There is much for us to grieve. We’ve lost so much. There is much that we should have had that has sadly been lost – it’s an absolute tragedy.
But I’m not talking about the impact of the lockdown.
No, I believe we lost so much before the coronavirus. I believe our grief goes back much further. The problem is our losses were so normalised that we hadn’t even noticed – but I believe a time of significant restoration is upon us, the Church, and it’s time to realise what we had lost and how to find it again.
Busy but Fruitless
I know there are many frontline workers who are working in hectic, demanding circumstances right now – we are all so grateful to these precious people – but many are finding they have more time available than normal and this is providing an opportunity to review their lives.
Now I’m pretty good at being busy. I enjoy being busy and I get a little restless when I’m not. I’ve mixed in Christian leadership circles where busyness has been worn like a badge of honour. It isn’t a badge of honour and many of us need to reach for our lapels and pull it off right now. The badge has hindered us not helped us.
There is a difference between busyness and fruitfulness but we’ve often confused the two. I remember a busy day on the beach when my kids were younger – we aimed to build the best sandcastle on the entire beach. I say ‘we’ but I think it was really ‘my’ aspiration. After lots of digging, lots of creativity and lots of sculpting over many hours, I think we (or I) achieved our goal. It looked amazing and I even managed to take suitable pictures to celebrate. The next day we returned to the beach and the sandcastle was no longer there – I was gutted.
I know that there were other benefits from our intensive day such as an opportunity to bond with my kids (except for those times when I told them to go away because they were messing it up!) but in reality I had been busy making something that would not last – how much of our busyness fails this test also.
So many of us are experiencing a ‘pause button’ moment right now and we should be asking ourselves whether we have just been busy or whether we have been fruitful. I suspect some things need to come out of our diaries for ever. They will no doubt leave gaps but these can become new holy places for God – times that God can restore to us the joy of being fruitful.
Hearing from Heaven
A few months ago I had a meeting with a city official. I had an agenda I wanted to discuss with him but knowing his diary was busy I asked a single question before proceeding with my agenda. ‘How much time do you have available?’ What I was about to share with him would depend on how much time he had. If we only had a few minutes then I would just stick to some bullet points but if we had longer I would go into detail.
There have been too many times when I’ve only heard from heaven in bullet point format – not because that is how God speaks but because I’ve only given God very limited time to say something. I believe there is much heaven is longing to share with us but sadly we’ve just not been available to listen.
I like how Henri Nouwen puts it: ‘Every time we enter into solitude we withdraw from our windy, earthquaking, fiery lives and open ourselves to the great encounter. The first thing we often discover in solitude is our own restlessness, our drivenness, and compulsiveness, our urge to act quickly, to make an impact, and to have influence; and often we find it very hard to withstand the temptation to return as quickly as possible to the world of “relevance.” But when we persevere with the help of a gentle discipline, we slowly come to hear the still, small voice and to feel the gentle breeze, and so come to know the Lord of our heart, soul, and mind, the Lord who makes us see who we really are.’
Jesus often withdrew from the crowd to be with His Father but our prayer lives often seem more intent on just making a withdrawal from the Father to be with the crowd. We’ve lost something but it’s time to get it restored.
We forget so much. I’ve often wondered if the journey from our church buildings to our homes is one of the most hazardous for our memories. One minute we are declaring God’s Lordship, His provision, His empowerment and our 100 % receptivity to Him, but in the next, within a short drive home, we are living a watered-down version of all we were earlier singing and declaring. I forget, you forget, the Church forgets – the result of our amnesia is a tepid version of transformation in our lives.
As we no doubt miss gathering with our church families, this lockdown has the potential to facilitate the restoration of our homes as places of spiritual vibrancy. Our livestreams are often from one home to another, our prayer gatherings link homes through video calls, many share communion on their sofas, and I’m hearing evidence of increased Bible reading that is provoking hearts and empowering lives.
We seem to be benefitting from losing that amnesia-prompting journey from our buildings to our homes. Many had lost the joy of experiencing the Lord dwelling in their home but now He has a key and He’s back where He belongs.
Mark is the lead pastor of Rediscover Church – a contemporary, creative and Spirit-filled growing church in the vibrant city of Exeter, South West England. He started leading the church in 2013 and has seen the congregation more than triple in size in the first 5 years.
Mark has a heart to encourage and resource churches across the South West and in 2020 is launching www.southwestawake.com – a 630 mile prayer meeting around the South West Coast Path and in Autumn 2020 is launching a church planting academy which seeks to raise up church planters to work with many different denominations and see a church planting movement fan out across the South West.