How the Uniting Church has adapted to the restrictions surrounding COVID-19 is surprising and not surprising at the same time.
For some in ministry leadership, it has been a surprise to see what has been achieved in such a short time in taking worship online, and having copies emailed or hand delivered. It has been a surprise that some of our people have mastered getting connected when previously they may have thought it was too hard or they were too old to connect for online worship. So, it has been surprising.
At the same time, there has been a fair bit of pressure to take worship services online because that is what other churches were doing. In fact, that is what many parts of our community have been doing. Jujitsu, karate and dance classes are offered online. Education for school and university has been taken online. Car Models of Braidwood and Sandalwood Homewares of Braidwood have been advertising their online shopping so as not to lose the business of those who would normally have taken a pleasant drive to make their purchases. It seems that many have responded by taking their services online. So, it is not surprising that the Uniting Church has also adapted to offer its services online.
Our response to COVID-19 is surprising and not surprising at the same time.
Michael Frost in his handy little book “Surprise the World!” is urging the church to surprise the world. His five habits of highly missional people are habits to which we are called as faithful followers of Christ and are also habits that will lead us to living surprising “questionable lives”.
Frost coins the phrase “questionable lives” from his understanding of a biblical model for evangelistic mission seen in Colossians 4:2-6 and 1 Peter 3:15-16. It is a twofold approach to evangelism that includes 1) Gifted Evangelists and 2) Evangelistic Believers. Many of us feel like we are not the gifted evangelists who can proclaim boldly the Good News of Jesus, but that does not get us off the evangelism hook. Rather, all believers are called to live questionable lives – the kinds of lives that evoke questions from their friends giving rise to opportunities for faith sharing.
Living questionable lives is important for surprising the world because there is an old communication theory that goes like this: “When predictability is high, impact is low. In other words, when the audience thinks they know what you are going to say, and you go ahead and say it, it makes very little impact. On the other hand, when an audience is surprised or intrigued, they will think long and hard about what they’ve heard”.
Frost contends that living the five missional habits will take us along the way to living surprising questionable lives – generous, hospitable, Spirit-led, Christlike lives. As such, we will become “a godly, intriguing, socially adventurous, joyous presence in the lives of others” that evokes questions.
In many ways we have surprised ourselves with how we as church have responded to the COVID-19 restrictions on gathering. While we are on this good run of surprising ourselves, let us milk it for all its worth by going on to live “questionable lives” that will surprise not only us, but also surprise the world.