Do you remember the feeling of spending hours on the beach building a huge sandcastle; excavating moats, crafting the crenelations, building a bridge, and finally putting your lollipop stick flag on the top of the tallest tower. Only to watch the sea remorselessly and relentlessly demolish all you had built. Until eventually everything is submerged and finally the tide goes out leaving absolutely no hint of all your hours of labour?
That sums up many of our fears as those who minister in God’s church. We build and work and labour. We prepare, preach and pastor. All the time trusting God to build and establish the work of our hands, but often fearful that when the tides of suffering or pain or sin wash in and wash out there may not be an awful lot left. That all our work may be washed away.
Those fears are exacerbated by Covid 19. Months when some have not been able to come to church. Months when others have decided not to. Changes in tiers limiting the involvement of others. Almost a whole year of limitations and frustrations. And all of that will have an impact. Culture and community are hard to build, they are a labour of love and sweat and prayer, but they are fragile. And we fear, I certainly do, what will be left when the tide of Covid-19 turns and goes out. Will there be anything left? What will need shoring up? What will need rebuilding?
How many good habits will have been lost? How many bad habits will have not just been learned but become ingrained? How much fear of others will linger and make discipleship hard? How will online church have shaped expectations and participation? How will it alter habits?
Those fears are not unique. But we do need to be planning for how we rebuild that culture. The normal we return to will need to be carefully thought through as church leaders. We are going to need to be more deliberate than ever about what we restart and how. We are going to need to cajole and encourage some, and comfort and confront others. But we are going to need to start with those things that matter most. That reflect our values, our priorities. That rebuild our church culture from the foundations up.