Are you ready to get rid of the masks? Had enough of social distancing and quarantining? Let’s bring on the new normal, whatever that is! The problem is, the new normal will not arrive for a couple years yet. At least.
That’s according to Thom Rainer, a highly respected pastor and consultant, in his new book, The Post-Quarantine Church. We have no idea the lasting impact of quarantining and masking and social distancing on mental health, social interaction, our children or the Church. But the early signs are not good – for the first three.
Many churches have closed permanently during the pandemic, and the autopsy results are inconclusive as to whether they would have closed anyway: COVID may have hastened the inevitable. A lot of churches, though, have discovered some amazing and wonderful new directions in ministry. That includes us at Shepherd of the Hills. The question becomes: how do we sustain these new approaches to reaching others with the love of God, or do we need even more creativity to navigate the pandemic waters?
Right near the top of our recently developed strategic plan is this: Rebuild our relational culture. That means living through the masks and preparing for life without them. It means restoring our people connections and building new ones. That sounds easy enough, but it’s not a matter of just opening the doors again. Re-opening is easy; re-connecting, not so much.
Here are the challenges we all have to deal with:
Challenges are opportunities, so here’s where I believe we need to go (the technical term is Desired Outcomes):
Toward these ends, God has inspired in us a roadmap (our Action Steps):
That’s a lot to take in, so we’ll all have to read through it a few more times and pray about it even more times. As you do, consider these Action Steps from Hebrews 10: “Because of Jesus, let us draw near to God with a since heart in full assurance of faith… Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together … but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I call this passage the Church Salad because of all the “Let Us” (see what I did there?).
And the Day approaching is not the day of herd immunity. It is the Day of Jesus, coming back to see how we’ve done. Starting now.
Pastor Steve Kline
From the title, can you tell who I voted for? Let me give you some more detail: the old white guy I voted for has been accused of sexual misconduct by several women, used his position to financially benefit his family members, has serious difficulties telling the truth and seems to have questionable mental faculties.
You still can’t tell, can you? Not if you’re being anywhere close to objective and honest. But in our world of confirmation bias, we assume all the negative applies to the other side, and all the positive applies to our side.
I’ll spell it out: I voted for Trump. Twice. In each case, I thought he was the second worst presidential candidate of all time. Given that choice of incredibly morally defective personalities running for office, I voted for the one whose policies aligned closest with my own. I’m speaking especially of those policies that God speaks to directly in His Word, rather than those personal political preferences that I cannot ratify nor reject based on Scripture alone. I prayed over my vote. I hope you did, too.
Want to unfriend me now? Need to pile on me the blame for everything wrong in our country? Go ahead. In doing so, I can only conclude that you are actually part of the problem rather than the solution. You have bought in to what the political parties and the demonic elements of the media have bombarded us with for years now. They have successfully pitted us Americans against one another, and we are complicit in the angry and hateful divide that now exists between our fellow citizens.
We’ve all been remarkably stupid. And we should be ashamed of ourselves.
Once we face that reality in the mirror, then we can take the time to be ashamed of our political leaders – whom we elected. We say we want good, decent, honest men and women to run for office and concern themselves with the needs of the country and their constituents, rather than the power brokers and money grubbers who don’t give a damn about the country, or us. But then we buy into the personal destruction, we believe the commercials and we listen to Lucifer’s lackeys on TV and the internet distort and disembowel the truth and we no longer just respectfully disagree. We reject. We fight. We hate. And good people decide not to run.
It is not the politicians’ fault. They’ve been doing this for decades. It’s not the media’s fault. They abandoned the core values of real journalism years ago. It’s our fault. We choose. We choose who to listen to, to fit the rising temperature inside. We choose how we will react to success and to failure, to victory and to loss. We choose to share, copy, post and forward the acid of our bias with willful disregard for who it will burn – ironically, people on our “friends” list. We feel the fire raging from our chest to our skull as we literally pound the send key, when the backspace or delete would have been far better choices.
I know. I’ve done it myself. And I am repenting before my Lord Jesus and you, asking both for the mercy and grace I do not deserve but so desperately need.
There’s another step to repentance, though. The Holy Spirit calls me to turn away from my sinful attitudes and actions, and turn toward God. If my repentance is real and my faith in Jesus is true, I will not then return to and re-embrace those same attitudes and actions. Paul hits me where I live: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2). And Jesus nails me with, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin,” (John 8:34). I refuse to incarcerate myself yet again! The blood of Jesus sets me free, and I will stay that way.
Jesus looks for the fruit of repentance: a new heart, a new mind, a new attitude, and an overabundance of love, even for those with whom I disagree. I’d rather be known for my peacefulness rather than my politics.
I abhor what happened at the Capitol, just as I do what happened in Minneapolis, Portland, et al. We can sit back behind our screens and our keyboards and blame whoever we hate for the violence and death, but the reality is that the people on the ground who lashed out in hate and violence, who killed and injured innocent people, who chose their actions based on their attitudes – they are responsible to the legal authorities, and to the Almighty God. And I pray for them, and for those they hurt.
To quote our Congressman, Mike Gallagher, “I’m done with Trump.” While I like some of the things he’s done as president, I believe he will serve the country better by just heading off into the sunset. Impeachment is a political issue, not a spiritual one. So that’s up to those fine heroes of virtue that work in Congress. But I do not wish any harm on President Trump, nor on President Biden. God commanded His people to pray for our rulers when the rulers were Roman emperors set out to destroy Christians and Christianity. Neither the outgoing president, nor the incoming one, is truly that bad.
I’m also done with the vitriol. I ask for forgiveness, and I offer it in return. No strings. No conditions.
I hope you can join me in a far more peaceful journey, one we can share in love for God and God’s. Unless you couldn’t get past my third paragraph.
In Christ -
Pastor Steve Kline
Pastor Steve Kline was installed as Senior Pastor at SHLC on May 25, 2014, after serving 12 years as Senior Pastor at Zion in Wayside, WI. He was ordained in 1992 and previously served congregations in Pulaski and Hales Corners.