Unprecedented Times. Unchanging Mission.
Cheryl Warren, General Manager of Vineyard Resources, reminds us that we are on the same Kingdom mission today, as we were prior to the pandemic; the markers haven’t moved though the world has.
Director of Resources & Support Services, Vineyard USA
Considering the source of this little article, it may seem strange to hear from “the book lady.” But as a member of the Vineyard USA team, I have the privilege of “sitting in the eagle’s nest” and seeing the moving parts of our Movement working together – in all their local contexts – as a beautiful, albeit imperfect, Kingdom dance troupe – following Jesus, being His hands and feet.
Even right now, pandemic and all, our Movement is responding to this rapid-fire season with amazing grace and beauty… though for many us, it doesn’t feel so amazing or beautiful.
Though we may not feel amazing or beautiful – personally, pastorally, at all – there is a hope of encouragement because in these unprecedented times, our mission is unchanging.
The word “unprecedented” is quickly becoming trite and easily dismissed. A trite phrase overused in this season. Truth be told, each of us, our communities, and lo, even the world is literally reeling under such upheaval and confusion that no one could’ve foreseen or planned to navigate it all even a few months ago. In that context, “unprecedented” seems almost lame and inadequate as a descriptor.
Saying that “no one could’ve foreseen…” isn’t completely accurate. God knew. Jesus knew. The Holy Spirit knew.
The Trinity was well aware of Covid-19, the tragic events that would spark worldwide racial tension, plunging economies, murder hornets – all of it.
As much as any time in my life, and maybe yours, EVERYTHING is changing. Sometimes by the minute. It’s like we can’t count on anything. Institutions, routines, gatherings, laws, traditions, mobility – you name it – it’s not the same.
Did anyone, who wasn’t a health care provider, expect to be wearing protective masks back in January 2020? Did anyone anticipate that wearing those masks would divide and polarize entire communities, friends, and families? Nearly nothing is the same.
Our human inclination, at this point, is to despair, shut down, act out, peace out. Our human inclination is to find someone/something to blame… only that doesn’t even work because the violations are coming so fast and furious, we don’t have time to catch all the culprits to place our blame before another issue arises. Conspiracies, factions, apocalyptic predictions find fertile soil when we, as humans, don’t know what we can count on that won’t change.
This is where invitation arrives. Our invitation to ask, “what hasn’t changed?”
Just like in Sunday school, we know the answer to that question is Jesus. Bear with me. Take a moment. Breathe. And then truly think about the profundity of Jesus being the right answer, right now. He hasn’t changed. The model of His life and ministry from the gospels applies right now, as much as ever. The Father is still at work. So we can, by the Spirit’s leading, still see what the Father is doing and do it.
This is where the word “unchanging” enters the discussion. “Enter” is probably too tame a word. Our unchanging God and His unchanging mission show up, kick the door down, and set up shop right in the middle of chaos and upheaval. This can be a comforting thought.
The mission hasn’t changed. The mission is our anchor. The mission is our plumb line.
Luke 4 still reads the same way and all the same needs for the Kingdom to break in are present – even magnified.
Maybe it feels like more pressure to do God’s mission online, outside our comfort zone, without our meeting spaces. It’s definitely more work and our communities add pressure by demanding answers from pastors who have no road map for times like these. Ugh.
Yet, what if staying on mission gives us the road map we need?
It’s the same Kingdom path. The markers haven’t moved. Even as an answer to “the clamoring voices” in our churches, we could say, “our plan is still the same and so is God’s plan for you. Help us see and execute the new ways we carry out the same mission.”
What a gift to give people a clear, stable purpose when the world is upside down.
Need something to do? Do the stuff. Comfort the hurting. Remember the poor. Come, Holy Spirit. Everyone gets to play. Pray for the sick (great timing for this one). Be reconciled to your brothers and sisters.
Incredibly our Vineyard distinctives become especially poignant right about now.
For me, this idea has clarified my focus, sparked creativity, and given me a deep well from which to drink when the insanity becomes too much. Maybe it will help you.
Same Father. Same Son. Same Holy Spirit. Same Kingdom.
What better news is there right now than knowing in an unprecedented time, our mission is unchanging?
Cheryl Warren has been with Vineyard Resources for 18 years, and has a passion for resourcing the local church.