“It’s Friday But Sunday’s Comin!” is the title of one of my favorite messages preached years ago by social justice advocate, Tony Campolo. During Holy Week 2021 I’m again reminded, as his message pointed out, that no matter how dark the day there is always a hope-filled dawn awaiting Christ followers made possible by Jesus’ Easter victory over sin and death. This year I’m especially thankful for the early rays of Resurrection hope dawning in renewal congregations as we begin to emerge from a world-wide pandemic.
Here are seven rays of Resurrection hope:
Ray 1: The Global Church is Flourishing
This past week I heard exciting reports from Pakistan where 100,000 Pakistanis gathered for a Gospel crusade and reports from Zambia where dozens of tribal chiefs are coming to faith and reports from Honduras where churches are rapidly multiplying despite great tragedy. Discouraged renewal leaders need only lift their eyes to find fresh hope.
Ray 2: The North American Church Is Rising From The Long Pandemic
Like neighbors emerging from their homes after a tornado and gratefully discovering that despite damage and debris everyone on the block survived the storm so, also, renewal leaders are emerging from the pandemic to discover most churches survived and a committed community of believers is preparing to rebuild what is damaged or destroyed.
Ray 3: Fresh Creativity Is Everywhere
No one could have predicted the nimbleness and tenacity of the church. Overnight renewal leaders learned skills for virtual gatherings, community care during a pandemic, and ministry to all ages when programs were shuttered. The creative muscles that have been stretched bring great promise for the church’s future in a rapidly changing world.
Ray 4: Rancor Is Diminishing
Last year the church was filled with rancor about in-person gatherings and mask wearing along with divisiveness around human sexuality, immigration and politics. Thankfully, this rancor is diminishing. It would have been great if the reduction was about good Christian practices rather than a change in season, but we will take peace however it comes.
Ray 5: Pent-Up Desire for Community Promises To Fuel Return
As the old saying declares, “Separation makes the heart grow fonder.” After a year of isolation people desperately want to be together again. Creative churches will tap this pent-up desire for community to woo back members and non-members into shared faith experiences. Community will be celebrated as a gift and not taken for granted.
Ray 6: Community Service Is Now Our Practice
Life was hard during the pandemic. Elderly had no way to get groceries. Single moms had to give up jobs to take care of kids. Service workers lost employment and couldn’t buy food. Into this gap stepped the church meeting needs and serving neighbors. These good neighbor practices will help the church be the church in a post-pandemic world.
Ray 7: Disciples Stayed … On Lookers Left
Congregational members had a forced leave of absence during the pandemic. Some may never return. Many of those who don’t return, quite honestly, were nominally invested in the church prior to COVID-19. Moving forward those who remain with the church are the deeply committed. Tomorrow’s church promises to be leaner and healthier.