May 23-24, 2020
Rev. Simon Lee, Senior Pastor RCAC
Dear brothers and sisters of RCAC, Shalom,
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1, 2, ESV)
Crisis: Transforming Threat into Opportunity (危機：轉危為機)
Last week I shared with you some of my thoughts on the New Normal, focusing on the ideas of “Pause, play and no playback.” This week I hope to continue to round up my thoughts and hopefully provide some more directions on what it means for us at RCAC as we enter into Phase 2 of dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic in B.C.
I came across an article (Strategies for Winter) which I found helpful, and it describes what we are experiencing and what we will face by pointing to three key concepts: blizzard, winter and ice age (Leading Beyond the Blizzard). We have taken “shelter”(stay home) in the storm (COVID), we need now to dress warmly to go out and “survive” the long and bitter winter, and finally we need to “adapt and rebuild” as if we will be going into a new Ice Age. In short, we all need to adapt to the “new normal.”
On the ground level, we hear in the news things like big motor car plants are now assembling not cars but making millions of mask. Another example I saw in the news was a high class restaurant owner giving out food to the needy. In the latest news (from Quebec) there was a restaurant owner who put some sort of mannequins in empty seats to separate the customers. These simple examples should tell us that “the new normal” is completely different from “the normal” three months ago. Life in Greater Vancouver will not be the same and nor will life at RCAC be back to our “old normal” anytime soon.
Many Church leaders have reminded us that “we need to take seriously not only our faith, but also science, as well as this virus, which involves appropriate social distancing. It’s all part and parcel of engaging effectively today.” (Pastor Mark, Beaverton) We are also reminded that we are “ambassadors of Christ.” (2 Cor. 5:20) The question for all of us at RCAC is, now that we are slowly moving from “stay home,” can we “stay alert”? Can we be true “ambassadors of Christ” and messengers of peace and hope to a world desperately looking for ultimate answers, and therefore step up instead of step down our missional efforts? If “crisis”( 危機) always has two components: “threat”( 危) and “opportunity”( 機), then we should change threat into opportunity and should now seize the golden opportunity to making our Church not just a place where people go to, but a Church that goes to the people.
After much thought and prayers I believe we need some fundamental changes in three directions:
- Transform and buildup the Church with more cell groups (「化整為零」：轉化教會建立小組)
- Transform and equip members to be “ambassadors of Christ” (「基督使者」：轉化信徒人人皆兵)
- Transform our Church community to a “Community Church” (「社區教會」：轉化群體深入社區)
1. Transform and buildup the Church with more cell groups (「化整為零」：轉化教會建立小組)
We all long for the day when we can worship, learn, fellowship and play together, like before. But it may be months before we can gather in large groups in the sanctuary, fellowship hall or the gym, even with the lifting of some of the restrictions. We understand that right now in Phase 2 we still can only have up to 50 people in the whole Church and we still have to maintain physical distancing of 2 meters between people. We will have to wait till Phase 4 of the Reopening to return to large gatherings.
However we have discovered that in fact during the past two months, many groups have been able to meet virtually with video conferencing (numbers vary up to 100 plus people based on number of devices connected to one event.) Moreover we have found that meaningful worship, real learning and good fellowship, fun and game can take place. Much of the security issues have been resolved and people are becoming more familiar and comfortable with going online to meet using different meeting apps.
Looking at it from the perspective of the “opportunity”, our experience has shown us that we can use these methods to draw our people together in ways that were not possible before. Therefore if we can encourage each member of our congregations to belong to at least one small groups, online or offline, such as fellowships or cell or study groups, we can serve our people even better than before. In short, we want to be transformed into a Church that supports each other in small groups. Secondly, even with full reopening, we will still continue to take advantage of all these means to draw us closer together.
2. Transform and equip members to be “ambassadors of Christ” (「基督使者」：轉化信徒人人皆兵)
We have discovered that many lay leaders have in fact become even more active in leading various activities and in reaching out to people to invite them to join our meetings. We believe in the “priesthood of all believers” and therefore we should continue our emphasis of “Equipped to serve” (theme last year) and trained our members to be “ambassadors of Christ.” We need to boost our leadership training programs even more to respond to the people needs exposed by this pandemic.
3. Transform our Church community to a “Community Church” (「社區教會」：轉化群體深入社區)
As a Church we have been shut down for over two months. The Church (ekklesia) is called by God out of the world to be “saints” and the community of God. But we are also sent back to the community, in fact to all the nations, that is, to the ends of the world, to be Christ’s witnesses, and to make disciples of all nations. The pandemic has impacted our Church community in many ways, but it has also awakened us to be the Church in the community, outside the four walls of our Church building. We should be the light and salt of the world. We should learn to be “in the world and not of the world” and make ourselves and our faith relevant to the people of our community. In other words, we should be missional in our purpose and in our engagements with the people out there. Let’s rethink and reimagine our efforts in evangelism and missions, and transform our Church into a “Community Church.”
These are some important emphases that we should take heed as we move into “the new normal.”
In the words of Paul, “I appeal to you therefore …to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship,” we are urged to dedicate ourselves to God, because that is the only “spiritual worship” (reasonable service) that is acceptable to God. Our transformation can only happen “by the renewal of … mind, that by testing…”and in the “test” that we as Christians have endured in this pandemic, our mind should be renewed so we may be able to discern the perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1, 2, ESV) May we as individuals and as a Church live to please God. Stay tuned.
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Simon Lee