This is part eight, the final blog post, of my Panama reflection series. A little over five months ago, I was in Panama on a mission trip with a group of pastors from Virginia. This series of articles is my effort to share some of my experiences while also debriefing from my trip. Enjoy.
This COVID-19 outbreak has appeared to wreak havoc on our lives as we knew it. Every parent is now a home-school teacher. Working from home is no longer a rarity. Many restaurants have added curbside pick-up or delivery options.
Movie productions have ceased. The grocery aisles once filled with a dozen brands of the same exact item are now bare. Sports television and radio are pining for content without live sports: no basketball, no baseball, no hockey…
This pandemic has, and will, force us to reevaluate the way we do things moving forward.
Even the church has had to rethink the way it does things. I heard of one church that literally had no online presence before the pandemic (not even a poorly thrown together website or random Facebook page). Now they are recording services and posting them online.
In the church world, whether you are a pastor, staff member, or layperson, we are all asking the same basic question: what will the church look like after this?
What it will look like and what it should look like may still be two entirely different questions. However, when I was in Panama a few months ago, I saw a glimpse of what the Church should be like.
On the last night we were in Davíd, Pastor Felix took me to a house meeting with some of his church people. At least ten of us piled in his SUV, which was made for five passengers, and took off.
This house meeting was made up of around twenty-five people of all age groups. We sat outside on plastic chairs, stools, and a couple of people even sat on a removable van seat.
Everyone was talking and laughing. Pastor Felix even got in on the jokes. The best one was when one of the sixth-grade girls cracked a joke on him and the whole group erupted in laughter.
As I watched this gathering develop, I noticed several things. There was no bulletin. There were no lights. There was no praise band. There were no screens. There was no “church building”. Abel was simply handed a guitar, and we sang spontaneously for 20-30 minutes – one song right after another. There were no lyrics. Just God’s people praising Him.
Finally, Pastor Felix began his devotional thought. I thought I would be able to sit back and take all this in, but then he handed it over to me. As I scrambled to figure out what I would say, I remembered why we came to Panama in the first place: to encourage the Church.
I turned to Acts 2:42:
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
I simply recounted my entire week’s experience of how they had demonstrated each one of these things. I concluded with “keep doing what you are doing!”
Typically, here in the U.S.A., we over-complicate things. We think we need spectacle and a plethora of programs. Or a giant facility. Or tons of money. Or a superstar, celebrity pastor. I am certainly guilty of having this “over-complicating” trait. Maybe you are too?
As we try and decipher what the church will look like in the wake of the pandemic, maybe we should just revisit Acts 2:42. That is what Christ’s Church looks like. Don’t over-complicate it. Anyway, I was just thinking…