The spirit of God is moving in nontraditional ways. More precisely, God’s creative nature takes the spirit outside the walls of the church engaging humans where we dwell.

When the pandemic closed the doors of church buildings all across the globe, God’s spirit moved within the faithful to bring the missions and ministries of the church outside their traditional mechanisms.

Churches worshipped outdoors, conducted online Bible studies, made masks for first responders and marched alongside supporters of racial justice.

The church was following in the footsteps of Jesus, as he demonstrated the significance of worshipping God outside the Temple and meeting people where they lived.

We do not yet know the lasting ramifications of the pandemic on the church, but after witnessing the resolve and ingenuity of thoughtful Christians, a bright future must lay ahead.

However, the purpose of this article is not to affirm or critique the church, but to ask a simple question, “Is God doing something ‘big’ outside the norms of the traditional church?”

Let me explain.

Regarding the most critical issues facing society today (climate change, racial justice, policing reform, income inequality, human rights, health care, authoritarianism and many more), where does the church find herself in both the conversation and engagement on these matters?

Has the church raised concerns and solutions on vital issues everyday people care about and are forced to endure? Where are the prophets and leaders crying out for justice, repentance and restitution?

While much of Christianity focuses on matters of appeasement, so as not to rock the boat, there is a growing movement of faithful followers – some church-goers, some not – seeking to be more like Jesus.

Again, this is not an indictment of the church but more of an observation in an attempt to discern the movement of God in the world. God has a history of using people outside the norms of political and religious structures who could work in very tangible and practical ways.

God did not call a king to establish a nation; a wanderer and his wife were chosen.

God did not call a general to take on the Egyptian Pharaoh; a shepherd with a stutter became the voice of God.

God did not use a warrior to protect the Hebrews in Jericho; a sex worker rose to the occasion, offering them safe passage.

God did not call a great queen to give birth to the Messiah; a young woman from humble beginnings became the mother of the divine son.

Even Jesus got in on the act. Instead of calling the wisest scholars, the most eloquent rabbis and fiercest soldiers to be his disciples, Jesus chose a band of real-life folks who knew common hardship and possessed great resolve.

When God begins to move in important and significant ways, ordinary people are chosen to accomplish the most extraordinary things.

Wealth, power and privilege are set aside, replaced with humility, resolve and generosity. God knows the greatest leaders and world-changers must experience hardships and failures in order to lead people who endure the same.

This brings me back to my original question, “Is God doing something ‘big’ outside the norms of the traditional church?”

As I analyze what’s going on in the world and church, I can’t help but think God is working on two parallel tracks.

The first track is the traditional means of empowering the church to offer peace and salvation to the world. The second track is working outside the church to bring justice and restitution to the world.

Neither is greater than the other nor separate from the teachings of the gospel, but we would do well to remember God is not limited by our preconceived notions and inclinations. God still works in mysterious ways.

I have seen the gospel at work through organizations such as the Equal Justice Initiative, Sierra Club, Moms Demand Action, Public School Advocates, March for Our Lives, Black Lives Matter and so many others.

The God of the universe continues to use the church and her people, but divine hands are not limited to those tools alone. As the creator of all, God has the prerogative to utilize every resource to bring about the kingdom of God on earth.

The winds of change are blowing all around us. The church continues her good work, but we must not negate or ignore the work of God through other means. In fact, God may be changing the very definition of “church” before our eyes.

God is doing something extraordinary and significant as the late theologian Phyllis Tickle surmised in her book, The Great Emergence. The world is undergoing a major shift environmentally, politically, economically, technologically, socially and theologically.

The Apostle Paul was correct when he stated there are “cosmic powers” and “spiritual forces of evil” working hard to subdue the earth and God’s people (Ephesians 6).

We have never seen the kinds of attacks our worldwide community faces today so God is doing now what God has always done: calling all hands on deck.

We must be better at recognizing it.

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