I have just returned from a month away in Riga doing preaching and training for a variety Latvian churches.
On the five Sundays in October I enjoyed overseeing the preaching at Communitas International Church in Riga. I did four sermons from Acts and one of the preaching team did the other. We focused on Chapters 6–10, which speak of how the events of Stephen’s martyrdom and the scattering of believers as a result of the persecution, resulted in a humanly unintended spread of the gospel message beyond the apostolic base in Jerusalem.
This section of Acts concludes with the Apostle Peter being shaken out of his comfort zone by a terrifying vision that prepared him to preach the gospel to gentiles. This required on his part a monumental conversion of the imagination.
During this series of sermons, I made use of a quote from Leroy Logan, a black police officer, who rose to the rank of Superintendent in the Metropolitan Police,
“Sometimes your worst nightmare can be your biggest breakthrough.”
This is a relevant statement at a number of levels, but was particularly timely as halfway through my time in Latvia, the nation went into a strict lockdown. For three of the Sundays I was in Riga, the church was able to meet face to face, albeit with clear social distancing rules in place. For the last two weeks the service was live online in front of a skeleton crew of sound, vision and music teams.
Covid levels there have been rising dramatically, vaccination take up is relatively slow, and hospital capacity is reaching its limits.
Latvia has not seen anything like this during the pandemic, but it has been here before with lockdown. They were quick off the mark to introduce the first lockdown, which coincided with the tail end of my trip there in March 2020. (They might begin to stop inviting me!)
To stop meeting face-to-face is most preachers’ worst nightmare. No one prefers to preach to a camera in an almost empty room. Although I have found that preaching live, in situ with a small group of people putting the service together is preferable to speaking to my camera alone in my study.
I wonder if we will find that restrictions are re-imposed in the UK before Christmas?
Whatever happens, it is difficult to think that things are going to be back to any sense of normal for a while yet.
That may well be your worst nightmare.
Yet it could also be a potential breakthrough.
We have been there before and have thought through the things that worked well and the things that worked less well.
This opportunity to think about how we implement something of a reset in our church life could well lead to a breakthrough. Change often takes time and is challenging to implement.
These odd days provide a remarkable opportunity to think differently about what we do and how we do it.
Whatever you do don’t allow the nightmare circumstances to overwhelm you. Take a look at how one busy pastor saw a breakthrough in his thinking about this.
Have a good week.