Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship him. God is a Spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.(John 4:21_24)
Dogma is seldom officially defined unless it has first been questioned, and heresy serves the divine purpose of forcing the Church to reflect more deeply on her beliefs, to understand them in ever more comprehensive and precise ways.James Hitchcock
These are sober times and sober times call for sober thoughts. Prophetic pontification is of no use in these times. The sincere truth is that this season took every one of us by surprise. There are no easy answers, neither are there prepared strategies or defined road maps for the future. A testimony to our personal and corporate leadership will be how dynamic our reactions will be to the new normals and I use the word ‘reactions’ intentionally.
TWO GROSS ERRORS
There are two errors in the approach to this prevailing challenge. One is to prophetically assume that the challenge will be over, overnight by a spiritual or magical wand in our hands. Such a mindset will not allow us to think deeply about this shock and the implications for the present and future of the systems and structures of our lives and our organizations.We do have a responsibility to fight the virus but we cannot fight the season. Click To Tweet
The Church is one entity that is guilty of seldom seeing the complexity of issues at hand, and how a multifaceted approach is often required to solve them. To us, all the challenges of life have simplistic solutions like calling the name of JESUS seven times and so forth. We are often the last in society to appreciate the enigmatic nature of societal problems and in doing so we concede grounds to the more strategically thinking elites of our world, thereby, losing societal influence in the process.
The second error we can make is to fight the season by reasserting our respective spiritual dogmas, thereby refusing to change our systems, processes and structures until the storm wipes out whatever progress we have made up until now. Please, we do have a responsibility to fight the virus but we cannot fight the SEASON. Fighting this season by religiously insisting on congregational worship in spite of the health risks to our people is questionable and will put us at odds with the mood and spirit of the times. But that is a discussion for another day.
Another complication we all have to deal with in this season is the prophetic contradictions and variations between the short term Prophets who believe it is over now and those who believe it won’t be over in a while. In my view, the only thing more dangerous than the loss of hope is giving false hope. In fact, in Jeremiah 29, God judged Hananiah the Prophet for peddling false hope, that a seventy-year captivity was going to be over in two years. It is interesting to note that by peddling false hope, God accused him of having exchanged the wooden yoke of the people, for yokes of iron. I reiterate that the only thing worse than no hope is false hope.The only thing more dangerous than loss of hope is giving false hope. Click To Tweet
The name Hananiah, I find quite interesting. In Hebrew, it means grace, mercy and gifts of the Lord. Suggesting the fact that the peddling of cheap grace and mercy, promising short term solutions to complex problems actually complicates people’s lives. If we still believe that a word always has to be good, palatable and comfortable to us, for it to be God, we are not yet mature. God’s purpose for our lives and our world, transcends our personal fleshly comforts. Human comfort is a component of the divine plan but it doesn’t necessarily encompass all of his plans.
On the opposing end of the prophetic spectrum are the Jeremiahs of our world, who prophetically asserted that the Babylonian captivity was going to last for seventy years. He turned out to be right. This prophetic contradiction is visible in our culture today. I am not particularly concerned about who is right or wrong on the prophetic spectrum. What matters most is how we, as individuals, can better manage our lives in this chaos and transition to our next levels.
Jeremiah’s admonition to the people in captivity was to not put their lives on hold in the captivity but to build houses and dwell in them. To plant gardens and eat the fruit of them, and to enter marital arrangements, so that in the midst of the condition, they would increase and not be diminished. The summary of his admonition is that adversity is not an excuse for unproductivity. He was saying in essence, move on with your lives in spite of this captivity and learn how to build systems and structures within it.
But someone may say, ‘but the whole world is on lockdown, how can we move on with the productive agenda for our lives?’ My answer is that leadership, authentic leadership will find a way. Make no mistake, on the back of this current adversity lies a huge opportunity, for both spiritual and economic advancement. For instance, the sales of hand sanitizers and face masks will rake in billions of dollars for those producing them, just to mention but a few. There is an inherent marketing opportunity in panic. When fear rules, people are more likely to part with their hard-earned resources, than when there is normalcy. We must think deeply to apprehend and appreciate the opportunities that this adversity represents.When fear rules, people are more likely to part with their hard-earned resources, than when there is normalcy. Click To Tweet
On the spiritual side of things, the collapse of societal mechanisms of security opens up people to the reality of the frailty of man and all he can create. With this awareness of human limitations comes the openness to the world hereafter. As Christians, we mustn’t be too carried away by the thoughts of self-preservation that we fail to take in the harvest of souls assigned to this challenging season. More than ever before, people are now open to the truths in the word of God, as they see the book of Revelations practically being fulfilled before their very eyes. We must take advantage of it.
TECHNOLOGY TO THE RESCUE
Isn’t it interesting to note that the more the governments of the world are advocating a physical lockdown, the more people seem to be relying on technology for the delivery of our day to day human services Unfortunately, religion and Christianity, in particular, has been the most ardent foe of technological development. The technology we have often so rejected has now become the cornerstone of our communication and progress.
What is it about the religious mind that makes us probably the last set of people to capitalise on inevitable changes? What is it about our leadership that, though we exegete scripture thoroughly, we fail to exegete the changing culture around us, until we lose relevance and become a victim of the changes imminent? What is it about the religious mind that makes it antagonize the very mechanisms that spur societal progress? It is the supreme mark of honour to acknowledge that one is wrong. I acknowledge that we as leaders of the 21st Century Church were wrong to ignore, attack and not deploy the evolving technologies of our day in the fulfilment of our objectives. We apologise. As it is today, any spiritual institution that fails to deploy these technological advances for her core purposes may be wiped out. We must wake up and smell the coffee.
To build in this season of adversity, we must reassess the very foundations that we have been building upon. We must question the very assumptions that we have held about the nature of our role and purpose in the world. We must review our systems, strategies and processes to confirm if they are still valid vehicles to deliver the spiritual assignment given us by the Lord. We must think deeply about our doctrines and dogmas and find out what their implications are for our contemporary realities.
We must attempt to separate the wheat of our operational models from the chaff of the same. We must be sincere to acknowledge where we have been wrong about our interpretation of our spiritual obligations to God and our fellow man. We must be creative and courageous enough to redefine what we mean by spiritual commitment and we must be quick to respond to the implications of these changes.
Nowhere is this redefinition and reorganisation needed, like in the worship of God and the service of his people. The Church is both a worshiping institution and a service delivery institution. However, how can we fulfill our mandate to humanity without humanity coming to us? What should be the role of Christian leaders in the facilitation of the Church’s purpose now? In a crisis such as this, we must distinguish between essential services and nonessential services and contemplate the strategies of delivery for such essential services.
I refuse to believe that God is unaware of the challenge that has befallen our world. I believe he has a solution for it. He definitely hasn’t caused it but he sure has permitted it. He may have permitted it for the leadership of the Church to change her very definitions and parameters of worship and success. Furthermore, it may be an opportunity for us to change our very definition of worship. It may be his way of emphasising individual worship over institutional worship for a season. Be that as it may, we must find a way to move on.
In the coming days, I want to take my attention away from the leaders of Churches, to whom I will return later and focus on the dear members of the body of Christ and how they can thrive in this season because many of them are at a loss regarding how to serve their Creator while in lockdown. How can we serve and worship God now that we can’t go to a place of worship? These are the questions that this manifesto will seek to answer subsequently.