The “New” Normal

When I was at OBU, I never sat in a lecture entitled How To Pastor During A Pandemic.

There were no nuggets of wisdom or examples shared with how to guide and lead a church or a ministry in the midst of all these things.

If you’re reading this, you probably haven’t found in the table of contents in your Bible a book on how to make much of Jesus during a pandemic either.

We, humans with finite knowledge and wisdom, are in uncharted territory.

The last nine or ten months have been hard vocationally. Decisions have been made that people don’t like. Striving to help students and adults make much of Jesus in a way that is safe for our community has been an ongoing task.

Throughout the seeming chaos, the Lord has been teaching me truth after truth. What I want to share this afternoon is not political, it is not a list of different conspiracy theories. It is my desire not to be flippant either, as I know people who have been through great despair and grief as a result of this year’s events. My prayer is that this would be a source of peace that drives you to Scripture and prayer.

Here’s my point. A phrase that I have heard a thousand times this year is “this is the new normal”. I bristled against that. I didn’t want that to be so. I fought against that in my heart. I’ve grumbled and given my opinions and been anything but gentle. As I’ve looked at the history of the church and more importantly Scripture, I’ve been struck with the reality that what we’re going through right now truly is normal, and it’s nothing new.

Pandemics and political upheaval are nothing new. They may be new to us, but they’re not new.

Much like I did when I wrote about the election, I want to ramble through my thoughts about this year in bullet point format:

  • God is not surprised by what is taking place. This should be a source of great security and peace in the life of a Christian.
  • The Biblical narrative is full of kingdoms rising and falling, political intrigue and drama. We must not be shaken by the events of human kingdoms and powers. We must strive to pray for our leaders and serve our neighbors.
  • The Biblical narrative is full of pestilence and disease, moments when the people of God faced great trials in the form of sickness.
  • Our nation is built upon the idea of individual freedom. This is not inherently sinful, but it is prone to be. The Bible does not teach individualism. It teaches submission and community. It doesn’t teach freedom to do whatever I want to do, but rather freedom to lovingly, by God’s grace, submit to leaders at every level of life knowing they are put in place by a sovereign Father. Go read Romans 13.
  • The vitriol, hatred, and conflict we are seeing is the result of our individualism being brought in check. We want to call the shots in our own lives. We want to do what we think is best. How Christlike, how Kingdom-expanding, how beautiful it would be if we were to start making decisions in line with what others think is best. If this rubs me the wrong way, I’ve allowed life to be all about me.
  • When the government asks us to do something, we should submit. In matters of personal preference, we should be charitable and understanding. Colossians 3 says that we are to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Are our conversations about these matters of personal preference characterized by such fruits of God’s work in our lives?
  • What are you filling your mind with? I’m 100% prone to seek darkness. Give me the bad news. I want it. This is a matter of what we cherish. I’ve been reminded by the Lord to look for light. May we be brothers and sisters in Christ who are informed, but not obsessively preoccupied with the latest Covid news.
  • What we are experiencing, many of us, is the reality of our frailty, our coming death. We won’t live forever. We should live in light of this fact. Every day when we wake up, our prayer should be that God uses us to extend the Kingdom of God, that we would live out Romans 15:2, striving to encourage and build up those around us. Every single day is a gift of God’s sustaining grace at work in our lives (Psalm 4).
  • Community is important. Loneliness is real, it’s present, it’s a pandemic of its own in our communities. May we seek to love well those who have had to be isolated for the majority of this year. May we as the church be a conduit of God’s love to those in need.
  • Share Christ. Seriously. If all we share on our social media profiles and in our conversations is our election hot take, our conspiracy theory, our opinions on masks, our anger and outrage over such and such decision or result, we are acting like this country is our home. It’s not. We are refugees. Foreigners. Passing through. Yes, be aware and sensitive to the hurt that is being experienced. But if all we do is add to the noise, we are failing to bring the Kingdom of God to bear on our communities.
  • Pray, pray, pray. There are people I know that are exhausted. Hospital workers. Teachers. Administrators. Parents. Neighbors. Friends. Family members. Prayer is powerful and this year should drive us to our knees.
  • Lastly, please be patient with us pastors. We strive to make much of Jesus and to love His people well. We are trying to make decisions that boost the physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, and relational health of our people. Very rarely will you 100% agree, but I ask that you pray for us.

That was an ol’ rambling mess, but it was my thoughts about this year. Whatever 2021 may hold, may we remember that Jesus is on the throne. In the span of history, this is normal, and this isn’t new. May we rest in the unchanging God we worship.

In His Name,

Nate Roach