The Church is a Chess Set

May 26, 2020

Here I am sitting in my backyard, which has become my new office on days when the weather allows. From here, it almost seems as if nothing has changed from last year, the last few months, or the last couple of weeks.

Life goes on much as it always has in my backyard: the birds sing, the dogs bark, and I can’t get my grass to grow. Even though things seem the same from where I am sitting, I know that they are not.

How many of us have experienced loss during this time? Some of us enumerate the loss as income, opportunity, plans, and schedules, and these losses can be devastating. For many, the loss is much greater, and its measure is in lives, members of our church, family, and loved ones. How do we reconcile this loss? How do we move forward?

First, let’s not pretend everything will be the same; it won’t. People in public settings may need to grow accustomed to not touching other people. For an extrovert whose love language is physical touch, this is horrifying.

Our church, Engage, is built on the principle of crossing boundaries that the world institutes and one of the most effective tools we have in our arsenal is our affection for each other. We are trying to determine when and where we will meet, but we are also trying to figure out how we will interact and stay true to who we are and to our God-given mission. We are a multiethnic and multicultural church, and our hallmark has been our diversity.

Our church is a place where many have experienced, for the first time, what it means to share life with people who do not look like them and to love our neighbors. I know for a certainty, there are several who had never received an embrace from someone of different skin color before coming to Engage.

Things may look the same as communities, stores, Starbucks, and churches begin to reopen – but they are not the same. So, where do I find my bearings? Where can I turn to understand, interpret, and lead others through this time of collective uncertainty? Jesus. Yeah, I know it’s the Sunday School answer, but it’s true.

But if Jesus is the answer, what is the question? I think for church planters, we have to go back to our fundamental principles to find out.

David Limiero shared a metaphor with me at my assessment several years ago:

If church planting is a chess set, Sunday service is your queen. You have to learn to play without your queen.

Or, in our current circumstance, it means learning to play without our queen’s full cadre of moves. Many of us have no clue how to do this.

The answer is rely on your King; when we can’t move, He does. During this time, how do we reach people? This is our question.

The game may have changed, but the elements are still the same, discipleship is how we play. We still proclaim the King, the Kingdom, his Death, and Resurrection. We still call people to believe Jesus is who He says He is and that He will do what he says He will do; repent from what we have done wrong, and follow Jesus, doing what He says we should do. The result is transformation.

We have a unique opportunity to help people move past the safe distance of Sunday service and see Jesus up close.

Yes, things have changed. The landscape has altered, but the elements are the same. People are in pain. People are afraid. People need hope. People need a Savior. People need Jesus, and that will never change.

In 2014, Michael, with his wife Stephanie, planted Engage Church, an intentionally multi-ethnic, multicultural church in Memphis, TN. With a heart for people, Michael makes everyone he meets feel welcome. He is genuinely interested in people, and his heart for them is as big as his frame (6’6” and 250+). He and Stephanie enjoy spending time with their three boys who are practically experts in all things Star Wars, Marvel, or Steelers football. (There’s a lot of testosterone in the Wilkerson home, so pray for them – specifically Steph.)

Michael Wilkerson

Lead Pastor, Engage Church - Memphis