By now you’ve hopefully realized that the plan can’t be to just ‘sit this out’ or ‘weather the storm’ until life returns to normal. We have to accept that some things won’t be the way they were. People are talking about BC and AC – Before Corona and After Corona.
As teams, organizations or churches we quickly learnt to cope and (mostly) adapt well to meet the initial practical challenges and we can be proud of that. We also, however, need to process what’s happening to ourselves and the world and be like the men of Issachar who understood the times (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Systems, methods, habits and lifestyles have changed. Jobs and livelihoods have been lost. Everywhere people have had their worldview messed with and they are disoriented. This is leading to increased spiritual hunger among many. Sadly, suspicion of foreigners is commonplace. Fear is at the forefront in hearts worldwide. We’ve been humbled as we realise we are not in control; we are weaker than we thought. The Coronavirus has exposed where we have put our hope and what we have taken for granted.
This is also a time to rethink, review and evaluate what we do and prepare for life beyond Corona. It’s not simply a case of ‘keep calm and carry on.’ Keep calm yes, but change and prepare as necessary.
Here are a few questions for leaders that might help us navigate, process and prepare in the weeks ahead:
– What is God saying or teaching us? Make time to listen to God; don’t just plough on. There are lots of voices and opinions; value God’s above them all.
– What new or different needs are there around us and how can we serve? It’s tempting to go into self-preservation mode but it speaks powerfully when we don’t in times like this.
– What do the people we are responsible for need right now? What does our community need? Too often we assume we know. Ask.
– What do I need right now? Those of us who are responsible for others need to look after ourselves too. Practice self-care. You, your family and team will be glad you did. Operating in crisis mode is exhausting; we need to still be functioning in the medium and long term, not just the short term.
– What have we lost? It’s important to acknowledge losses and grieve them. Process along the way so it doesn’t hit you later in one big wave that takes you out (I’ve been there, it was horrible). Staying hopeful is important but so is acknowledging that this is hard for everyone. We lose trust if we’re out of touch with reality.
– What are we grateful for? What do we realize we’ve taken for granted until now? Gratitude is a powerful weapon against hopelessness, despair and despondency.
– How is our world, our culture and community changing? How will that affect what we do and how we do it? There are some things to keep and likely some things to let go of that are no longer effective or relevant.
– How can we stay true to our vision and mission even though the way we do things has had to change? In the scramble to adjust don’t forget why you exist. Crises have a way of helping us see what really matters and what just isn’t as important as we thought it was.
-What new possibilities does this situation create? The cliché is true: in every crisis there are opportunities. Don’t miss them. New ideas and initiatives could be waiting to develop. Also, as one national director in our organization noted, we now have something in common with everyone on the planet which we didn’t have before. The shared experience the world is going through can help
us relate and identify with people in a new way.
– What are we learning that we don’t want to forget when things improve? Maybe some things we had to come up with now can be kept along with other insights we’ve gained along the way.
A prayer: Lord, we’ve never been here before. Please help us to navigate this territory and perceive what is happening. We ask you for insight and wisdom to lead effectively. We pray we would learn the lessons You are teaching us and not forget how much we need You. Shape us for what lies ahead. Holy Spirit make us brave to face the changes this is bringing upon us. O Lord be glorified through Your people in this critical hour. For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, Amen.
Alex, A Country Team Leader in South East Asia
My father has lived in Australia for over 67 years. For most of that time, he has held an Australian passport. He married an Australian woman and raised his children here. In so many ways Australia has been good to him. It has given him an education and a standard of living beyond anything he could have hoped for in his native India.
Yet Australia has never been a place of real belonging. His strong accent, his awkwardness in social situations and a vastly different life experience and value system to someone of British heritage who was born in this country, have meant that, even in my eyes, he would always be an “outsider”. I remember being deeply moved when, as an adult, I saw a photo of an older sister with an unbelievable likeness to him. There was a place where he belonged. It just wasn’t here.
But I was wrong. The excitement that preceded each visit “home” only ever returned as disappointment and despair. “Home” no longer existed. Places changed, relationships moved on and the values lived out by subsequent generations brought sadness and shame rather than reliving fond memories. The more time that passed, the greater the change and his ability to critique family and cultural dynamics from an external perspective. Not being able to return to the India that he grew up in brought a profound sense of grief and loss. “At home nowhere, foreigner everywhere” he used to say. Eventually it became too painful to return at all.
“At home nowhere, foreigner everywhere”
It now seems you don’t need to immigrate to another country to feel that same sense of loss. The unprecedented movement of people around the globe along with generational and social change has left many Australians feeling grief or fear that their children and grandchildren will not enjoy the Australia they loved. People are moving to new outlying housing estates in major capital cities in order to escape the cultural mix that has become established in affordable suburbs. Even in the church, it is common to hear references to “our country” or “we mustn’t let them change us”; statements that exclude, create division and reveal a primary allegiance to maintaining a comfortable status quo.
The truth is that culture is never static and that every generation views those that follow with some level of dismay. The timeless warning of Ecclesiastes 7:10 not to say “Why were the old days better than these” reveals a human propensity to long for times that have passed. But if we view the Australia we grew up in as our home and the place where our hearts lie, then we will we will forever look back with sadness at what has been lost instead of looking forward and marvelling at how God is working out his missional purposes in our midst.
Whether it is an unwillingness to leave our place of comfort and go to somewhere unfamiliar, or to allow that place to be permanently changed by those with whom God would have us share what is His, there is an idolatry that prevents us from holding lightly to the country we grew up in and wholeheartedly joining Him in His mission. For many of us the loss of comfort feels too costly. Yet the alternative is not without cost. Our churches are stifled and shrinking as we anxiously cling to what we know, when we could be rejoicing at the harvest and at the opportunities God is giving us that previous generations of believers could only dream of. If we are citizens of heaven and our home is truly with the Lord Jesus whose return we eagerly await, then we will offer up ourselves and the place where we live for his purposes. As we do this, our faith will be transformed and we will begin to long for what is ahead, for the experience of being with him as part of the worshipping multitude.
If we are citizens of heaven and our home is truly with the Lord Jesus whose return we eagerly await, then we will offer up ourselves and the place where we live for his purposes.
As for me, and many like me, there will never be an earthly home to long for. The people I hold most dearly are those who have offered acceptance and walked beside me in what has only ever been a difficult and lonely place. Yet in recent years am I learning that there is One who offers healing for the deep shame that I carry. One who has always been there and who has adopted me into His family at great personal cost. To Him I belong, for He has known me from the time He created my inmost being. As I do the work He has uniquely prepared for me, I wait for the day when I will see Him face to face – only then will I finally be home.
Lisa Bateup is the Director of CultureConnect.
CultureConnect is helping to bridge the gap between the church and ethnic minorities in Australia. We’re envisioning and equipping churches to reach out into their own neighbourhoods. Let’s work together.