Incarnational pain, zoom fatigue and . . . some hope!

Like the other cool kids at school, I often jot down notes when I watch a webinar or vlog or  . . . Netflix show. Because today's Church Pulse Weekly podcast with guests Tish Harrison Warren and John Mark Comer was so stellar, I thought I would share. What you read below is a verbal sketch of an hour long conversation, and I made no attempt to formulate into beautiful prose. 

Why do we feel so irritable in this season of social isolation? “It feels wrong,” according to Warren, “because it is wrong.” We shouldn’t be doing great and we need to step into the grief of this abnormality. “The church is a body,” some retort, “not a building,” and it’s true, but without gathered worship, it’s like the body is missing a limb, and so we don’t walk well. Embodiment lies at the heart of worship: before there was a creed, there was a meal. It doesn’t mean that God can’t work without gathered worship, much less that God is absent from his people. It does mean that we’re going to suffer what Comer calls “incarnational pain.” 

This pain is felt especially by pastors for whom the busiest and typically most depressing season in the annual ministry calendar is the long journey from Christmas through Lent and Easter until the summer vacation. The adrenaline rush many pastors experienced at the onset of Covid-19 quickly gave way to an emotional collapse in the classic “rally to valley” sequence. 

Most pastors today feel that their and their church’s online presence is “lame.” Not only that, but zoom meetings are lame. Depth and vulnerability are impossible with zoom, and so “confessions of sin,” for example, come across empty. Furthermore, zoom meetings tire us out because we feel additional pressures to find just the right words to say or just the right time to interject. Comer indicated that we’re relieved of some of this pressure by turning off the camera. 

The good news of it all is that we’re learning to let go of control. The illusion of certainty in the Covid-19 world is shattered, and that builds resiliency. This means that when we face challenges in the future it will likely take longer before we reach the threshold of anxiety. Each of the greatest spiritual gifts —faith, love, and hope—is ultimately incompatible with control. Among the leadership of Comer's church they celebrate something Dwight D. Eisenhower once quipped, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”


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