A little over one year ago, I wrote about how our church was launching into something new. To some, I'm sure leaving our building where our 500-person congregation met to worship each Sunday felt like a wilderness of sorts. To others, it was more like the Wild Wild West—a new horizon full of adventures.
To me, it just felt right. It felt providential. As COVID-19 came this year, I began to understand why. As a church, we were in many ways oddly prepared for this. Although leaving our building stretched my understanding and experience of how to "have church," it's honestly been pretty amazing.
Our leadership rallied us under the banner of "Follow the Cloud," referencing the Old Testament days of when God led the Israelites through the wilderness with weather patterns. For one year now, we've followed a cloud (not an actual cloud, but the leading of the Holy Spirit) around Kansas City and met in some awesome places every-other week, buildings that opened up and generously hosted our church family:
- A Nazarene church called "New Beginnings." How fitting, right?
- Downtown KC venue called The Garmet House, reminding us that God was clothing us with something new.
- Colonial Presbyterian Church, an anchor in our city.
- La Fe, a Spanish-speaking congregation in Kansas City, Kansas.
We were meeting at La Fe when COVID-19 hit, which cut our expected time there short. Not ironically, we were in a series called "Prepare the Way," which happened to play out literally as our home churches snapped into full-speed action.
Home Churches in Kansas City
When we left our building to "Follow the Cloud," we became 20-30 mini-churches all over Kansas City. Breaking nearly every mold regarding how to have church in America, we began to experience church in new ways.
Large worship gatherings in auditoriums became small gatherings around kitchen tables. Plugged in worship sets turned into acoustic guitars, djembe drums and YouTube videos. Kids church wove into adult church as we figured out how to learn about Jesus with little people crawling at our feet and constantly interrupting us. Leaders became everyday people like Mike and me, and kids offering churchgoers communion.
Our serve teams weren't those opening doors and passing offering plates, but instead they were people putting spoons into casserole dishes and pointing to the spare bedroom for coat drop-offs. Inviting a friend to church looked like either welcoming them into a living room or simply standing in the yard and offering to pray for them.
Ministers became those surrounding us, friends pastoring and guiding one another. Gifts of hospitality, service, teaching and leadership showed up, and those who might have gone unnoticed at a traditional church service were suddenly seen.
COVID-19 and the Cloud
When COVID-19 hit, our every-other week home gatherings became weekly, and soon virtual. Sure, this presented some of the same challenges every church is facing right now. How can we experience genuine community via a screen? How do we divide up roles? Since we were already broken up into small home churches meeting every-other week, the transition was relatively seamless.
Instead of opening our front doors, we began opening our laptops and apps. Sure, it has looked different from what we're used to, but that's kind of the theme this year. I've found that whether in person or virtually, home church—and "Following the Cloud"—is a major blessing. Here's why.
We are the church
Mike and I joke about how many times we hear the word "unprecedented" right now. But it's so true. We really are living through a historic moment. There's a HUGE opportunity for churches to rise up, unify, and shake off idols.
What idols do I mean? The ones nobody wants to talk about inside of the church, yet the ones that are glaringly obvious to those who consider themselves "outsiders." This post isn't about exposing modern day idols of the American church, but instead, it's to implore us to take hold of this unique opportunity in human history.
What better excuse to try something new, get back to basics, and take a leap of faith?
I know this season has been really challenging, especially when Sunday service is our lifeline. I'm not wanting to minimize or downplay the loss that comes from not "having church." But, I also want to challenge us as believers to remember God is big and creative. He's on the move.
If the past year of "Following the Cloud" around Kansas City with our church has taught me anything, it's that church can happen anywhere. Yes, anywhere.
Church can happen anywhere
Of course, church can look traditional and offer a worship set, pastor and prayer. But, church can also happen when friends gather on a porch to discuss a Scripture passage. When believers huddle up in a small group meeting over Zoom. Church can occur around dinner tables as families pause to enter Sabbath rest together. In many parts of the world, church gatherings are secret and hidden. What do they all have in common? Devotion to one another, study of the Scriptures, leadership and prayer.
That's it. It's an explosive, yet simple, recipe. It's the one that's been working for ages.
I don't know where the next few months will lead us. I have no idea what I'll be posting as an update to Following the Cloud next month, let alone next year. But I do know this: God's inviting us to get creative. God's called many of us to leadership and ministry, whether or not we get paid. And, Christ's church is massive—nothing can stop it. Building or no building, service or no service—it's growing.
MONDAY MORNING SURVIVAL GUIDE
Can I encourage you next week? Let's get through Monday mornings together.