The New Normal for Churches

     I was just thinking about our services at Central Baptist Church in Prescott yesterday morning. They are certainly not like they used to be — when things were normal! Truthfully, it is difficult to put our finger on the new abnormal for ministering the gospel across our state.

     Many had longed for the day when, once again, they could gather to sing, pray, give and hear the Word of God preached. But when the day came — little was normal.

     People exit their automobiles and immediately cover their faces with masks. Then as they approach the entrance, they meet others who have also donned masks. Everyone enters the building to be greeted by ushers who are also wearing masks. Do you remember when only the bad guys wore masks? Well, except for the Lone Ranger and Batman!

     Finding seating is by no means normal.Some churches have chairs, arranged in various configurations to accommodate “social distancing.” Churches whose buildings have pews find the seating arrangements are marked by tape here and there, alternating rows, ensuring no one sits directly behind others or are too close to others on the same row.

     Greeting one another with a “holy kiss,” is definitely not allowed, and neither are handshakes. Instead, members approach one another with fist bumps and elbow bumps, as if they were part of a sporting event.

     While many churches no longer have choirs, those that do are not allowed to utilize them due to being too close to one another. Praise teams must also socially distance themselves. Personally, I am glad that while on stage, pastors, worship leaders and singers do not have to wear masks. Oh my, the new normal is so abnormal!

     What I have just mentioned refers to those attending in-person worship. But the new abnormal includes live streaming the services via the internet. Now, this is not new; many churches have done this for years to minister to those who are homebound. But in the time of this pandemic, live streaming has proven to be a blessing not only to those who are ill, but to those who may be more susceptible than others to COVID-19. They are happy to be able to see the services in the comfort of their homes. Still others have various reasons for staying away, either temporarily or until the pandemic passes.

     In recent weeks, I have communicated with numerous pastors who now fear the new abnormalmay, indeed, become the new normal. They are concerned that many may not desire to return to in-person worship — choosing instead to continue to watch via live stream.

     Some tell me that tithes and offerings have declined significantly during this pandemic, putting their churches in financial straits. Yet, other pastors say their members have been faithful to give regularly and generously. I would be remiss, as associational president, if I did not remind our churches that not only do the financial responsibilities of the local churches continue during this pandemic, so do those of our associational entities on the district, state, national and international levels.

     So here is what I was just thinking — churches are families. Families love one another, care for one another, pray for one another and minister to one another. That should be normal, even when the times are abnormal!

     Church members should encourage one another! They should also encourage their pastors and pray for them. Remember, this is uncharted territory and pastors are having to lead during difficult circumstances.

     This is no time for believers to give up. Our brothers and sisters of the early churches did not give up, and neither should we. The writer of Hebrews penned these words: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:23-25 NIV).

     Personally, I don’t like the mask, but we Christians have responsibilities to one another and to unbelievers to abide by the laws of our state. Even in the time when the abnormal is becoming the new normal, let’s be examples of those who abide according to the Word of God.

     That’s what I was just thinking!

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