The “new normal” is an expression we’ve heard a good bit this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it was not a phrase I particularly liked or embraced.
The “new normal” has been characterized by masks, social distancing, and no handshakes or hugs.
In terms of the church’s work and mission, it has for a time suspended public gatherings, and then limited their frequency and/or the number attending. It has kept brethren apart. Canceled gospel meetings. Limited fellowship. Put plans on hold. Hampered ministry projects. And to a large extent social-distanced us from the brotherhood.
However, in recent weeks I’m seeing and sensing a welcomed return to the “old normal.”
As a case in point, I just finished a Sunday-Wednesday meeting at the Cherry Sink church in Gilchrist County, Florida. For the first time, they returned to all three services on Sunday. Bible Study. Worship. And evening worship. I spoke at all three services. And in the afternoon we had a potluck.
The meeting was advertised throughout the surrounding area. As a result, there were local visitors from the community. In addition, brethren attended from 11 different congregations. Some drove over an hour to attend. One family almost 2 hours. A Sister from a neighboring church remarked, “We’ve been starved for this.”
Throughout the week the attendance was excellent. The singing was spirited. And the sheer joy of brethren being together was apparent. I know, I could see their faces. I could count on one hand the number who felt the need to wear a mask. There were handshakes and hugs. And lingering conversation both before and following the services. Also, the meal list returned and we enjoyed eating together before services.
While I disagree with some of his theology, Rick Warren was right when he wrote in The Purpose Driven Life, “We are created for community, fashioned for fellowship and formed for a family.”
Indeed, “(we) are not just called to believe, but to belong.”
Christians belong together. The Bible often speaks of “those who believed being together.” We are called together. Raised up together. Fit together. Knit together. Held together. Made alive together. Heirs together. Joined together. And members together.
Even outside our own local congregational fellowship, there is a recognition and responsibility to “love the brotherhood.” To feel a special affinity and enjoy a filial association with Christians both regionally and worldwide. I felt that feeling again during the Cherry-sink meeting.
Additionally, we’re hearing reports that larger churches who’ve been having multiple services are returning to a single service. That’s good news. Being all together again. Together we’re better. Together we’re stronger.
Together worship is more vibrant. Together edification is more effective. Together fellowship is sweeter. Together discipleship has a greater impact. Together ministry is a shared experience. Together our mission is clearer. Together the one another commands can be realized in unselfish sharing, sacrificial giving, and sympathetic caring, comforting, and consoling.
While in some situations the “new normal” may have provided unique opportunities and produced some ministry benefits that can be useful in the future, I’m excited to return to the “old normal.”
Together is better.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman