Remember life before COVID-19? Social Distancing, never heard of before, is now the new norm. Surgical face masks have suddenly become a fashion statement. We quickly learned what businesses are essential and those non-essential. (How does that make me feel?!) And, we were encouraged to “stay home and save lives.”( but not so good for the economy).

Now, after weeks of the church being unable to meet as a body, of believers, there are signs we may soon be re-opening the church for in-person gatherings.

Pastor Bill Wilson recently wrote an excellent article, “Reset Before you Reopen” in which he offered practical steps for everyone’s safety when the Saints return.

But what might we expect in the spiritual, physical, relational, and emotional realms?

Spiritually

When America and other nations began to shut down and panic began to rise, Delores and I decided that while we would be cautious and do our best to follow our leaders, we would not live in fear. Not an easy task, especially when all the news was about COVID-19. There were days we had to simply turn off the news! Fear will destroy every aspect of life. There may be some of the saints who remain frozen in fear as they return to church. The key for all of us is to not allow a spirit of self-righteous judgment because we never know a person’s circumstances. However, we are to pray. We are to pray for one another and we are to pray for those who lead in government.

Physically

When the saints return, you can expect the charts to be all over the place. There will be those who are anxious to get back to church and are more than ready to see the Stay-at-home orders go away. They are the huggers and the back-slappers. On the other hand, you can expect that some of those who are high risk will be slow to jump in. And, you can expect that some of them will bring their opinions back with them. One pastor’s wife recently reported, “it seems that everything we do is wrong, and certain people are sure to let us know! “ Just remember, change is hard on all of us, and we all react differently. The greatest thing a pastoral team can do is love on everyone! in spite of the changes they like or don’t like. We must do our best to create a safe place and a loving place for all.

Relationally

God created even introverts with a great need for relationships. On Mother’s day, my son-in-law, Virgil Brown, had his staff conduct a “drive-through” blessing. The idea was to have the congregation drive through the church parking lot where the staff would greet each person, and mothers would receive a mother’s day gift. It immediately created a traffic jam. But if you were to look at the upper parking lot, you would have noticed most of these peopled parked and were visiting with others through open windows. That says to us that relationships are important. However, as the saints return, admonish them to not get so caught up in the renewal of relationships that they forget the new people present who may be checking out the church because they happened to see you on the internet!

Emotionally

When the Saints return, you may discover a large array of emotions that surface, such as grief. Some who return may have lost a loved one to COVID-19. Or, families may not have been able to be present when a loved one transitioned from earth to heaven because the retirement home was in “lock-down”. Others in the congregation may be grieving over the loss of work. Some may be struggling with anger, feeling their rights have been violated. Loneliness can, in some instances, lead to depression, But thank God “He is not a God of confusion but of Peace. As in all the churches of the saints.” (I Corinthians 14:33) What can we do? We can empathize. We can pray for those who are struggling with emotions. We can preach a positive message of Hope In Christ! We can love the saints no matter what they struggle with emotionally.

I join my voice with other leaders who tell us the greatest days are still ahead for the Church! In my humble observation, COVID-19 has not set the Church back at all. Will there be changes? Yes! Some may even wonder when they return, “wheres my church?!” But the Church has survived the strong winds of change before. And now, in the midst of the technological age, I see Churches reaching people they would not have otherwise reached with the gospel! Just remember- the church, with all of its technology, is still in the people business, in partnership with the Lord of Creation who said “I will build My Church…!” (Matthew 16:18)