Three Stones that Have Rolled Away for Easter

By: William D. Shiell

On resurrection Sunday, on their way to the tomb, the women worried about the stone blocking the entrance (Mark 16:1-4). When they arrived, they found that the obstacle in their way was already gone. A new life was beginning, but they had not yet realized the hope of resurrection.

We have grieved and worried so much this year. The resurrection of Jesus has also removed barriers, and a new season of church ministry is over the horizon. Let me share with you three metaphorical stones that once seemed to be obstacles in the way of the church.

1.) Attendance

Before the pandemic, most churches relied on scheduled gatherings and in-person meetings to deliver worship and training. They measured success by persons in the pew and small groups. In a short time, churches have repositioned themselves through Facebook and zoom to stream messages and connect virtually. Now more people want to have access to spiritual content seamlessly. They’re accessing discipleship any time at home.

2.) Buildings

Just a year ago, churches thought the building was the most important platform of church ministry. Today, churches have realized the importance of connecting personally no matter where the church gathers. The church as people is more than an excellent idea; we are the parts of the body of Christ.

3.) Schedules

How many churches have trashed their routines over the past year? They thought they were beginning a capital campaign or new program designed for the church of 2019. Without much fanfare, we’ve realized the importance of multiple scenarios. The resurrection disrupts our plans and opens our eyes to a future full of adventure, surprise, and wonder. We journey with Abraham to a land God will show us.

The easy thing to do would be to keep worrying about the stones. We can revert to the worries before this year, or we can listen and think carefully about the angel’s words. “Don’t be alarmed… go look for Jesus.”  (Mark 16:6-7). If attendance, buildings, and schedules are just rocks in the way, what happens when the resurrection takes away those worries? How do you as a church live differently?

Northern Seminary provides on-demand and virtual resources to help you think critically about this next step of the journey and to help you hear Jesus’ voice in your Galilee.

1.) Connect to on-demand discipleship.

Invite persons who have been looking for a deeper walk with Jesus to subscribe on-demand to the discipleship resources at Seminary Now. You don’t need a master teacher, just a willing facilitator to guide a small group the downloadable study guide.

2.) Enlist entrepreneurs to brainstorm ministry in the marketplace

Through the Grow Center, you can find webinars and microcourses designed to help you facilitate conversations with apostolic pioneers in your congregation. Brainstorm, listen, learn, and pour into the people who are ready for renewal.

3.) Learn together on the journey

Now is the time to take a seminary course. This Spring, you’ll have the chance to meet other persons like these women at the tomb who are leading the church and engaging the world. They’re moving into Galilee and sharing the gospel. Learn from faculty who will guide you along the Way and help you discern Jesus’ voice. For example, check out David Fitch’s latest book What is the Church? You’ll find insights to help you imagine ministry for a church seeking to be the people God has called us to be.

This Easter, as you prepare for a new season of ministry, Northern Seminary is here to help you follow the women into your Galilee. Stop worrying about how to return to the days before the pandemic. Start looking for Jesus along the Way. The resurrection is a sign of the ministry that is to come. Let the old stones roll away. Jesus will meet you as you go.

March 22, 2021

William D. Shiell

President, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Preaching

ABOUT William

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