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Life Reimagined


So school will be starting back up soon. Most teachers will report for in-service around the country next week or the week after if they aren't there already. Usually this is a time when everyone is starting to get excited. Kids are ready to see their friends after a 2+ month hiatus. Parents are excited to get back into a routine (and maybe even a bit of a break!). This typically coincides with a number of other things starting back up like fall sports (football!) and some cooler weather. Just like so much of life over the last several months though, life is going to look different. School is going to be virtual in so many places including the districts surrounding our church families. As a parent of a new kindergartener, this is a bit terrifying. I know nothing about teaching my own kids, let alone kindergarteners.  Additionally, fall sports are going to be delayed at the very least and at the most cancelled. As a parent of a 12th grader who is also a student athletic trainer for the football team, this is very disheartening. We're beginning to feel robbed of so many things all over again. 

Just when we thought the pandemic was starting to go away, COVID-19 came back with a vengeance. Many churches, including our own, continue to be meeting almost exclusively online and so many smaller ministries within our church and so many other churches are forced to be almost non-existent. This has also contributed to a hot button topic with those who are active in churches and wish for this pandemic to go away. There are plenty of movements to re-open churches and let them return to normal activities. There are blogs and articles and videos of highly opinionated people strongly advocating for churches to open up and return to normal. There is also the same amount of material from people on the other end of the spectrum who want for churches and almost everything else to stay closed and keep everyone safe. Then there are people like me who are stuck somewhere in the middle. Personally, I'm not all that concerned for myself if I were to catch the coronavirus. I'm 32, I have no pre-existing health conditions, and am in fairly decent physical condition. However, I have a father who is considered high risk and work at a church that has its fair share of people who would classify as being in the high risk category including one member of our church family who is currently battling COVID-19 and a few days ago was very much in a touch and go situation. I feel very torn in a variety of different directions as to what we should do. No one has the answers, including those who think they do.

If that wasn't enough, let's throw in a highly polarizing social justice movement and we have a super high tension going on, not only in our church, but in our state and nation. Perhaps God is calling us to do something that so many of us haven't wanted to do for so long: reimagine. 

Reimagining can be difficult because it means throwing our old ways and routines in the trash (at least for a little bit). Reimagining one part of life can be challenging, but reimagining many parts of our lives all at once can be overwhelming at time and I think that's where many of us are identifying right now. The leadership at NorthWest is meeting weekly and have begun to do just that for our church family: reimagine. We're asking difficult questions about ourselves like how we can build community without meeting (or at least not in the way that we were doing so) and how can we help our church body grow spiritually, especially when we can't see them face to face. What does it look like to reimagine church and reimagine life? Are those two actually one in the same?

If we go back to scripture, we will see examples that actually point to something that accommodates what we might actually be looking for. A major concern of churches meeting again is putting large quantities of people in one room all together. However, there aren't hardly any examples of a large number of people meeting for worship in scripture except for in heaven (Revelation 4) and on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Since we aren't in heaven right now (at least not yet) and we aren't experiencing Pentecost again (let me know if you see tongues of fire above anyone though), perhaps we can look back at this example. People were meeting in one another's homes for church. Yes they would oftentimes meet in temple courts, but so many churches met in the home. This is an amazing option of reimagining church and what it should look like. Perhaps it's also time to ask ourselves where community in its healthiest form is catalyzed. Are we sure that worship is what does that the best? What about Bible studies? What about good old fashioned fellowship time? Smaller groups meeting is actually a safer route than in large groups. 

Additionally, what if we looked at doing school in one another's homes for the time being? No this isn't even a little bit reasonable to do with 25 kids but with 5 or less is something that might be feasible to generate community with our kids. The homeschool model actually fits what we're going through fairly well right now and it looks like many teachers are doing their very best to help parents learn to become their children's teachers regardless of what skills of teaching parents actually have. 

Now is the time for us to grow smaller and smaller. Small communities come with a deeper sense of community and intimacy than any large group can offer. Experiences are much easier to share with one another when done in a small group. Perhaps this is why Jesus did the majority of His ministry with only 12 disciples and an even more intimate part of His ministry with 3 people. Large groups can be inspiring to people who feel alone, but they can also be a place where people can feel lost in a crowd. Now is our chance to reimagine! This isn't aggravating if we see it as liberating.

As we begin another chapter of this unknown book that is writing itself, let's reimagine small instead of big. Let's be creative in how we engage our local community. The best part is that we aren't looking for 1000 people to come along with us on that journey, just 2 or 3. Some of the people I have talked to have said they feel blessed by the pandemic in that they have become so much closer to those whom they have spent a lot of time with if for no other reason that they have no other option. This is our chance to do the same. This is our chance to be Jesus to just a small few people and considering what God is doing in the world right now, it seems like this is exactly what He is calling us to be right now.
--Casey Lankford