As we fast moving out of the pandemic and into the new normal, believers are in a sort of “restart” mode. In their work, relationship, hanging out and most specifically church life, we are in a fresh start stage. So what can a Christian expect in the post-pandemic phase we are going through? What are the lessons that, when we look back in our lock downs, taught us? How will we view the importance of church in light of this global crisis? We reach out with Jay Kim, pastor of WestGate Church and author of Analog Church and the upcoming sequel to it, Analog Christian (both published by InterVarsity Press) and asked these questions and more about our Christian post-pandemic phase.
Hello Pastor Jay! Kindly tell us something about yourself and how came to know Christ.
Sure thing, thanks for asking. I’m a follower of Jesus and a pastor living in the Silicon Valley of California. I grew up in the church but didn’t come to know, love, and follow Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life until my early 20s.
How important is physical, face to face church attendance?
The word “church” comes from the Greek word “ekklesia,” which means “called out ones” and in the first century was a term used to describe an assembly of people called out from their homes and dwellings in order to gather in a public place for a particular purpose. While this isn’t necessarily prescriptive, I do think that church history reveals to us that the church has always the gathered people of God. More importantly, the church is a people, not a building or a specific space. Online engagement can be helpful for sure, but it does keep us from truly being a gathered people. So I’d say that the physical, for all for whom it’s possible, is critically important.
Is it OK for a Christian to have an option to just be at home and participate in an online stream of the church they’re involved with?
Sure, I think it’s “OK,” as you said. But if “OK” is the bar, then the bar is being set too low. I think online engagement is a helpful and useful tool, particularly for those who are physically unable to gather and/or for those who might be out of town on a particular week but want to stay connected to the journey their church is on. But online engagement as the normative mode of “being the church,” misses the mark, in my opinion.
I’ve been following you book Analog Church even before it was launch. Then COVID 19 came at the same time of the release of your first book. What was your reaction when this pandemic hits in terms of the message of Analog Church?
Analog Church was released just two weeks after COVID 19 locked us down, at least in my part of the world. It was strange and surreal, to say the least. We did consider changing the release date. We weren’t sure if it’d be wise to release a book suggesting embodied presence at a time when embodied presence wasn’t possible. But in hindsight, I’m so grateful we were able to release the book when we did. I think it’s helped give some people language for the angst and tension they’ve felt these last two years, as we’ve been confronted with both the benefits and limitations of a primarily digital life.
In the pandemic, how did your church, Westgate Church respond to help members cope and understand that God is still good in the midst of this crisis?
We tried to do what we could. Home visitations. We called every single member of our church directory on the phone. Once outdoor gatherings were allowed, we immediately began gathering outdoors. We also have a strong partnership with the local Christian Counseling Center, which has been a tremendous resource during a time when so many folks are struggling spiritually/mentally/emotionally.
What fresh perspective about God’s sovereignty can this pandemic teach us a Christians and their church life?
So much to say here but simply put, God has led his people and his church through pandemics before. He’s led us through far worse many times over—world wars, global catastrophe, etc. And there are already clear signs he’s leading us through this pandemic as well. My highest hope is that this disruption offers us clarity, moves us toward a fresh conviction about where and in whom our trust resides, and ultimately, renewal.
What should Christians expect in this sort of post-pandemic phase we are going into in terms of church service?
For God to still be God, ruling and reigning over all things. And for the world to continue in its brokenness, beckoning us to partner with God in the renewal of all things, beginning with our own hearts and lives and pouring out from us, empowered by God’s Spirit, into our homes, churches, neighborhoods, cities, and societies.
Now you have an upcoming book, Analog Christian. Tell us about it and what the process of writing the book.
Analog Christian is a book about the intersection between the digital age and our discipleship to Jesus. In short, the book examines how digital technologies, and our pervasive usage of them, are forming us into a particular type of people. Most importantly, the book offers hope by way of Paul’s words in Galatians 5, regarding the Fruit of the Spirit, and the various characteristics and traits of that Fruit, that as the Spirit continues to cultivate life in us, his Fruit offers us the antidotes to all that ails us in the digital age.
How is Analog Church and Analog Christian differ from each other?
Analog Church was written primarily with church leaders in mind and explored the intersection between our ecclesiology and the digital age. When I wrote Analog Christian, I was envisioning the congregations we serve, everyday men and women trying to navigate the intersection between our discipleship and the digital age. It’s a book for literally everyone.
Thank you pastor for this opportunity. Kindly invite our readers to check out your books and how can they contact you?
The best way to connect with some of my work is my website—jaykimthinks.com. People can also email me at email@example.com
Any parting words to churches who are still struggling to come back or decided to have an online worship service option? Are they missing out something in their walk with God?
I have so much to say here. I guess the cheap answer would be to say, “Read my books,” haha. But in all seriousness, my general encouragement would to be remember that we are embodied human beings, dust and dirt imbued with the life-giving, animating breath of God. And as such, we most fully live and come alive in embodied ways, as we live effortful and intentionally into the world, for God’s glory and our own good.
Thank you again pastor. You can buy his book, Analog Church by following this link and pre-order Analog Christian here. If you want to read more interviews, head over this link.