Dr. Kenny Hibbard
As we prepare to conclude calendar year 2020 in a few weeks, we’ve asked some of our pastors to answer the question: What did you see in 2020, and what did you learn from it? The third pastor to answer that question for us is Dr. Kenny Hibbard, Pastor of Team Church. Here is what he has seen this year:
2020 and the “Contrarian” Lessons I hope that I (We) have Learned about Life, Ministry, And Church
As we are all aware, COVID 19 came crashing in like a wrecking ball in the Spring of 2020. As a pastor, I have witnessed and experienced some candid lessons over the last nine months. In times of reflection like this, it is easy and en vogue to rattle off lessons learned that should remind us of what is important in life, like relationships, quality time with family, focusing on the simple things in life, and the list goes on. These are valid. However, the Lord has shown me something a little more intensely eternal. A blind spot or two that has been revealed.
Warning, my contrarian opinion that follows may not be what you expect. I admit, I wanted to walk the pastor line and oblige the honor of being asked to share with an easy to swallow and tasty reflection to encourage us all. However, the lessons I am learning, grappling with, and failing in myself would not allow me to share anything other than what I feel God is teaching me.
COVID-19 exposed for many, our actual personal and church eschatology. As Americans, we love our life here and live as if we believe that Heaven cannot be better than what we hold dear here in this life! If truth be told, we live our life now as if we think our life here is far superior to heaven and surely God’s greatest gift will be for us to have a nice enjoyable life with our family and friends. Hence, when our government took things away and limited our activity, we immediately reflected on the things of this earth we missed and will “now cherish”. We have mourned and focused more on the aspects of our treasured culture that we are personally missing because of quarantine and social distancing mandates, instead of grieving the loss of evangelistic opportunities. We are not grieved by the deepened depravity of those around us that is occurring because of the pandemic.
Christ-followers and churches quickly abandoned their missional post as we focused on the temporal instead of the eternal. I believe we have learned that left to ourselves, we are inherently selfish as we delighted in our “newfound focus on what is really important” rhetoric as Christians huddled with our families and turned a blind eye to the facts that this pandemic left many people, especially kids, more abused, abandoned, mentally unstable, and basically hopeless. All the while, Christians celebrated that they could watch church on-line while eating pancakes in their pajamas.
Further, as the months rolled on, Christ-followers were even more excited that they could now view church online while at the beach and the expected gathering of the saints no longer infringed on their schedule. In my opinion, too many celebrated that God was using technology in the “new normal” to expand the Gospel as if non-churched people drowning in hopelessness were now also gushing with glee that they could watch church online. Surveys and actual testimonies concur: most do not.
Moreover, after a few months of being granted a weekly pass on church attendance obligation, many Christians have also tuned out of the on-line church. Never mind the “views” on our church Facebook. Many people have tuned out as they realize virtual church is like virtual school…does not work very well over the long haul.
COVID-19 has also exposed our ecclesiology. Church and pastors are essential. (2 Timothy 4:1-8). In our haste to promote that “the church is not the building” we have let the pendulum swing too far and now many believe church can happen just as well at home or while in the car on the way to the lake. The New Testament is clear, church is the gathering of the saints at a purposeful time where singing, praying, teaching, communion, baptism, accountability, fun, encouragement, discipline, and the like all happen in a relational setting. It is not about the building, but it is about a gathered purposeful people. As a church planter, with a growing church and no permanent building for our first 6 years, I have experienced the challenging nuance of trying to live out “being the church” and “having church.”
In dealing with COVID -19, Christians unknowingly acquiesced to the modern cry of the American Christian heart. That being, “I want God in my own terms and on my weekly timetable.” Enter: On-Line church and virtual Zoom bible study. Undoubtedly, pastors will be dealing with the effects of COVID-19 on the hearts of their congregation long after the virus is under control.
Finally, I also hope that in 2020 we have learned the lesson of James 4:13-14 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
We should make our plans, set our goals, and live to achieve them. However, we must always try valiantly to let God’s will inform those plans and goals. This is pursued irrespective of what it might cost us personally as we consider the call of the Gospel. We should live each day as if our life and the lives around us is like vapor and thus live with a gospel-oriented purpose, fully surrendered to God’s will.
We cannot love our American life more than we actually love Christ and those who have yet to experience His love and grace. The motto at our church for 2020 and going into 2021 is #welcometofight. Ministry is and will always be hard. However, when done in God’s strength and informed by His leading, it is always rewarding and purposeful for what really matters.
Thanks to Pastor Kenny for speaking the truth from his heart in this message for us!
Watch for more of what our Pastors have learned in 2020 in the coming days.
If you are one of our Pastors and would like to share what you have seen and learned in 2020, please send a paragraph or more to firstname.lastname@example.org.