“Sorry, I forgot my mask.”
“I am tired of the liberals forcing me to wear them at church anyways.”
“I know what you mean.”
At that point, they noticed my shocked eyes over my own mask as we began to roast s’mores around the fire pit. They quickly moved on in their conversation as I just looked down, avoiding eye contact again.
I have thought a lot about this small exchange over the past few days. I thought about the past 7 months. This pandemic exposed where we are fragile in our hearts.
The Fragile Asthmatic
As an asthmatic with at-risk parents in town, we have only been back to church once since it closed back in March. I had to take a 15-minute break to catch my breath and miss most of the sermon. At that point, I realized there wasn’t much point to going to church if we were going to have to wrangle children, and I was going to have to take at least one if not multiple breaks to catch my breath.
A few weeks after that, our church started offering a children’s service, but we never bothered.
Our inability to return to church has kept a good deal of tension in our lives. My wife and I were never and have never been Sunday Christians. If you don’t know what that means, then the rest of this article might not make much sense.
Not Your Average Sunday Christians
I teach Bible classes. My children were (gosh, that hurts to put that in the past tense) attending every event. My in-laws are well-respected, with my mother-in-law being a particularly adept leader in the children’s ministry.
Beyond the Sunday experience, we were all active in small groups outside of the Sunday and Wednesday productions.
That has led people to start asking us when we are coming back. They want us back because they want us to serve again. I had a lengthy conversation with one of our ministers about the issues we face in coming back and that we are going to prioritize other things over an hour on Sunday.
That’s the rub with our church. Since the pandemic began, we prioritize other things over an hour at church.
As someone with multiple degrees in medical science and administration, I can read the research as well as anyone and come to the same conclusion. Every week church is a potential super spreading event. That hour is no longer worth destroying our entire lives and families over. I mean, we get sick, and we can’t see grandparents, we can’t go to school, we can’t go to church, and the list of we can’t’s goes on for weeks.
So, a one-hour church service isn’t worth taking our children away from their friends and family for weeks.
Our failure to return leaves people in my congregation confused. They don’t understand why we think this way. Perhaps they suspect we have fallen under liberal propaganda, also known in this case as science.
But I have come to a different conclusion. To get there, you need to know about Frozen 2.
Let It Go… part 2?
I have watched Frozen 2 six times in the past four days. It’s a lot of the “Next Right Thing” and “Into the Unknown.”
But the best line of the movie goes to Kristoff. He gets separated from his love, Anna, about midway through the film. When they are reunited after the climax, he delivers this line:
“My love is not fragile.”
That line is worth the price of your Disney+ admission just to watch that line get delivered over and over again. That is the line that I want to pound into my children’s skulls with a slight twist.
My faith is not fragile.
OT is OG
Here is the deal. My faith doesn’t need a church building. Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Daniel didn’t need a temple to stand up to the Babylonian Emperors. I don’t need an hour on Sunday in a nondescript building to worship God in my daily living when I don’t have to stand up to anyone.
Now here me, if you do need that, that’s ok. I am not judging you. We all have our own faith journeys. I have been a Christian for two-thirds of my life.
Instead, I would bring to the pastors, preachers, and lay-leaders in your congregation the question of why that might be the case? Why haven’t they strengthened your faith enough to withstand the closing of a building? Why aren’t they and other congregants in your life more often so that a building on Sunday matters so much?
More than a Fragile Sunday
You know what? I don’t get that much from Sunday morning anyway. I get a lot more from reading the likes of James Cone and Walter Brueggemann than just about any preacher I have heard in my life. I regularly listen to about 2-4 sermons a week from various male and female preachers. A Rabbi even sneaks their way in occasionally.
Then you know what I do? I live in a way that I hope God would be proud of. I try to bring hope, joy, peace, and rest into people’s lives throughout the week because they need it. God, do people need hope and rest in this year of disruption and distress.
And it’s not like we aren’t active in our church family. We have been involved in our small group still because we meet outside, and I have even taught a Bible Class through Facebook Live. You know what? I taught a pretty good one on Lamentations last week. So it’s not like we have ghosted the church like almost half of the people in my generation.
A Final Exhortation
So my exhortation to you church leaders is that you create a faith in people that isn’t so fragile that it needs a building on a Sunday morning for an hour or two. We should build a faith strong enough for the other 166 hours in the week. It is an exhausting world out here, and I want to offer it some rest while it is today. To provide that rest, I have to be in other places than a church, and thankfully my faith isn’t fragile like Kristoff’s love wasn’t weak in Frozen 2.
Take another look at that table from Barna. Maybe focusing on getting back to Sunday won’t work with my generation or the next generation ever. Perhaps it is time to start thinking in new ways about our faith.
Yeah and wear a mask because you might not just save your life but you will definitely prevent someone else from getting sick.