Meghan Larissa Good shares how, amid the changes that churches underwent during the COVID-19 pandemic, many churches began to view God in a transformational way — they began to notice that God looks like Jesus.
Meghan Larissa Good is lead pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Arizona, and faculty of record for teaching leadership at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. She also serves as theology chair of Jesus Collective, an organization dedicated to supporting the transformation of Jesus-centered leaders. Meghan is author of The Bible Unwrapped: Making Sense of Scripture Today and Divine Gravity: Sparking a Movement to Recover a Better Christian Story.
The past two years have been among the most challenging in my ministerial life. They have also been among the most exciting.
My own local congregation, like most churches I know, has been significantly impacted by the substantial cultural shifts that were accelerated by the recent pandemic. Church attendance has become more sporadic, and volunteers have been harder to recruit. Well-loved faces have drifted away entirely. After the emotional rush of emerging from the COVID-19 chaos began to fade, an indefinable heaviness and sense of confusion settled in its place. Where did everyone go? Why did faith itself suddenly feel so much harder? How would we adapt to this period of so much involuntary change, and what might we lose in the process?
But in the midst of asking these questions, something else happened in our community — we clarified our call within this new cultural and religious landscape to embody and proclaim a hope-filled, Jesus-centered faith. And we began to look around and find, somewhat to our surprise, that in recommitting to this center, we are standing in the middle of a massive movement toward God. A wave is building of Christians who are discovering that God looks like Jesus and who could not be more excited about it.
The impact of this revelation that God looks like Jesus can be hard to explain to people who grew up in Anabaptist-Christian settings and largely take the idea for granted. But for many Christians, this discovery marks a breakthrough in faith that is so radical that it feels akin to a new conversion. It is the beginning of healing their relationship with God. It is the unveiling of a vastly bigger, world-redeeming salvation story. It is an invitation to radically reimage many aspects of life — the character of love, the shape of true power, the practice of conflict, the role of community. It is the entry-point to renewed hope and joy and freedom.
Where is this movement coming from? It’s hard to pinpoint one particular source. People, starting from many different traditions and backgrounds, are somehow converging on a common center. A few of these people have made their way into the doors of our local church in recent months. Some of these passionate, spiritually-vital believers spent years worshiping online, with churches hundreds or thousands of miles away, because they didn’t know where to find a local church that knows God looks like Jesus. They are hungry for a place to live out a vibrant, Jesus-centered life with others.
God is on the move. The Spirit of God is stirring something, possibly even on the scale of some of the great reform movements in Christian history.
Across the Christian church, people are rediscovering a Jesus-shaped way of life in relationship with a Jesus-looking God.
So what does this mean for people who belong to historic Anabaptist churches?
We don’t own this movement. It is, I believe, a movement initiated by God that has already moved well ahead of us, driven by its own momentum. But this is a time of tremendous opportunity. There are a few steps we might take as communities to meet the Spirit in the moment:
- We can have serious discussions, as communities, about the extent to which Jesus is truly at the center of our life together and what other gravitational forces may currently be setting our communal trajectory.
- We can practice speaking about our faith in simple, clear language, getting specific about the “why” of the things we believe.
- We can start shaping spaces that are truly hospitable to newcomers and strangers, lowering the barriers of entry into full participation in our communities.
- We can learn from the passion and clarity of our brothers and sisters whose vision has been captured by Jesus, letting them remind us — or perhaps teach us for the first time — why he truly matters.
- We can entrust these Jesus-centered believers with positions of leadership, so they can help us learn how to partner well with God’s present work.
- We can humbly surrender old ways of speaking about “us” and “them,” recognizing we are living through a time of significant, Spirit-induced ecclesial realignment.
- We can pray bigger prayers for the future of the Christian witness to be as bold and gentle, holy and prophetic as Jesus Christ himself.
Two years ago, I was quietly wishing I had been born — or called to lead — in a time of less religious upheaval. Now, I am beginning to suspect that I might be one of the lucky ones who gets to witness within my own lifetime a rare, epoch-turning move of God that will revitalize the Christian movement for generations to come. May the Spirit make it so.
Interested in submitting a blog for Menno Snapshots? Please see our blog guidelines here.