“O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come!” –Isaac Watts 1708
I spent some time last week reading the wonderful bios that Barb has written over the years featuring First Lutheran Church members and their stories. When it has been difficult to get to know people in person the way I am used to in a new church, these bios have been a rich resource to understand members and some of the connections people have.
It was interesting to note similar hobbies, vocations and experiences among the members and how they say they first came to First Lutheran. Many members note the person that welcomed them to First and the people that made them feel at home at a new church. Who are the people doing that now? And how can we do that when we are socially distanced?
That’s one of the goals of the Digital Evangelism Course members of First are taking on Tuesday nights this August. It is giving us insights and practices that can help us think about how to connect with and welcome new people to our community. It may seem strange that people in the future will say that an internet search, an email, a facebook post, or a positive response online was there first experience with First, that made them want to be a part of our community, but that is how people are getting to know faith communities now usually before they ever step in the door of a new church.
This may seem strange and a big change to the church we are used to, but it’s important to remember that the Church and churches have changed many times through the centuries. While our liturgy remains similar to Catholic and Lutheran services from long ago, the way we do church now was formed in the last one hundred years and probably would be unrecognizable to many Christians who came before us. The current church model was built around an unsustainable Baby Boom of the 1950s and 60s. Much of the population and ways of organizing shifted to the suburbs and now we are recognizing new ways of being church and reaching people where they are at, which more and more of the time means online!
Change is always difficult, but change is something we have done in the past and will continue to do today and in the future, if we follow Jesus calls to fish for people in new ways and with new nets!