As we head into month three of lockdown and the slow methodical reopening of churches, I’d like to take a few moments and solidify in our hearts and minds the importance of maintaining the path that we are on here at the bridge.
Eugene Peterson has said “faith is a long obedience in the same direction”. This describes our approach to things. We have not been given to novelty, or newness, or freshness for novelty’s sake. One of our values is intentionality. We are a thoughtful leadership group that seeks to be intentionally inclusive to as many as possible. We share a great story and a great faith in Jesus, God’s Son. We work hard to be intelligible (or communicative) in our presentation of Christ in our community. Intentionality, intelligibility, inclusivity, being influential, and—yes—intimate are the 5 I’s that we live and breathe. They are our value system, and by God’s grace, they guide our path and set our direction.
We will always be this kind of church whether “in person” or “online”. Here’s what we know to be true: just because the novelty of online church is wearing off for some, doesn’t mean that there isn’t great long-term potential for a world in which practically everyone we want to reach is online. Right now, God has given us an amazing opportunity to be even more than what we were three months ago.
As God allows, we will once again—slowly and safely—make our way back to gathering together as we’ve always known and enjoyed. But I don’t want you to miss what’s happening here. In God’s providence (He is in control), we have had this amazing and authentic way of communicating to so many more than what we would have if this opportunity had not presented itself.
Here at the bridge, we see ourselves as a church that gathers, a church that groups, a church that gives, and a church that goes. We are a 4G church. And I’m here to tell you that we are authentically fulfilling all four Gs in a most unique, but effective way right now. In-person attendance is going to be reduced for a long period to come. In all likelihood, you won’t be able to see in-person attendance levels that match our previous in-person numbers for a while; perhaps a long time. I suspect that in just a short period of time, we will be able to come together as LifeGroups far in advance of in-person worship gatherings. Imagine how amazing that is going to be, when we can meet in each other’s homes, praising God together, learning together, and caring for one another. That sounds like New Testament church, if I’ve ever heard it!
Don’t get me wrong; we are preparing for reopening, but are not so distracted by reopening (or other church’s reopening strategies) that we lose sight of the value of our groups, or the ground we’ve gained through our online presence. Many people are worshipping, being discipled in Jesus, experiencing life-changing fellowship, and involved in ministry in incredibly vibrant ways—online.
What we are experiencing is not novel…it’s new to be sure, but it’s not a stop gap measure until more ideal circumstances present. The kingdom of God is now. It’s not later; it’s right now. the bridge is advancing, growing, and thriving in the context of its present strategies.
I like and resonate with what Eugene Peterson has said: “Faith is a long obedience in the same direction.” We will faithfully go about optimizing our opportunities to be a church that gathers, groups, gives, and goes and we have no interest going back to the way things were. We only see an expanded and God-provided opportunity to reach a world in need of Jesus through all means given. So, let’s stay faithful; let’s maintain our engagement; and let’s open our eyes to the new and wonderful things that God is doing right now. And I commit to you that when it is safe—and when it is most advantageous—we will once again be gathering on our campus for the purpose of finding even greater and more creative ways of reaching our world for Christ.