself or our church family. Through the whole ordeal, I have been encouraged by the positive attitudes of not only our congregation, but several others throughout our community. Pastor Bryan Rogers, of Lutie Watkins United Methodist Church, remained in close contact with me, offering help from his church preparing food and serving as an overflow shelter. Individuals I’ve never met dropped off food and supplies. Other pastors in our Llano Ministerial Alliance contacted me offering their assistance, as well. As is often the case in wonderful communities like ours, we all came together and took care of one another.
Why? I cannot tell you the answer for EVERY single person. What I can tell you, however, is that this is the way that Christians think they are SUPPOSED to act ALL of the time. More specifically, it is the way our congregation has said it DESIRES to act all of the time, as it has adopted the slogan “Loving God, Loving Others.” In addition, the first part of our mission statement affirms that one of the major reasons we exist is to serve. I’ll be the first to admit to you that we do not always embody this mission perfectly, but we are trying and hoping to get better day-by-day. It seems that difficult times often remind us of these core values, as we aren’t distracted by the comings-and-goings of everyday life.
One of the most powerful moments for the early church happened in the book of Acts, before it became “distracted” with every day concerns: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:32-35).
The Church is reminded of its mission when it is forced to consider the most important thing it has in common: a mandate by Jesus to love God, love others, and share the Gospel. This is the reason the Church serves and is different from other agencies (the government, social service groups, charities, etc.). While the Church will always work WITH other groups for the good and betterment of people, our goal is not simply seeing people “get back to normal,” but helping them encounter the love of Jesus and the possible life-change that goes along with it.
From the time the coronavirus impacted us in February of 2020, I have been hearing the phrase “when things get back to normal.” Like most people, I want things to be normal. I don’t like the upheaval that comes from the cancelation of school, the disruption of routines, and the displacement of people from their homes. Unfortunately, when things are “normal,” the Church finds it easy to become complacent. It falls into the trap of thinking that “since everything seems to be going well, we must be doing well.” This depends on how you define “doing well.” If you are a charity or organization whose only goal is to help people ensure their physical security and well-being, you can rest easy; if you are the Church, however, you must consider how your mission to love God and others is being carried out when your attention is distracted by the everyday activities that come with “doing well.”
As we move forward as a community, my heart is filled with gratitude at the way both Christians and groups across our county have worked together in the midst of a difficult time. We’ve housed people, fed people, cared for people’s medical needs, and prayed for their protection and well-being. I want all the individuals any of us have had any contact with to be safe and secure; however, I’m not so sure I want things to get back to “normal.” At least, not to the degree that we lose sight of what is most important. Will you join me and Christ’s Church in making sure this doesn’t happen?