What will we look like as a church after lockdown?

A message from our lead pastor, Phil Moore:

Dear Everyday Church family,

There is only question that I get asked as often as “When will Everyday Church move out of lockdown?” It is the follow-up question, “What will Everyday Church look like after we move out of lockdown?” We are the Body of Christ, so this is a question for him to answer and for us all to discern together. That’s why I’m writing this blog to draw three big themes to your attention for your prayer and reflection. It certainly seems to me as though these are the three big items that the Lord is speaking to us about most clearly as we begin to turn our thoughts towards regathering together in person. We are praying about these three things as leaders, so we would really appreciate your own prayers with us too!

Two weeks ago, many of us met for our ASK prayer meeting on Zoom. These are not just times of worship and intercession. They are also moments for us to listen to God as a church family together. I believe that the Lord spoke to us quite clearly through our ASK prayer meeting, confirming and crystallising much of what he has been saying to us as leaders throughout the whole of lockdown.

At the end of our ASK prayer meeting, Naomi Salter, from our Sutton congregation, shared a picture that she felt was from God for us as a church. She saw God giving us a blank sheet of paper and then helping us to draw beautiful new pictures as we begin to move out of lockdown together.

Hazel Dudley, from one of our Wimbledon congregations, had left the prayer meeting early and therefore wasn’t there to hear what Naomi shared with us. She messaged me early the following morning to share a separate picture that she felt she had received from the Lord – unaware of how closely it echoed one that she had missed the night before. She wrote to me:

“Good morning, Phil. Thank you for the devotional reading and video this morning. Excellent. I’ve had this picture of a piece of blank white paper – so white it’s almost blinding – and a child looks at it and doesn’t quite know what to do with it – paint on it, draw on it, or write on it? Then the child’s father says, ‘Why don’t you just begin with your name?’ The child looks astonished and says that they don’t know about that, but they then take a pencil in their hand. Just as they are about to start writing, the Father puts His very large, firm hand on the child’s and the name is written in good clear writing. I believe that the Lord is saying that this is a new beginning for us all, and that with His help we will know what to do next as He helps us. I have no idea what comes after the child’s name but I am looking forward to what God will show us!”

As I have spent time praying and reflecting on this picture, I have found myself drawn back to the name of our church. It sounds very simple, but I believe that the first thing that we are to write on the blank sheet of paper is “Everyday Church”. This is who God has called us to be. It’s to be the first thing that we write on our sheet of paper and it’s to shape all that comes next. We’ve still got lots of detail to work out together, but I believe that, as we move out of lockdown, we are to lean strongly into these three areas together:

1) Everyday Church = not just Sundays

Like many other British churches, we have sometimes placed so much emphasis on our Sunday services that we have undervalued the importance of what happens on the other six days of the week. It’s pretty ironic that we should have done so, in view of the name that God gave us when we renamed our church back in January 2013! I believe that one of the reasons why the Lord has permitted our Sunday gatherings to cease for a few months is to help us rediscover the importance of what happens on all seven days of the week. I have been so encouraged throughout lockdown to hear stories of people going deeper into the Scriptures and into prayer times with the Lord – then getting up off their knees to bring the Kingdom of God to those around them. In the past two weeks, it has been wonderful to hear from so many people who are using the Everyday Devotions on our new church app to study the Scriptures with their flatmates, their spouses or their children. Some are using the written devotions, some are using the video devotions that accompany them, and some are using both – I am just delighted that they have found a way to bring prayer right into the heart of their households. If it took lockdown to remind us that the Christian life is less about 90 minutes on a Sunday, and more about our daily walk with God, then perhaps 2020 wasn’t such a bad year after all. The Everyday Church that I see ahead of us is one where all of us continue to enjoy deep friendship with the Lord Jesus every day.

2) Everyday Church = the life within our Life Groups

Back in the old days, when none of us had ever heard of COVID-19, it wasn’t unusual to hear those of us who are on the church staff referring to Sundays as “match day”, as if the other days of the week were spent in preparation for our large-scale gatherings. I used to do it myself, but God has used this scattered season to remind us that it is fairer to say that our Sunday gatherings are the training session that prepares us for a “match day” that lasts all week long. I believe that writing our name down on the blank sheet of paper that the Lord has given us means recognising that the spiritual life of our church flourishes best within our Life Groups and in the networks of friendships that they provide for us throughout the week. One of my greatest delights in lockdown has been hearing story after story about how our Life Group leaders have really risen to the occasion. Our Life Groups are the place where we form some of our deepest friendships, where we support and disciple one another most effectively, and where we can best help each other to go out and make more disciples. Have you noticed the excitement in the Life Group leaders’ eyes at our online services, as they baptise people during lockdown in swimming pools, in hot-tubs and even in the River Wandle? The Everyday Church that I see ahead of us in one where this sense of excitement grows and grows, as the life of the Holy Spirit that is within our Life Groups overflows more and more into the world.

3) Everyday Church = everyday people

We adopted our church name out of Acts 4:13, where Scripture emphasises that God uses everyday people to do amazing things through his extraordinary power. As we begin to move back towards meeting again in person, I believe that writing our name down on the blank sheet of paper means resisting the temptation to make those gatherings platform-led by full-time pastors. The Everyday Church that I see ahead of us is one in which elders and staff members are more like conductors than musicians – releasing the entire orchestra of God’s people to play. I see many different people sharing testimonies of God’s goodness in their day-to-day lives, and having space to exercise the spiritual gifts that the Lord has given to each of us through his Holy Spirit for the building up of our church Body.

We are the Body of Christ together, so I can’t predict the future for our church alone. You have your own role to play in writing on the blank page that God has given us, as you pray and reflect on these things. But what I do know is that Naomi and Hazel’s prophetic pictures echo strongly with what I have felt God saying to us throughout the whole of lockdown, and that our best days as a church lie ahead of us. Please join with me and with the other elders and staff as we pray into these three important areas.

God has called us by name and he has asked us to begin our move out of lockdown by coming back to the name that he has given us. Let’s enjoy truly being Everyday Church together!

With love,

Phil Moore

 

PS If you want an answer to the other question – “When will Everyday Church move out of lockdown?” – then click here for my answer back in June. We are currently in ‘Phase 2’ of this re-entry plan and we are actively exploring ways in which we can move to ‘Phase 3’ together. We can’t wait to do that, and we will do it just as soon as the government guidelines permit us to do so safely and fruitfully!