For the past 10 years or so, I have found myself focusing on a word that I think best describes the work of the church: connection. This began (as I’ve shared before) in reading a Council of Bishop’s report on what they called “vital congregations” (that is, congregations that seemed to be healthy and growing in their ministry. The report mentioned several activities present in vital congregations, however, what grabbed me was not the call for multiple types of worship or clearly developed mission statements. The meat of the report I found in the appendix, in a one-off description of what church vitality is.
Church vitality, the report said, “…is the state of engagement that connects people to God, to one another, and to the world in profound ways.”
“That’s it!”, I thought. While we used to talk about the church as being in the life saving or soul winning business, what’s more accurate is that we help people develop a connection to a loving God who brings forth transformation in their lives. While we often talk about fellowship and have the potluck suppers to prove it, what we are really doing is providing opportunities for folks to come together and connect with one another, using that connection to help inform our understanding of God. While we engage in mission work, that work is always about connecting the local church to the broader needs of the world. Our central task as Christ’s body is to facilitate connection.
Way way back in the early days of the Internet, before the World Wide Web existed, I used to participate in computer bulletin boards (mostly focused around the broadcast television industry that I was a part of at the time. In order to connect to these other computers, I purchased a device called a modem, which allowed my computer to connect to our telephone line. I remember fondly opening up the program and telling the computer modem to dial the number, waiting for that reassuring digital squeal that told me that the connection had been made. Once the connection was made, I found myself opened up to a world of information and all sorts of new friends all around the world — ultimately enhancing my life in positive ways.
The church is the world’s modem, sitting between the reality of our lives and a loving and gracious God who desires to connect with us. The church (when it is functioning as it should) provides a connecting point to the divine, bringing us into relationship with others, and pointing us toward the broader world in which we are all interconnected. Connection is the work of the church, and for those who walk in the way of Christ, we have a responsibility to facilitate connection however we can.
For many of us, that point of connection was the Sunday morning worship service. For thousands of years, the public worship of God served as the primary means by which individuals would connect to the church, to God, and to one another. However, in our current time, made even clearer by the suspension of public worship, it is time to recognize that public worship is but one of many connecting points for God’s people. In a world in which digital communication becomes more and more prevalent, we must recognize that our traditional ways of facilitating connection will have to be updated.
Currently, we are trying to facilitate connection at City Road Chapel UMC through a variety of means:
- Regular email updates using our MailChimp service recognizing that email is still a primary means by which folks are connecting electronically.
- Text messages (SMS) via Flocknote to provide scheduling updates and notifications about emergency prayer needs. (To join, text CITYROADINFO to 84576)
- Our weekly Prime Worship services on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/c/CityRoadChapelVideo/videos)
- Our weekly “Walking in the Way of Jesus” podcast which is journeying through the Gospel of Mark (https://cityroadchapel.org/podcasts/walkingintheway/)
- The City Road Chapel Website (https://cityroadchapel.org)
- Our private Facebook group (membership required) to share prayer concerns and other updates (https://www.facebook.com/groups/cityroadchapel).
- Our public facing Facebook group, for sharing events and other things we want folks to know about our church (https://www.facebook.com/cityroadchapel)
- The monthly On The Road spiritual formation newsletter mailed to our church members.
- Our “phonetree” automated dialer service which calls all our members with messages.
I know that not everyone has the means to connect electronically (although everyone, I think, has a phone!). Yet, as our world changes, the church has to change as well, and it becomes up to each one of us to facilitate our connection to one another and the world.
Yes, there WILL be a day soon when we will resume in-person worship. However, it’s likely that we will see a decrease in the number of folks attending, and that the way that we connect will be different. It’s also likely that none of the means for connecting listed above will be going away. Our job is to adapt to the reality we face and continue God’s work of connection so that God’s kingdom reality will come here on earth as it is in heaven.
If you need ANY assistance with ANY of the technological points of connection listed above, please don’t hesitate to call me at (615) 310-6530 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I love all of you! Keep connecting!