Posted: 12/15/20 at 11:00am. Post by Tony Brooks.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:1-4 NIV)
Katrina and I have lived in two-bedroom apartment the last eight years of our lives, and we’ve lived in apartments at other necessary times in our marriage in the past. From 1988-2003, we lived in houses (either rented or church owned.) In 2004, we bought our first home in Georgia. It was a new build for first-time buyers (modest and sometimes a pain), but we were thankful. In 2011, I accepted the call to come work with the BGAV. We sold the house during the housing market crash and lost money.
We lived with former church members/good friends for a year as we looked for what was best, so we stored most of our belongings in a storage unit. When Katrina got a job with the University of Lynchburg (Lynchburg College back then), we decided to move to Lynchburg, into a two-bedroom apartment. We gave several things away, as we had done with every move. There were several things from our past along with books that we wanted to keep, and we rented a storage building. We thought to ourselves, “We will find a home in a few years.”
My mom’s health deteriorated about the time I started thinking about a house. We financially helped her move into a dementia-support assisted living place. Mom died January 2, 2020. We continue to grieve.
In March, the pandemic hit. We had nowhere for all our adult children to come and stay. They were all working virtually at some point. Around May of this year, I decided to start looking for a house. After a while, to get us out of the apartment, we’d drive around to look at houses after we got our mobile order from Chick-Fil-A. Katrina began to get excited, and we started taking this search seriously. After failed attempts at our first three offers with inspection issues, we finally bought a house on November 12.
My first thought after buying a house was to get everything out of the storage unit to save that money each month. With the help of two friends, we managed to get most out on one Saturday into the new house’s basement, where my office would be and where the third bedroom would be. We were ecstatic to get the storage room emptied to save that money. Katrina and I worked the next two weeks to get most everything out of the apartment except the beds and heavy furniture. We added more in the three rooms I mentioned. When the movers finally came and moved the heavy furniture and other boxes, I discovered our mistake…stuff from the storage unit…
Had I waited another month or two months, I would have all the books and files in place downstairs as well as the guest bedroom ready for another bed to be delivered. That first room downstairs is where the bookshelves would go. The movers needed to add more boxes downstairs as well. I tried to save money instead of seeing the big picture: stuff I do not need is in the way of things I do need!
Many pastors have told me about the momentum that was taking place in their churches before March and the pandemic. Things were moving in a positive direction. After COVID hit, many churches put their dreams on hold. At the same time, new possibilities arose through creating an online presence with things like drive-in worship and more.
So here is the tough question: What is getting in the way of you preparing for what God has in store after the pandemic?
Here are some of my thoughts:
Now is a time to abide in Christ! What a great time to remember that God’s hope, peace, joy, and love comes through Jesus. How can you help your church abide, celebrate, and prepare for the coming of the Lord in new ways in 2021? What do you need to abide?
Now is the time to prune! What are some things getting in the way of what God may have in store? Are their programs and ministries that you need to prune to prepare for new things? What help do you need to prune?
Now is the time to grow! You have seen the value of a church’s online presence. How can you engage people outside your church? How can you prepare to get people back in person who now enjoy worshiping from home? Now is the time to think about your community and grow in new ways to engage when this pandemic is over. Where will people gather? How can you build relationships where they are? What do you need help with to grow?
If we are to bear fruit for the Kingdom in 2021, we need to start thinking about it now. It may be in April, May, June, or even later before we can get back close to “normal.”