This blog is part one of the ‘Hope Experts’ series, a topic we’ll explore throughout 2020.
Breaking the Cycle of Bad News with the Good News of Jesus
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25
Did you know that too much stressful news can be bad for your health? If you weren’t aware of that before, the past few weeks have likely created some evidence in your own life and the lives of your friends and family. Two nights ago, I could not sleep. I found myself reading about messenger RNA; vaccines; side effects; economic stimulus packages; statistics for people my own age, my kids’ ages, and my parents’ ages; and hundreds upon hundreds of social media posts. It didn’t help. I felt worse and moved further away from the rest I needed. People were engaging this pandemic from every conceivable angle…with generally one exception.
There were a few people on social media sharing hopeful messages, and they were such a breath of fresh air that I read them over and over before moving on. However, the general tone in the 24-hour news cycle and on social media is one of anxiety, panic, gloom, and cynicism. There were also several memes about Common Core math being thrown out the window by parents suddenly thrust into homeschooling.
But there was not a lot of hope. As I tore myself away from my phone to find my pillow, I was convicted that we, the church, can change the tone.
No, it is our duty to change the tone. We are HOPE EXPERTS.
Anxiety, panic, gloom, and cynicism are fruits of hopelessness. They are the side-effect of feeling powerless. Brothers and Sisters, we know a great fount of hope and we know the source of power is Jesus. Often, the “Sunday School” answer is the right one.
This is the perfect time to pull on the full armor of God and broadcast (literally in this time of social distancing) the truth of the Gospel in new and creative ways with everything we have. This is the perfect time to counter the media’s narrative and the gloom of our social media streams by declaring that there is hope and that Romans 8:28 was true at the dawn of time, it was true when Paul wrote it, and it is true now. I am excited for this season of the church because like my colleague Molly wrote, church cannot be canceled. We are the church, and we have the responsibility and the privilege to be Hope Experts.
Here are five ways I think your church community can be Hope Experts in this unprecedented season:
1) Create space for community. The urgent felt need of many churches has been determining how to teach, engage children, cast vision, and encourage praise through digital platforms, but there is one more aspect of Sunday morning that needs to be addressed: the lobby. Lobbies are often catalysts for community and the esprit de corps of your church because it is where people engage one another, catch up on the week behind, and look forward together to the week ahead. Maybe it’s time to think about creating a Zoom room to just hang out in with some moderator who keeps conversation going but there is no strict agenda. As more and more people are confined to their homes, the need for community is going to grow. How are you making a “lobby space” for your congregation?
2) Challenge your congregation to reach out in intentional ways. What would happen if every person in your church with a mobile phone texted ten friends who don’t go to church just to see how they were holding up? Just start with genuine concern and respond with genuine encouragement. How are you challenging your congregation to intentionally reach out to your community?
3) Cultivate and post volunteering opportunities. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of food banks across the country are kicking into high gear as people, particularly children who receive many of their meals from schools are faced with food insecurity. Millions of kids across the country are learning to learn in whole new ways and need tutors and mentors. Millions of people in at-risk population groups put their health on the line to get basic needs like food and medicine. There are dozens of agencies across the country that need your congregation’s help. Find out who has needs and what they are and make that information readily available to your church. How are you getting the word out about volunteering opportunities?
4) Share “God at Work” stories when you hear them. Nothing breaks the cycle of bad news like a little bit of good news, especially when it is a result of the Good News. Actively solicit these stories from your congregation and blast them out in your newsletters and social media. How are you breaking the cycle of bad news?
5) Contextualize the way people feel and steadfastly resist the urge to fan the flames of anxiety. I get it. There are a lot of unknowns right now. This feels like something that is so big that even when it’s over, things may never go back to “normal.” That is weird and a little scary, but the role of weird and scary dissemination is taken. The church’s role is hope, love, and peace. Yes, of course, acknowledge the reality, but contextualize it. Romans 8:28, John 10:10, 1 John 4:18, 1 Peter 5:7, Philippians 4:6,7. How are you contextualizing the anxiety people are feeling?
You’re a Hope Expert. How are you making your expertise available?
Since 2003, Matt has been involved as a volunteer leader and/or staff member in the early stages of four church plants. Two of these churches benefited from Stadia, so he has experienced first-hand how partnering with Stadia benefits churches. Matt has his MBA and has worked in project management in the medical research and development field. Previously Matt has served Stadia as the Director of Global Church Planting and Operations Executive. His passion is to maximize church planting through leadership and bringing clarity to the leaders he serves.