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Leaders across our state and country are asking this question increasingly: When, and how, should we begin regathering? What does it look like to reconvene in a COVID-19 culture?
It Will Take Grace
Without a doubt there are multiple answers to that question. They will vary from context to context. Demographics, geography, and church culture will assuredly, and should, play a part in each congregation’s response. Anytime wheels are spinning in different directions, grace is especially required.
First, from church leaders to one another. No one church will have the perfect answer, and not all of us will look alike. We can learn from one another, but we need to have the grace to let each church and her leaders be individual as well.
Second, from church members to other church members. As people return, there will be a wide open door to display grace towards the many differing opinions about the regathering. Mask or no mask? First week back or wait or few weeks? Stay and chat or exit quickly? There are no verses about masks in church, seating at church, or times for church. But there is a quite instructive passage about how we are to treat each other when varying opinions exist in the church—Romans 14. Verse 1 reminds us to “welcome him who is weak in faith, but not to quarrel over opinions.” And verse 3 commands us, “Let not the one who eats despise the one abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.”
It Will Take Grit
I have sensed a resurgence of my church planting emotions and tendencies as our leadership has been discussing regathering. While that is invigorating for me, for others it is depleting. Likewise, wading through endless details is, for me, excruciating; yet for others, it is exhilarating.
My point is that regathering will take extra measures of both, much like the early days of launching a church. Many norms are being adjusted. Some of the new methods will stick; some won’t. Frankly, a planting mindset will be demanded, even helpful, over the next several months as leaders, congregants, and teams—visionaries and actuaries—all work together to regather in a way that is careful as citizens and yet faithful as Christians. It will take godly grit to ensure these two work together as much as they possibly can.
Our Approach As One Example
At First Family Church, we laid out three key values that needed to define our regathering: Incremental, responsible, and faithful. Then our teams went to work to figure out how best to develop, communicate, and deploy a plan that would be exactly that—incremental, responsible, and faithful. The result, I believe, is a first-rate regathering plan tailored for our flock.
And that’s precisely the point. It may not be what you need, or even what you agree with. It may not fit your people, place, or purposes. So don’t look to copy every detail. Simply capture primary principles, then work them out in your own setting. Sure, there may be a specific nugget or two you’ll want to emulate. But, more than likely, our plan will simply stimulate you to think about the best way to develop your plan, the one customized for your church that gracefully and gritfully regathers God’s people.
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