Beyond COVID-19 – Vision for Our Unions and Churches

Meego Remmel, EBF President

Welcome to our EBF online gathering! This is a real blessing to see you all as we participate in such a historical occasion for the EBF in its development. First time ever EBF has been enabled to overcome all the limits of space and borders of different countries – now we can enter even into your own home! Wherever you are right now, the entire EBF is with you.

It seems we are following the ways of our Risen Lord who appeared to His disciples by moving through the closed doors. So are we as His followers in EBF entering your homeland and your hometown and even your home-office through all kinds of standing walls and closed doors. And so we can be together in our fellowship – the EBF online fellowship.

At the same time – worshipping God online! – doesn't it feel a little strange? We are so used to fellowship and worship being gathered together face to face in the same physical room. But this year has drastically expanded our experience and understanding of the meaning of fellowship as well as spiritual life in general. After having realised how catching might be our physical contacts both in positive and negative ways, we have learned to keep in touch from distance and develop rather spiritual ties and virtual connections. It has been quite a big challenge for us in our humanness. We would rather choose to be together physically.

But didn't Jesus confirm that in the course of time his spiritual fellowship would be much more important than his physical presence in our time and space? Jesus said: "I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." (NIV, John 16:4-7)

WHERE IS GOD? The disciples of Jesus faced that question after his ascension, and the world around them argued: God is Now Here! But Jesus had shifted their paradigm by confirming that his physical ascension would bring about the spiritual descension of our godly Advocate, and then all the people in all the places and all the times could confess – God is Now Here!

Similarly, the year 2020 has envisioned us to see godly presence and activity outside of our box of space and frames of time.

20/20 vision is an American term to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision). If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. Having 20/20 vision does not necessarily mean you have perfect vision. 20/20 vision only indicates the clarity of your vision at a distance.

So, maybe the year 2020 anno Domini has clarified our vision from the distance we have had to keep in order to test the reality of our worldview in the Spirit and sharpen our focus for envisioning our churches to live and give witness in the hypermodern times of globally developing network society.

I guess we all have experienced a paradigm shift in our 2020 vision of what does it mean to be a church? It really hit me when we had our EBF regional online meetings in Spring, and I saw a provocative background picture put up in Zoom by one of our brothers, in fact, by the new General Director of the Baptist Union of Scotland Rev. Martin Hodson:

He can explain it to you more exactly, but it said to me that the time has come for us not to be anymore stuck with our buildings or church structures, matters of worship or manners of preaching and teaching. The time has come for us to be empowered and guided by the Spirit to “go into all the world” (Mark 16:15) and “make disciples of all the people-groups” (Matt 28:19) knowing and trusting that He will be with us always and everywhere to the very end of the age (Matt 28:20).

So, wherever we are, he is with us and he is working with us and through us in his Spirit! He is not limited with a building or number of people gathered. He is everywhere. God is Now Here. Yes, God is Now Here!

500 years ago the Bible was given to be read in the language of ordinary people since Martin Luther realised that whenever and wherever the Gospel is read and preached, the Spirit of God is at work. And Europe was reformed.

At the same time the Anabaptists were convinced to practice their religious freedom to be followers of Jesus and his disciple-makers in different communities of faith creating environments open to the Spirit of Christ for doing his work among the people who were serving each other according to their spiritual gifts and giving witness to the world with their good deeds.