Jesus taught the Kingdom of God (God’s rule in our hearts) comes when we love God with our entire being and love our neighbors as ourselves.
Before Christ came, many believers tried to make God’s Kingdom a reality by obeying numerous laws. Unfortunately, they got so carried away with legalisms,(petty rules that bound and stifled people,) that they didn’t take time to simply love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength. Nor did they love their neighbors as they loved themselves.
Jesus came loving God and loving humankind. Totally! He showed everyone the possibility of living as a true child of God. He followed that pattern his entire life — even to the Cross and beyond.
The exciting Good News for us is that by the power of the Holy Spirit we can live as Kingdom people also, but how do we share our Good News with others? How do we invite people into the Kingdom?
In this week's Gospel Jesus say's, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” I've been thinking a lot about this in the context of this new COVID world in which we live. Actually, I've been thinking about this all year, trying and experimenting with new means of communication and technology. No doubt I've encountered some successes and a number of obstacles along the way.
Today I read Father Ken's latest edition of "An Avalon Episcopalian" and part of his reflection called out to me to share with all of you. With Father's permission, I share the following with you as we reflect upon our Gospel for this Sunday (Mark 1:14:20):
"We, too, are called to go fishing...for people. But with the waters swirling with the pandemic, what will fishing be like after the storm has passed? Who is likely to be in our fishing boat when the “storm” clears out? It’s probably going to take patience and timing, and some assistance, to understand the depth of our fishing problem.
Some insight can be had in Twelve Major Trends for Churches in 2021, a study done by Thom S. Rainer that appeared in “Church Answers,” December 2020. Thom Rainer has 40 years’ experience doing this kind of research.
While a few of these trends may need some explanation, it is clear, we better be ready for some changes in how we will do our fishing.
Here’s how Rainer sees it:
- It will be increasingly common for churches to have fewer full-time staff.
- Baby boomers will be greater in number than children in the majority of churches.
- Digital church strategies will complement in-person strategies.
- Once the pandemic stabilizes and the number of cases declines churches’ average worship attendance will be down 20% to 30% from pre-pandemic levels.
- Giving in churches will also decline proportionately in relation to new attendance figures.
- Denominations will begin their deepest decline in 2021.
- Nearly nine out of ten North American congregations will self-define as needing revitalization.
- The new definition of a large church will be 250 and more in average Sunday attendance.
- A micro-church movement begins in 5,000 North American churches.
- Church fostering [a healthier church helps a less healthy church] will move into the early adoption
- The number of adopted churches will begin to catch the number of closed churches.
- Overall conversion growth will improve in local churches."
The above excerpt leaves me with mixed emotions. Change can be scary, but how we approach a new post-pandemic church may make all the difference in how we experience our growth both physically and spiritually.s We have the Hope of the Gospel and the Good News of Christ, the Holy Spirit moves us with a desire to share that with others, and we have an abiding Faith that allows us to Trust God. With that trust and love for one another, we will be able to let go of those things that hold us back and explore new paths. The disciples didn't pack up everything they had to follow Jesus, they just dropped everything and followed him.
What looks scary and uncertain, may just be the very thing that changes our lives forever and for the better.
May the love and peace of God be with you+