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Breaking Free of the Formula

Early in the COVID19 pandemic, when we all were trying to figure out how to navigate this new situation, I recall hearing people say on a regular basis, “I cannot wait to get back to normal” or “I cannot wait for things to be the way they were.”

Lately I have been reflecting on these statements more and more as it has now been 20 months since the first COVID cases arrived in my county and we have had to navigate three significant surges of COVID, the most recent of which we are still in the midst of. 

After such a long time, I know I am not alone when I say this past year and a half has been exhausting.  It is easy at this point to simply go into “survival mode”.  It is easy to focus on the negative takes, the heartbreak, the division, the politics, and the individualism that have seemed to consume the narrative from the beginning.  Much of this would appear to stem from the discomfort we feel with our customs and comforts being pulled out from under us.   Many of us are still looking behind us and waiting for things to “go back to the way they were.” 

As humans, we seem to gravitate toward what is comfortable, what is familiar; and our stress levels increase when we are suddenly thrust into the unfamiliar.  Our tempers seem to flair easier, our patience wears thin.  It feels like not a day goes by without someone posting a video on social media of a person getting angry on a plane flight or at the grocery store.  On top of this, in our communities we are seeing increases in depression, substance abuse, and family conflict.  

Christians also gravitate toward what is familiar.  There has always been the temptation in the church to look for the program or the formula that produces the outcome we are looking for (usually increased attendance) and then replicate it.  We like our church services, programs, and ministries to fit into a formula and feel comfortable.  I also think if we are truly honest with ourselves, we like things to be a little predictable.

In many ways, the response of Christians that have been thrust into the unfamiliar during COVID19 has sadly not been much different from the surrounding culture.  Most of our responses seem to simply be reactions to what are perceived infringements upon our customs or “rights”, those things in which we had previously found familiarity and comfort. Just like everyone else, we seem very uncomfortable with change, and interpret any change to our norms as a personal attack.

Early in the pandemic, it seemed like there was almost a competition between Christian churches regarding how to “be the church.”  Should the church meet just like it always has and ignore the pandemic?  Should the church act in defiance of government regulations?  Should people wear masks?  Should people get vaccinated?  With each question, people will pick a side and another line of division seems to be drawn within the Body of Christ.   Even after over a year and a half has passed, these divisions continue to be strong.  Only a few days ago I heard of a church that told its congregants to not wear masks in order to defy their state regulations and another church posted a sign stating that any congregants wearing masks would be asked to leave. 

As with most debates and divisions, I think the solution will ultimately lay somewhere in the middle for both the individual and the church.  After all, if followers of Jesus stay home because of fear, or only because the government tells us to, we are not following Jesus.  At the same time, if the followers of Jesus gather together only in rebellion or to “protest” the government, we are not following Jesus.  

More importantly, I think it is imperative that as individuals and as the church, we reflect on what God may be wanting to teach us in the midst of all this. 

Maybe God is allowing us to be uncomfortable so that we can see where our peace is truly found?

Looking back on this past year and a half, what spiritual fruit has been born in your life?  By spiritual fruit, I mean to say, how did God use you to expand the kingdom of God?  

Have you seen people come to salvation in Jesus or grow in their relationship with Jesus, or have you simply been trying to survive?  

Have you seen the Kingdom of Heaven grow here on earth, or are you still simply waiting for things to get back to normal?

When we strip away our programs, our customs, our “rights”, what are we left with?  My prayer is that when all these things are removed, what we are left with is Christ, and that in that moment we find that He is more than enough.

Maybe in some ways, God is wanting us to break free of the formulas, programs, and customs that we have relied on for too long.  Maybe God is calling us to rely on Him as our center, our peace, and our source of direction; with the church community simply called to stand on a foundation of prayer, fasting, scripture reading, and discipleship.

Beyond this, I am increasingly convinced that the calling of the individual Christian and each local church may look drastically different from one community to another.  We do not follow a God of formulas, but a living God that has a unique calling for each of us to share the hope and life found only in Jesus in the midst of a hurting and broken world. 

 

If you are willing, it would be a great blessing for you to share a testimony below in the comments regarding how you have seen God at work in the midst of the COVID pandemic.

 

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One Comment on “Breaking Free of the Formula

  1. In this time of COVID I have seen that God has taught me not to be afraid whatever happens, and come into our lives. We must walk by faith, serve God by faith, not lose our faith in God, follow God by faith and not fear the COVID disease because God will protected us. In this time of the Covid as followers of Jesus we must continue follow Jesus and not lose our faith God keep sharing the love of Jesus to a broken world. In this hard time as Christian we have the great blessing to share the word of God to the people who have COVID, in despair, without hope, depression, confusion and without God.
    During this time God has given me the opportunity and great blessing to pray and share the word of God in the hospital with the a sick person, a friend and husband. I also went to a house of a sick person with cancer to pray, share the word of God with her and then with her family where the three of them accepted Jesus as their savior and God, Also, with two people with depression and one of them in the middle of the depression and hard time she accepted to Jesus as her Savior and God. Finally I had the bless to help people with COVID and their families.

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