Post-Covid Reset?

It is natural to get tired. Even Jesus did. Human beings are not built as perpetual motion machines and we need our rest. But work still has to go on.

It is a real and practical tension, in the UK and around the world.

Everybody has to decide how to live. Some, even a few Christian ministers, resolve the tension by refusing to see people or answer emails outside official 'working hours'. But try telling that to a mother of 4 children, or a lifeboat crew! And what about the many church members who have been working all day and still gladly give week-nights and weekends to serve in gospel ministry?

A large RNLI lifeboat crashing through the waves.

Post-lockdowns, a new crisis is emerging. Churches report not having enough people to 'do the work'. Why is this? Some Christians have been badly hit by covid or are 'feeling their age'; some have got used to Zoom church on the sofa; others have simply lost the habit or desire to join with a team and serve.

Covid's dislocation of life's normalities is impacting churches and missions. This may be compounded by the creeping clericalism of 'professional' ministry encouraged by Zoom but which discourages participation by gifted 'lay people', or the fellowship having a low priority for local ministry training.

But probably, it is not the fault of covid. More likely, the pandemic has exposed an underlying catalogue of spiritual malaise.

A hand holding a pen, writing the words, "What's the Point?".

Perhaps some simply see the church and para-church mission as 'organisations that need volunteers' to keep them going, rather than a family where personal and relationship growth depends on every member's participation.

Maybe it is also the Spirit of the Age, and the increasing influence of many millennials whose aspirations tend to be individual rather than corporate - achieving personal 'well-being' by discarding a sense of obligation to a wider group. When the group is the Body of Christ, that attitude can demolish churches. We are now seeing regular church and home group attendance, and committed service, viewed as an option rather than as an essential part of being a Christian.

An old church with a sign outside reading "City Shoes Wholesale Ltd".

Yes, a reset might have been needed for a few who previously incrementally added so many commitments that there was no time to breathe. But they were the 'few'. Have the 'many' come out of lockdown with little sense of responsibility for the spiritual welfare of others, or an understanding that a personal relationship with God demands a personal commitment to His family? Instead of working together like bees, some haul out to bask like seals on mudbanks.

Seals lying on the beach.

Work-life balance is important. But those who simply define 'work' as 'labour for payment' and 'life' as 'enjoying myself' will not achieve any balance. Jesus was often accused of betraying the commandments by healing on the Day of Rest. "In His defence Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working." (John 5:17).

But when 'work' is defined as 'using our energy in God's service' and 'life' is defined as 'using what He has given for His glory', both work and life will balance as we discern the Lord's will and please Him by doing what is right. How, where and in what way we serve will change; but our desire to find out what pleases the Lord at each stage in life should keep growing. (Ephesians 5:10)

A honey bee on a flower.

Do we grow weary in doing what is right? It depends on why we think we are here. What are we sowing, and where are we sowing it? Galatians 6:7-10 teaches us: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers".

A field just before harvest.

What is the answer? It is not easy and certainly not a 'one-size-fits-all' solution. Each of us has a unique responsibility to discern how we should live to serve the Lord, and to pray that others will do the same.

Pray for and encourage those who are set apart for spiritual leadership, that they will recognise that their responsibility is to equip and motivate all the believers to do the work of ministry, discerning how they serve according to their gifts (Ephesians 4:11-13).

Pray for and encourage those who once served gladly and now apparently have little interest, especially those who have received little encouragement.

Pray for and encourage young believers - both the millennials and those young in the faith - to commit to the fellowship and serving as a regular priority ... and we need to demonstrate what we mean by doing so ourselves.

© Dr Paul Adams