As we look for some light at the end of the pandemic’s tunnel, we see the wreckage of two hard years. Families who formerly saw one another twice a year went two years between visits. Schools that had vitality and volunteers now struggle to regain what they had. Workplaces wrestle to find replacements for water cooler conversations and brown bag lunches. The reductions in the workforce, staffing shortages around the country, and political hostility have contributed to a place that makes us wonder if we can ever return to a place that is brimming with optimism. It has been so easy to tear down. Cynicism is cheap; hope can be costly.
Even faith has been a struggle. Up to 30% of churchgoers dropped out during the pandemic. There has been a diminished participation among those who’ve stayed, which has produced a lack of fellowship and hospitality within the Body. We’ve struggled with how to have quality time with people when we don’t have quantity time. Sure, some church leaders are more active than ever before, but part of this is simply trying to deliver on pre-pandemic expectations while working with post-pandemic realities. It’s not just about the church as a group, but also the faith of Christians as individuals. The disruption and loneliness caused by the pandemic did more harm than good to the habits that sustained our spiritual lives.
The gospel has an answer. Stop tearing down and start building. I’m so excited for our theme of the year in 2022: BUILD UP. In a culture that can be so coarse and abrasive, we need a reminder to “let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up” (Eph. 4:29). In a world that is so politically and culturally polarized, we need to “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19). In churches who suffer from spiritual malaise, we need a reminder to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11). As disciples trying to walk in the way of Jesus, we need to hear his words that “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock” (Mt. 7:24). This theme will ask us to use our gifts, abilities, and time to build up one another, the church, and the work of the kingdom in our schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, and communities.
Last year we challenged the church to WALK HUMBLY. The activities could be done safely at home and when alone and in nature. There was an emphasis on the life of solitude. This year’s theme will ask for something different: build up the church. Join the monthly group of men who work on the church property Saturday mornings. Use your retirement to devote specific hours to White Station’s ministries. Dedicate Monday mornings to writing notes of encouragement. Contact friends you don’t see much and ask them about their life, family, and faith. Anyone can deconstruct; it takes skill and care to be a builder.
It’s been two years of tearing down. Let’s spend the next year building things back up.