It’s Time to Reopen – Guided by Faith Not Driven by Fear ©

Today, we put the finishing touches on what I hope will be my final video on the COVID-19 pandemic (see video below). Throughout the pandemic, we have remained committed to the understanding that we are to be “Guided by Faith, Not Driven by Fear.”  In today’s conference-wide video, I shared the following information, advice and convictions:
  • I thank God for your faithfulness during the COVID-19 pandemic!
  • It’s time to open up and for all churches in the CTC to safely return to in-person worship.
  • Go hybrid! As you re-open up, keep your online offerings strong and vital.
  • Continue appropriate safe practices with care for the vulnerable and at-risk in our churches.
  • Continue to follow all CDC and local, state and federal guidelines.
  • We suggest that you request those who are not fully vaccinated to continue to mask up.
  • Maintaining some social distancing is not a bad thing and continue to have sanitizer and cleaning products readily available.
Together, our emphasis remains on the WIG – the Wildly Important Goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We are moving forward into a new spring. This is a time for creative gospel outreach that is both evangelistic and missional.
In his most recent eNote, Rev. Mike Ramsdell perceptively commented:

“I am hearing from many churches that in-person attendance is at a level of 20, 40 and even 50 percent of what it was before COVID-19. Giving was doing pretty well the first few months of COVID-19 as people came together in a time of crisis, but this is not coming back to pre-COVID numbers. Some researchers are also telling us that a significant percentage of people will not be coming back. Many people are also going to find when they return to the group they were in before COVID – choir, Sunday school class, mission group, etc. – that there will be gaps in who was there before. This will be discouraging.
This means that as churches get back in gear they will have less people, less volunteers, less money, and less ability to do the programs and mission we were doing before. I am convinced that just hoping it will get better as hopefully things “get back to normal” for many churches, is wishful thinking. (I know there are exceptions with some churches, especially in rural areas).
What do we do?  In times of crisis and rapid change is where leadership must shine, especially from the senior leaders. 
We have to discover who is still on the team. We will need to lead the rest of those still connected and the newly connected to become a part of the team. Our church community will all need to have an inspirational understanding that they are part of a connected people of God following Jesus Christ, getting ready to go somewhere together. It is a non-negotiable that this somewhere includes reaching people we are not already reaching.
This surely could be the season we focus more clearly on the Great Commission of making disciples of all the world. This clear direction can’t wait too long or the church will stagnate, the present members will get frustrated, and the church might find itself in a marginal season long term. (If your church is ahead of the curve on this, Praise the Lord)!

  • I would work on strengthening and building or rebuilding a spiritual core for the church.
  • I would work on a clear focus and refocus on the Great Commission. Many of our churches are very good at mission and outreach, but not good at evangelism.
  • I would work on connecting people to a team centered in Christ, united in reaching people we are not already reaching.
  • New people in a church change everything. The book of Acts narrative is centered in new people entering the story of a growing church.”
Mike closed with the comment, “Hope must be restored.” To which I add a strong AMEN!! Remember the encouragement of the Apostle Paul to the church at Ephesus. May theeyes of your heart [be] enlightened, [so that] you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.” (Ephesians 1:18)
Please, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that things will just return to normal. We are not going back to normal! Rather, we are moving forward to a new spring under the guidance, prodding and leadership of the Holy Spirit. 
Nurture each other in love, grace and care. Anoint your ministry together as lay and clergy teams with prayer. Be creatively open to Lord’s leadership through new opportunities for outreach in love, justice and mercy. Once again, live out the Pentecost story for the Holy Spirit is moving our world and our churches!

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47)

Click on the player below to view Bishop Lowry's video update to the Central Texas Confernce