blog 1406-02

Reflection by Stewart Perry

Last Sunday in my sermon I used the following illustration:

“Only a couple of months ago I was going to the gym 4-5 times a week. If my gym reopened tomorrow & I went back to ‘normal’ I would be hurting for months…”

Ironically the day after I recorded this sermon, my gym reopened! 

For lots of different reasons (mostly to do with not having the time, energy or inclination) I only went back for the first time yesterday… and it was anything but ordinary…

I had expected as much, I had been keeping an eye on the gym’s Facebook page throughout the week and had seen they’d divided the gym up into zones. I’d also seen lots of comments, mostly negative… most people were complaining that because they couldn’t do what they were used to doing, the way they were used to doing it and at the times they were doing it, the gym should either change their processes or refund their memberships.

I had some sympathy for those who were complaining, I do know how hard it is to re-arrange your life. But I had much more sympathy for the gym. I know from my experience trying to navigate the new restrictions, processes and rapid rate of change across the church, Op Shops and Rainbow Town, it’s not easy. I had no doubt the gym was doing as much as they could, the best they could regarding the circumstances. I also expected as their Facebook page did indicate that they were very willing to put memberships on hold or even cancel if people could no longer engage in the new way of doing business or could not afford to because of time or financial restrictions. But it wasn’t until I actually went there in person yesterday that it confirmed my assumption.

Yes it was anything but ordinary, I had to have my photo taken (even though they had one on file), they checked my address and contact details were right and explained how the new system would work. Next to me was a mother and daughter cancelling their membership & they were handling that with graciousness and understanding.

On entering there were signs and instructions everywhere and the gym had been sectioned off with black and yellow ‘danger tape’ to ensure the zones were maintained and no more than 20 people were in each zone.

No it wasn’t an ordinary work out for me. It was shorter and I only used some of the equipment I normally would but what I was able to do was to focus more time and effort on the exercises I was doing.

I walked away with a sense of accomplishment at what I’d done but also incredible admiration for the business and staff at the gym. I won’t be cancelling my membership – in fact I’ll recommend the gym right now – EMF Robina are awesome!

The church is entering this Sunday in the season known as ‘Ordinary Time’ yet it strikes me that this season will be anything but ordinary.

I know that the Church experience is anything but ordinary at the moment. While I’m fortunate that our Facebook isn’t full of complaints like EMF’s, I have had my share. I know the online and restricted experience isn’t the same and I do know that not everyone is finding it meaningful and helpful. I also expect that some will ‘cancel their membership’ with our church and hopefully move to another church. I will be most saddened if people cancel their connection with any form of church but I do expect that will happen.

This reality is disappointing because I know what has been sacrificed, the time, energy and talents that have been offered to just be able to do what we are doing has been enormous. I know only some have seen this and understand this sacrifice and I am OK with that. 

But what I find overcomes the disappointment is the stories of engagement that are far outweighing the complaints. Stories of people inviting others to their homes to create ‘Home Church’, the analytics telling us that our church has grown in its reach and influence. Stories of people recommending to their friends and work colleagues about how they love what their church is doing. Stories of children singing church songs to their classmates.

The difference between Church and a gym is that the church is not a business – it is a family and in the end as hard as the staff and I work, it’s actually up to you and your relationship with God and each other to enable this to continue to work and grow.

I hate to be blunt but without your engagement in what we are able to do we will not be Church in any meaningful way. So I would encourage you to engage as much as you can and to focus more fully on those areas in which you are able to engage. The church needs your ministry and your gifts to continue it’s transformation to what will be next.

It will not be the same, it will be anything but ordinary, it might be hard for some time to come yet, it will probably be inconvenient in many ways – but it is still Church and you are still Church and I believe as we continue to share stories of our engagement then the power of the Holy Spirit will do the rest and we will see the revival that I am expecting.

I won’t see you “in Church” I will see you “as Church”


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