Hybrid cars. Hybrid bicycles. Hybrid learning. Hybrid smartwatches (really?). Hybrid golf clubs. And, as we’ve been learning and living into this year, hybrid church. (really?) When I first heard of hybrid church, my mind pictured Jesus healing a blind man. Instead of just speaking a word, or simply touching him as he had in healing others, he spits on the ground and uses his saliva to make a muddy paste. He then puts it on the man’s eyes. Ugh! I think the man was greatly relieved when Jesus told him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. I expect he couldn’t wait to get there! (Read the story in John 9 – I can just see the next person in line to be healed having second thoughts…).
Hybrid Church. It’s different. It’s similar. It’s new. It’s what we’ve been doing as long as there’s been Facebook and church websites. So what’s the big deal? Simply, profoundly, this: God has awakened the Church – or more accurately, many more churches – to the most amazing and incredible means of sharing the good news of God’s grace and forgiveness available today. The internet! Yes, it can do far more for us than just help us shop for that hard to find tool or clothing or coffee. More and more churches are inventing and developing ways of ministry that utilize online tools to God’s advantage. All we have to do is dream a little, experiment, check out what others are doing, innovate ourselves, and more. And, the operative word for us is “hybrid”. Just as a hybrid car utilizes both the internal combustion engine and the newest technology of electric propulsion systems, so Hybrid Church seeks to maximize the opportunities to effectively minister online AND in person! It’s not either/or; but rather both/and.
Do you understand how your hybrid car works? Maybe, maybe not completely. But you do know it runs. You quickly learn how to take full advantage of the electric capacity as you learn how not to over-reach it’s capabilities. That is what your ministry teams and staff are trying to do with hybrid church. How can we take advantage of the countless online tools to do ministry more effectively? To reach more people with the good news of God’s love and the difference it makes in our lives. Do we understand it all? No. But we are learning. Better yet, we are willing to learn and try in new ways.
This fall, you will be able to experience a small taste of hybrid. Actually, those who worship every Sunday at home or in our sanctuary, are already experiencing hybrid church; you just may not have realized it. Those who are excited to see with open minds and open hearts the possibilities and open doors that God is giving us, lend a hand and your prayers. Those who are not so sure about all of this, well, I can only ask you to keep an open mind and open heart to what is unfolding this Fall. I am excited to be learning new ways and to be working with our staff and church members in new ventures, even as we continue with some of what we know and have been doing for years.
Hybrid Church means being more intentional about making use of online ways to connect – while continuing what we’ve been doing to connect. It means trying new things – some of which will fail BUT some of which will succeed! As I shared this past Sunday in our town hall, the Methodist movement began almost 300 years ago with a couple of young clergy who some thought had lost their minds (certainly all sense of decorum), when they decided to stand outside and preach loudly to workers on their way to and from work. They had no idea what would happen next, they just knew that God had called them to preach and this was their internet. When the Spirit of God began to move in the hearts of many who stopped to listen, they realized a next step was needed so they began to meet Thursday nights for more preaching/teaching/instruction/encouragement in the Christian faith. As needs arose, God provided the next steps, many of which had never been done before; several that earned them sharp criticism from “respectable” people, and ridicule from others. United Methodists have been doing the same ever since, taking advantage of opportunities; opening eyes and hearts to God’s open doors. We are ripples in the ocean of God’s love because they did.
Come with me to the Pool of Siloam and lets wash the mud away. May God bless us with healed vision.
See you this fall, online and/or in-person!
Grace and peace,
~ Rev. Jim Wishmyer