What worked before in discipleship may not work now. What familiar and trusted “go-to practices for disciple-making may not be doable or practical today. COVID has changed the way now look at, or function in, the world at large. This is requiring the Church to think seriously, as well as differently, if we are to carry on the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) given us by Christ.
Yet, is this a bad or a good thing? What may have seemed at first as some Evil distraction or on the other-hand Divine punishment, may actually have been Sovereignly sanctioned to facilitate change in our standard religious practices of discipleship. Perhaps the question for the Church before COVID-19 should have been – “So, how’s it working?”
Perhaps the Church’s dependency has been wrongly placed. With all the distribution of religious tracts, sales of user-friendly Bibles, persuasive stadium or street corner invitations, “attractional” worship gatherings, appealing worship centers, or “campuses” with all the amenities, countless creative Bible study materials and inspiring sermons featured on some convenient media platform, along with all the celebrated transfer growth, has it really born the desired fruit from our branches? Has it all lead to developing disciples who are disciple-makers advancing the Kingdom? Or has it resulted in developing a Christian consumer culture which is rapidly losing its impactful presence in the surrounding culture in our world? How has it been working?
Could it be that the “error of our ways” over recent decades has been exposed by COVID? If so, what do we do now? It can’t be to “go back normal” – to the same ways as before yet try and try harder! “Normal” may not have been as good as we remember. So, how are we, the Church, to make real disciples in this COVID world in which we now live?
First, let’s not rush back to “normal” or be quick to accept “the new normal.” Perhaps our energy should be in bringing about a “Better Normal.” This of course would mean for us to collectively ask the Lord His desire and design, not ours; to let go of our future expectancy and look to Him with faithful expectancy. God is still speaking and working in this COVID world.
Second, it would require of us to intentionally consider what we personally and corporately discovered while in the COVID cave. It would mean that we not forget what God showed us in our seclusion about ourselves as well as about Himself. If it was insightful enough to discover, then it is also important enough to remember! So let’s not put the COVID experience in our rearview mirrors, glad to leave and never to go back.
Third, it would also serve us well to ask, “So, what did work?” What actions did we take, quite on our own, to reach and relate with others? How were we used then that we could be used now? Did we rely more on spiritual intuition than pragmatic orchestration, and step out of our comfort zones to our neighbor? Were slow growing life-on-life relationship interactions more treasured than fast growing and artificially amped-up ones? What worked for you?
Finally, are we clearer in defining a disciple, disciple-making or discipleship? If it’s not as simple or nebulous as “being a Christian” or “a member of ___” or “I go to ___” then what is it? What is it that makes a disciple want to make disciples? If it can’t be assigned; done in a Bible study or four week membership class, then how? Only God knows.