A few months back I got a messenger bag that I was told I had to carry around with me everywhere. It was a very professional looking black, canvas bag. When it was given to me, I didn't realize there was a problem with it.
The edges hadn't been sealed before the parts were stitched together. Anyone who has dealt with canvas understands how important it is to seal the edges. Canvas can fray pretty badly. Typically, I iron on a backing to the edge to give the canvas some support. There was nothing for this bag, so it had been in my possession for about a week and this tiny hole appeared at the top middle. I knew what was coming, but there was no way to stop it. A couple of months later, when I had to turn the bag back in, the entire top had come undone. It no longer looked professional. It looked like trash.
Your ministers didn't prepare for this
About a decade ago I sat in a church meeting where we were discussing the age ole' question: How do we reach people who are not normally reached by a "traditional" worship. (I'm using really big air quotes for the word "traditional." I tend to translate the word to be anything that uses the general skeleton of modern worship. They meant organ vs guitar.)
I don't usually refrain from saying what needs to be said. It's what makes me off-putting. It's also what people respect about me. I named the problem that day. We were 20 years behind the world. All churches were. We needed a hard change to meet the culture head on.
I vividly remember the answer to this statement. I remember the room I was in. I remember the lighting. I remember the faint smell of breakfast pastries and coffee. I remember the woman who said it. I remember the anxiety she had on her face as she spoke. "The world is changing so fast, we just want something that stays the same."
It was really thirty, but let's say ten years ago was the collective moment where the Church was called to prepare. Ten years ago we chose ease over need. Now we live in a world where our sanctuaries have become one of the easiest places to spread Covid-19. God gave us ample time to prep the Christian fabric for what was coming, but the world was changing so fast, the church just wanted something to stay the same. For many churches, going online didn't work. Why?
You can't be authentic on camera until you've had years talking to a camera.
You can't bring 60-90 year old people into digital spaces if they've never wanted to be there.
You can't be an online church if you never wanted online church.
I wish I had Brueggemann's "Prophetic Imagination" in front of me 10 years ago. Passion does not rise from complacency and sedation. Souls do not truly sing from comfort. It is from our lament that passion takes hold, and from our passion we build our hope. If we don't begin our process from lament, our hopes will eventually fray and fall to pieces.
Here's my warning for the future. Just like there were personalities that took hold when the television became a centerpiece in everyone's home, there were be the same with the internet. These personalities will solidify how we define online "church." Most Americans don't have the creative spirit to see anything beyond copy/pasting their worship online. These copy/paste internet worships are built on fear, not passion. They will fray and fall away, because nothing can grow without first being prepped with lament and hope.
If we don't get serious about letting the past go and finding our prophets for this next generation, wolves in sheep clothing will take our spot. We'll give our potential to those who are ready to fleece the poor, just like they did with television "ministry."
Simply put: Stop looking for comfort. God's not there. God's in the shadows with the lost. God's in the infirmaries with the broken. God's with those who lament. Maybe it's time we did too.