What is God saying to you and to others? What will future ministry and mission look like? What things need to remain the same? What changes do we need to embrace? In 2020 we invited New Zealand Baptists to reflect upon these questions in light of the Coronavirus Pandemic and to share their thoughts on the future. We’re now reproducing these reflections here for all to see and be inspired by!

According to McCrindle’s latest research during the Level 4 lockdown, the top emotions New Zealanders were feeling in response to the COVID-19 situation were hopeful (45%), anxious (39%), frustrated (27%), reflective (26%) and relaxed (25%). 

We’ve seen massive disruption since lockdown began. It reminds me of the post-earthquake years in Canterbury: with massive disruption also came massive opportunity. However, that was against a backdrop of trauma and stress that meant many churches were pulled back to what had been, and as soon as possible. 

Post-COVID seems a very different context to the earthquakes but with just as much opportunity: with research indicating that hopefulness abounds, I wonder if the urge to return to business as usual need not influence our imaginations and decisions as we embrace the future. 

The changes implemented by pastors and churches during lockdown to sustain spirituality and motivation for mission have been amazing. One of the biggest changes has been operating without buildings. This is just one example of disruption that could influence our future: do we need all of our buildings? Rather than owning auditoriums across the country, why not anchor our gatherings in other spaces? 

Let’s keep the tradition of Christians gathering on Sunday mornings, but we no longer need to spend our large gatherings sitting in rows listening. Let’s do the old church service once a month, but then once a month let’s spend our gathered time praying: 90 minutes praying each month with 50/100/200/500 people! Once a month let’s serve our neighbourhood together. Once a month let’s gather together for a wide and deep and theologically rich expression of corporate worship. Once a month let’s focus on learning together. 

Operating without buildings is just one way COVID-19 has tested us. I encourage you to articulate the other tests you’ve experienced, and then imagine a different future because of these tests. Hopefulness abounds!

Contributor: Mike Crudge, Baptist National Centre