With the pandemic raging on and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the rise, it is looking like it could be a while before anything goes back to normal. Unfortunately, this includes in-person activities at Bethany. For those of us used to being at church on Sunday morning and other times during the week, not being able to be on the church campus with each other can be a struggle. I have heard from members about how much they miss coming up to church and seeing their Bethany family. I too miss being able to be on the Bethany campus and see people that I usually see there every week. While it is difficult to be apart from each other and away from our normal mode of church, I wonder if there might be a unique opportunity for us to live into our missional calling as Christians.
When Jesus was praying for his disciples on the night before his death he told his heavenly Father: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). This prayer is an important part of understanding the call Jesus places on each of our lives. Jesus did not gather his disciples so they could spend all their time in religious activities; he also sends them back out into the world to be a part of what God is doing in peoples’ lives. He uses the incarnation as the model to help us understand what this looks like. Jesus left the comfort of heaven and came into our world to live among us and reconnect us with God. Jesus is calling us to leave the comfort of our church buildings and go into the world to live life around other people and help others reconnect to God. In order to truly be incarnational, we must be willing to get out of our Christian bubbles and allow Jesus to send us into the world for the sake of others.
This can seem like a daunting task, but I want to assure you that you do not have to be a super-evangelist to take part in God’s mission out in the world! Almost always, it begins by forming genuine relationships with people around you – having a conversation with a neighbor, spending time with a coworker outside of work, or taking more interest in the life of a family member. Sometimes these lead to spiritual conversations, but most of the time, Jesus doesn’t come up right away. Instead, it is an opportunity to deepen a friendship and get to know someone better so that we can then better care for them, pray for them, and bless them. It is relatively easy to form these friendships at church. During this pandemic, we have a real opportunity to do this with people outside of the church. These are not temporary relationships that last until we get to talk about Jesus. Nor are they projects that we keep record of. They are genuine friendships that make space for us to demonstrate through both actions and words how deep the Father’s love is for them.
It is in building these genuine relationships – outside of our regular church circles – that we begin to join God’s ministry into the world. We have an opportunity right now to BE the church that is sent into the world around us. This will look different for every person depending on where they live, work, and spend their time. And we will have to be creative about how to build relationships with social distancing. Two things are certain though: there are many people in need right now in the world around us; and Jesus is sending us out to share the love and hope of Christ with people. I wonder how big of an impact Bethany could make if we took seriously the call to go into the world, and took the time to love, serve, and minister to those around us.
P.S. If you are interested in learning how to do this or exploring this topic in more depth, I’ll be teaching a SpiritWalk class this Fall, “The Missional Calling of All Christians”. Find more info and register for this class HERE.