The Road Back to Normal

Residents of my city will recognize the image attached to this post. We call this intersection “malfunction junction.” About two years ago traffic through downtown Birmingham was diverted because of construction. Earlier this year, malfunction junction and the rest of our downtown interstate was reopened. My commute went from forty minutes to twenty. We were on the road back to normal.

And then my commute went from twenty minutes to the time it takes me to walk downstairs and sit at my computer! For nearly three months we have worked from home. We have prerecorded and streamed worship services. We have become innovative, creative and resourceful. I even learned some new skills. Some have called this our new normal. I disagree. New abnormal, maybe. But not the new normal.

At Huffman Baptist Church, where I serve as pastor, we have started the road back to normal. Some think we should flip a switch and be back to normal immediately. Others are not even ready to start the journey. I am somewhere in between.

The Road Back to Normal Will Require Prayer

As I am writing, there are so many song titles and lyrics running through my mind, like “The Long and Winding Road.” Sometimes the road can be lonely. It can be scary. It can be confusing. Facts and Trends posted an article outlining nine concerns pastors have as we move towards gathering again. Pray for your pastor and other leaders!

The Road Back to Normal Will Also Require…

  1. Caution. There is so much about SARS-CoVi-2 that we don’t know. Even within the scientific community there is no consensus. With an abundance of caution, our leadership enacted an extensive protocol for returning to gathered worship.
  2. Compassion. In my church, 1/3 of our membership is not ready to return to gathered worship. 1/3 are ready to return, but they have concerns. We must have compassion for those who can not return and for those who are not ready to return.
  3. Humility. We will make mistakes. I will make mistakes. None of us have ever traveled this road. And to continue the metaphor, some of us have trouble asking for directions. Lord, help me to be willing to admit when I got off at the wrong exit!
  4. Grace. Because leaders will make mistakes, the rest of us need to show grace when they do.
  5. Cooperation. In early May, I posted an article about the shift From Cooperation to Contention. Just remember, those who are shepherding your church are making decisions with your best interest at heart.
  6. Patience. Enjoy the journey. Even in the pain and discomfort, God is teaching us something. Be patient. Some will want to anesthetize the pain. I am already hearing calls for celebration when we return to gathered worship. I love the heartfelt desire. But I’m thinking there may be more lamentation than true celebration until we get back to “normal.”
  7. Evaluation. At our church, will return to normal in measured phases so that we can evaluate. We want to be good neighbors. And good citizens. We do not want to make decisions that put people at risk unnecessarily. And we certainly don’t want to be the epicenter of a new outbreak.

Final Thoughts

There are some things from our pre-pandemic days that we need to leave behind. And many things from the pandemic that we need to continue. Many of our churches that were inwardly focused have rediscovered what it means to serve our neighbors. Churches that thought of their building as a meeting location have discovered that their address is a ministry point. We have discovered that technology is an incredible asset. And we have discovered that Jesus is enough!

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Rob Paul is a church revitalization strategist with over three decades of experience serving established Southern Baptist churches in pastoral ministry. He has helped churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to experience revival and revitalization by God’s grace and for His glory. He is also the senior pastor of Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. To find out more about Rob Paul Ministries and the work of church revitalization, visit https://robpaul.net

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