In 2011, Kelsey was preaching in a sports arena in Wasilla, Alaska at an event leading up to The Call Alaska that weekend. An intercessor from Alaska has been circulating that message among leaders in Alaska for the last nine years, and recently reminded Kelsey about it.
In many ways, it is even more poignant today than it was then.
During one of our Zoom prayer meetings, Bob Sorge was kind enough to take the time to talk through the book of Habakkuk in light of the effect of the coronavirus shutting down much of the church world.
Well, it feels a little like we went to Six Flags to ride the roller coaster ten days ago and just never got off, doesn’t it? Every day has been full of dips, twists and turns, and the general consensus is the ride will not achieve the heights we saw at the beginning for quite some time.
We’ve been shocked, scared, freaked out, angry, remorseful, angry again, and confused…and I’m hearing about people losing hope. Even those who believe in Jesus.
Hope is not lost.
We often use the word ‘lost’ when we mean misplaced. Have you ever lost your keys? When you tell the story, you always talk about finding them where you didn’t think to look. They weren’t lost – they were just misplaced.
Lost is a far more tragic scenario than misplacing the car keys.
January 28, 1986, I was standing in line in the college cafeteria when someone ran in and announced that the Space Ship Challenger was lost. We were glued to TV screens for the rest of the afternoon, watching the same loop of film that recorded the shuttle’s liftoff, and seventy three seconds later, it’s demise. The Challenger was lost.
Hope is not lost like the Challenger. Hope is misplaced. Some of us are despondent today because the future looks different than the one we were vested in. We had more hope in the American dream than the faith story we professed. We’re discouraged because the thing that we hoped for may not pan out like we thought, and we’re a little embarrassed to admit it.
Jesus brings more hope than anything in life. Hope for peace. Hope for reconciliation with God. Hope for an afterlife with him. That’s why hope in Jesus supersedes difficult situations. It rises higher than the pain of this world
Friends, if your hope is in Jesus, your hope remains. If you’ve misplaced it, you need to go find it and place it where it belongs.
Hope is not lost.
Pastors and ministry leaders everywhere are scrambling to figure out how to effectively minister to their congregations and communities, and doing a yeoman’s job of it. They’re working long hours, burning up the phone lines and mastering new skills by the hour.
Even so, my gut says we don’t fully understand how much is changing right now. Most of us were good at a few things and bad at a few things before Covid-19 put the kabash on the potluck for us, but we’d found a way of doing life that worked for us.
Best case scenario, that way is broken for a while. Worst case scenario, that way is over. Here are a few realities that will be true for a while – and perhaps are the new reality.
Your congregation will not grow from visitors for months, if ever again.
None of us like being thought of as the big attraction, but in our culture, most people who join a congregation make that decision after visiting a few times. Perhaps with friends, perhaps solo, they approach us tentatively and anonymously until they elect to join a newcomers class and we walk them through the process of what it means to be one of us.
They might be visiting your streamed services, but probably not, unless your advertising budget is bursting and your production quality can back up the promises….but mostly, they’re not. Even if they did suddenly start ‘attending online’ (also called watching, but attending online sounds better), how would you get to know them? How would you serve them? How would you engage them in serving others?
A Sunday morning is now family meeting rather than outreach.
Sunday morning is now an opportunity to equip the saints and challenge them to be the church. They will be doing a lot of the pastoral care, the evangelism and discipling that used to take place on Sunday morning back when people would walk in the door and pickup their gift mug at the welcome center.
The quicker we can position Sunday morning as an insider team huddle rather than a production for the community, the quicker you’re going to have real people ministering to your community.
The move from evangelistic to apostolic.
For decades, our church buildings have been evangelistic centers – or at least tried to be.
An evangelist boldly preaches the gospel like a man or woman on fire, and wherever they do – even in the wilderness – a crowd seems to gather to watch them burn.
Now, the church must lean into it’s apostolic calling, focusing on building the kingdom of God whether it benefits the local congregation or not.
I understand that when the kingdom grows, congregations grow, so there will be additions to the church, but the goal must be bigger than filling our building because at least for a while, even if we were good at it, we can’t do it anymore.
The most we can hope for (and perhaps the most we could ever hope for) is to unleash a mob of people equipped to do the ministry that we always hoped to do when the people would come to us.
Join me each week on the Third Cup of Coffee podcast.
At 12:01AM, a few short hours from now, Kansas City and the surrounding area is under a stay-at-home order. Most of us have taken to calling it ‘lock-down’, but it’s not quite that. You can read the order here.
To save you the reading, it means we all need to stay home unless we need medical attention, barbecue, gas, groceries or dry cleaning. Yes, dry cleaning and I have so many questions about that but it’s not important right now. Other essential organizations can operate – Zoe’s House will continue to operate but everyone is working remotely and they’re getting really creative about it.
We’ve prepared as best we can.
Grocery stores are open so we won’t starve, but even so, we’ve stocked up on some things. We’ve also talked with the kids quite about – no play dates, no crossing the fence to play with the neighbor girls, no piano lessons and no school. They’ve adjusted pretty well – boredom is generally not an issue at our house even when you’re locked in.
We’ve also gathered a little band of friends. We’re about halfway through a 40 day fast, so we’ve been meeting and praying together. We just moved it to zoom. This weekend, we had 33 locations online at one time. In a different world I’d call them campuses but in reality, it was ones, twos, threes or more gathered across the city and a few as far as Florida and California. Teaching by zoom is a whole different thing but I think people found it worth their while.
With the lock-down, I mean the stay-at-home order, I’ve been hosting a check in time for the group at 10am on Zoom that we call Morning Coffee and then a time of communion and prayer for one another at 7pm – sort of an informal evening vespers. We’re one day into that and I can tell it’s going to be really valuable. Some of our group live alone and this is their time to speak to real people face to face. For others of us, it’s good to see faces other than the faces you’re responsible for once in a while. Community is hard to come by and I’m grateful for the technology that makes this doable.
I know these are stressful times for everyone. I certainly feel it, although I also have a strange comfort in not being alone. This crisis has the power to make us into something that only pressure can. My prayer for you is that in this time, you lean hard into Jesus and learn to look out for your neighbor. Make a few extra phone calls. Send a few extra texts. We need one another.
Hunker down, Kansas City. And when I see you at the dry cleaner, I’ll wave from a distance.
President Trump as called for a National Day of Prayer, saying “We are a Country that, throughout our history, has looked to God for protection and strength in times like these….”.
Let’s join many across our nation by praying together tonight on a conference call at 6-7pm Central Time. Lou Engle is going to join us near the beginning of the call as well.
You can join in by calling 1-425-436-6348 and entering access number 169-784. There will a time for those who would like to pray on the call to join in but while you are not talking, it works best to mute your phone.
We hope to see you all – in person – soon!
Randy & Kelsey