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BOOK REVIEW

Toowoomba Lectureship, QLD

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The Post-Quarantine Church   Mandy Minder

Six Urgent Challenges and Opportunities That Will  Determine the Future of Your Congregation Thom  Rainer (Tyndale Momentum, 2020)

For anyone wondering what church may look like in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this 128-page book is a short and insightful read. Rainer is a church consultant and founder of churchanswers.com. He shares what he’s gleaned during this worldwide crisis, drawing on his own experiences and those of contributors to his website’s forums. 

Rainer notes that, although the pandemic has caused much sorrow and strife, it’s not all doom and gloom. Rather, the church has been presented with many new opportunities to share Christ’s light with the world. He urges us to remember that the Lord’s always with us and works all things together – even pandemics – for the good of those who love him.  He encourages readers to seize the opportunities God is providing through this challenging time.

Rainer begins by pointing out the impact that restrictions to physical gathering have had on Christians. This change has been difficult. But it’s led to reflection on the purpose of the church and on whether we’re fulfilling Christ’s commands. Many have found that when they’re unable to attend the church building, the church doesn’t actually have much going on. Rainer suspects that, for some time, many churches have functioned solely as groups who come together to serve each other – with the church building mainly a conduit for that service. 

Often the church itself has almost no engagement with the non-Christian community surrounding it. As a result, we’re stymied in fulfilling the most important work that Christ has given to the church: that of reaching out and spreading the Gospel. 

This sets up the main theme of the book – a compelling question I ask myself repeatedly: What if we start to prioritise using our resources in ways that are engaging and beneficial to our communities? 

Rainer proceeds to address this question through five topics:

The digital mission field. In quarantine we’ve generally been restricted to online interaction for church gatherings. However, for some people the need for this is a 24/7 reality. For various reasons, many people nowadays are only reachable through digital means. But Christ loves and desires these people as much as any other! The quarantine has shown us the essential importance of the digital world – that it’s a mission field in its own right. 

The local community. Many churches have experienced a slow erosion of community connection. They’ve allowed the good work of serving each other to replace the great work of reaching out to the community and serving the people within it. This has contributed to church decline. Rainer suggests the quarantine has opened our eyes to this erosion of community connection. He encourages us to understand that our church building address isn’t an accident. He gives several examples where fulfilling the specific needs of the local community naturally leads to engagement between it and the church. 

The importance of prayer. Any work without prayer is the effort of man rather than God. Any crisis is apt to lead people to prayer. Some churches have experienced a resurgence of interest amongst members to participate in a prayer ministry. Some have found this an effective tool for engaging with their community. Rainer encourages churches to put plans in place so that the work of prayer can continue even if enthusiasm for this ministry may wane down the track.

The stewardship of facilities. How often is your church building used and for what purpose? Many buildings are used for two hours on a Sunday morning and sit vacant for the rest of the week. Others are used occasionally during the week for member-only or perhaps member-focused activity. This leaves most church buildings empty most of the time. What a waste! Rainer urges us to consider how church buildings can be used to increase contact between the community and the church. For the majority of Australian congregations that don’t own a building, this chapter still asks us to consider the resources we do have and how they can be used to serve the community that surrounds us. 

The challenge of change. Rainer finishes by showing how the sense of urgency brought on by the pandemic has stimulated change. Though church members may not have liked it, they understood that it was necessary, for example, to pause in-person assemblies and start meeting online. However, as the urgency diminishes, some won’t see the necessity of continuing to make changes to carry out effectively Christ’s commands; some may automatically resist seizing opportunities which require change. Rainer discusses how church leaders can best manage future change. 

The Post-Quarantine Church convicts and encourages the church to obey Christ’s command to spread the Gospel even through the effects of the pandemic. It is a book for the times and is highly recommended.

Mandy Minder lives in rural Victoria and is part of the Bairnsdale Church of Christ. She recently gained her honours
degree in psychological science.  Mandy has been married to her husband, Joel, for three years.      mandy.mai@hotmail.com

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