I don't want things to go back to normal when the COVID-19 crisis passes us. Don't get me wrong, I need a haircut, I'm dying to get back to our regular routine, I've missed our church family, and Louisville is preseason Top 25 in football. There's a lot that we want to see again. And a lot of people we want to see again. But I don't want things back to normal.
Here's why. We've seen sparks of wonder during this crisis, and I fear that normalcy means the end of the wonder.
Stop and think about it. Companies are putting aside profits to take care of their employees. Factories are giving away product for a medical crisis. Opposite sides of the political debate are working on solutions. We're seeing a flourish of creativity in how people are meeting basic needs. The internet has become a happier place with a strong meme game. Our families are spending more time together, we're unplugging from the rat race, and we're recapturing what's most important. In my SBC tribe, we're not talking about CRT-I, we're talking about prayer and Gospel.
Do I want to see shops open and businesses thriving and churches filled again? Absolutely. Goodness yes. That's why I'm willing to endure the agony of distancing for a time. So we can hurry that back.
But as for normal, I'll pass.
I'll pass on a church culture that values preferences over mission. In this crisis, none of us are thrilled with what's happening. But we're pushing through. We're going through with a measure of joy as we videotape services in segments, as we sit in our living rooms and watch, and on the other side of the camera pastors are forcing smiles and eye direction to a camera instead of real faces. But we're on the same mission. We're all on the same page. I don't want to go back to the church culture of complaining over music style or pew color or Bible translation or whatever petty foolishness that doesn't matter we find ourselves arguing over.
I'll pass on lazy pastors and ministry leaders who skate by. Crisis has a way of separating cream from milk. Cream rises to the top. This crisis has pushed ministry leaders and pastors. It's made us uncomfortable. And it's exposed a problem I think far too common in churches: laziness. You can't be lazy and lead people through a crisis. You have to be willing to work hard, grind, and put in time.
I'll pass on joylessness. I was almost brought to tears a couple weeks ago by a Zoom meeting where I watched people join in, enter the "room," and light up when they saw familiar faces. They saw people they hadn't in weeks. And there was raw joy in that. I don't want to go back to normal where our church gatherings feel like funerals and dirges. I want to remember the joy that comes from authentic fellowship. I don't want to go back to the normal of joyless meetings, joyless classes, joyless services, and joyless activities.
I'll pass on fear of change. In this crisis, we've had nothing but change. Even before the CDC's recommendations shuttered the majority of churches nationwide, we were seeing the trajectory change on a 24/48 hour basis. What we knew as "accepted" was subject to changing as the situation evolved. Churches, for good or bad, have long been a bastion of steadfastness, an anchor to change. Seriously, step in some. It's like a time machine, except it's no DeLorean. You'll be taken back to the 1980s, 70s, or earlier. I don't want to go back to normal where change is something to be afraid of, or the answer to innovation is "we've never done it that way before." I want to keep this going, where innovation and ideas are churning out new ways to accomplish an ancient mission. Let's not lose this.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.