WHAT WE NEED MORE THAN ANYTHING IN 2021
by Trevor DeVage
Two years ago, I received a Facebook message on Christmas Eve that I’ve been thinking about this week. A member of our church, a young woman who would not live to see the next year, wrote to thank me for our service that night and one song in particular. All of us hear “O Holy Night,” every Christmas, again and again. But that year, one lyric lifted my friend’s spirit: “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”
That hope is what she needed that Christmas.
That hope is what her husband and kids would need just a few short days later.
That hope is what we preached at her funeral a week later.
That hope is what every reader of this blog needs in 2021.
That hope is the reason our church exists and why it must continue to reach and teach and serve, because our world today is certainly weary, wearier perhaps than we’ve ever experienced it.
Churches everywhere are coping with the pandemic, most of them in a similar situation. These days our in-house Sunday-morning attendance is about 30 percent of what it was before the shutdown last March. We’re reaching about 1,300 or 1,400 viewers via our online Sunday-morning offerings, and about 70 percent of that attendance is local. As I announced earlier this year, our giving pattern matches that of every nonprofit with your name on its mailing list: The numbers are down. Every pastor I know reports an experience that mirrors ours.
It’s difficult, but I’m not discouraged. I definitely believe church will not be the same after we’ve walked out of the pandemic’s shadow, but I think that’s good. Covid-19 will help us rethink priorities, reevaluate strategies, and revise programming.
All of that will be for one purpose, to renew hope.
People run toward hope. We had more volunteers for our Little Angels project this Christmas than we could have ever imagined. They were eager to work with other good people to create an uplift for hope-drained families at the end of a difficult year. Tim Tebow has built the Night to Shine idea into an international phenomenon because it offers smiles—hope— to those often forgotten or only pitied.
Institutional Christianity does not much compel people anymore. But hope attracts like nothing else. That’s the only way I can explain what’s happening at our Monkey Bar campus these days. Attendees there sit around tables and talk about the message. They engage with each other around life’s core challenges. Sunday I mentioned a first-timer there who jumped into the conversation with the opening discussion question, and before the morning was over his circle was asking how they could pray for him. He had discovered a taste of hope.
Paul spoke of this hope with a phrase from Colossians we love to repeat: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This is the hope we offer the world, the hope for meaning in this life that points people to a life this world can’t know. Maybe Covid-19 can remind many that all the distractions and diversions of this life are only temporary. Our hope must be in something eternal.
That hope is our cause, the cause we’re lifting up here at Christ’s Church. We’re seeking to connect people to that cause. We’re finding ways for people to contribute to our efforts surrounding that cause. We’re praying for folks to become committed to that cause as we join hands and hearts in community to encourage each other and reach a hope-starved world.
I think our approaches will be simpler than before, and more focused. We’ll be uncovering hope, real hope, hope in that which is permanent and real and sustaining. The love of Christ cannot be equaled, but it can be reflected in our ministries moving forward.
I think we have opportunities to share it today unlike any we’ve known before.