Pandemic, Church, Society, and the Gospel: A Pastoral Response

As I add pieces to this project, links will be added to the list below. If I update a piece, I will try to note the change here, with a date.

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Technologizing of Worship Before, During, and After COVID: Epistemology, Eschatology, and Presence

Sermons in/for the Church in Pandemic (tag: covidsermon)

  • Numbers 9 and 2 Chronicles 30, “God Draws Near” (preached online March 29, 2020)
  • Ezekiel 11:14–25, “I Have Been a Sanctuary” (preached online April 26, 2020)
  • Job 42:10-17, “Receiving Double from YHWH’s Hand” (preached Feb 28, 2021, during Lent)
  • Ephesians 3:1-13: “A Testimony to the Powers” (preached April 18, 2021)
  • Philippians 4:10-20: Called for Community (preached May 16, 2021)

Introduction

Since March 2020, Christian communities all over the world have been wrestling with how to react to the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed to combat the spread. At the beginning, none of us knew how severe the disease and the restrictions would turn out to be; few of us anticipated that it would last this long.

Even today, nations, regions, and communities all over the world are in quite different circumstances with regard to the pandemic. In some places, such as my native United States, many churches are going back to “normal.” For other countries, COVID and restrictions are still very much an ongoing reality.

Though churches and societies have previously endured pandemics and other natural and human-caused disasters, one of the key differences has been the widespread availability of communication technology, which has been integrated into the life of the church. Technology, if adopted uncritically, can undermine the spiritual health of individuals and communities.

My aim is to present one pastoral response to the pandemic, and a consideration of how restrictions and technology are restructuring the life of the church (for better and for worse).

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Personal Statement

Who am I, and who would care what I have to say? I’ve summarized my background and education elsewhere on this site, and provided links to many of my works. Many people reading this page, at least initially, will know me personally. To anyone reading: I’m honored that you would take the time to consider what I have to say, and I hope that it can be beneficial.

Relevant to the topic of this page: I am an academic, a pastor, and a worship leader. I have academic interests, but I believe strongly in the importance of the church and strive to use my academic gifts to benefit the church and train church leaders.

I grew up in the United States and now have lived in Eastern Europe for several years. I have studied and taught in a variety of contexts globally, and enjoy connections and friendships with Christians all over the globe.

I am an evangelical Christian in the Reformed tradition, ordained as a minister. But I enjoy friendships and working relationships with Christians of all stripes, and am comfortable worshiping and ministering in both “high-church” and “low-church” settings.

Born in 1984, in my native culture I straddle the divide between “digital immigrant” and “digital native” generations. I have deep respect for the leadership and experience of older Christian leaders and scholars, and enjoy the passion and innovative spirit of the younger generation of Christian leaders—but find many points of misunderstanding between them, that I aspire to mediate.

These are contexts and viewpoints from which I speak, and the bodies and institutions to which I am accountable—but I do not speak for anyone but myself.

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Format

This page is an experiment in a new hybrid format for me: somewhere between a blog or a fluid social media profile on the one hand, and a single coherent essay on the other.

In October 2020 I drafted a more academic essay, which was 12,000 words including notes—rather long for a journal article. The essay was returned to me with helpful peer reviews in December 2020. After considering the revisions that would be necessary to publish it in the journal, the embargo period required by the publisher, and the urgent pastoral and apologetic nature of the paper, I decided to withdraw it from the journal process and present it in a different format.

This page and links are intended to present commentary, reflections, and resources in an evolving, editable, sharable format. Some portions will be presented as standalone pages or posts; others will be longer pieces, but hyperlinked so that smaller sub-units can be shared. Those who wish to read or share small sections can do so, but also see where the sections fit in larger context. I will point to sermons and other talks I’ve given during the time of the pandemic.

I will share links to other web resources, and hopefully even host some guest commentary from friends, colleagues, and former students.

I will try my best to cite sources in full, reliable format wherever possible, but you may find orphaned footnotes and broken links—please notify me by email or comment.

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