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Coronavirus: Responding Like Family

Families across America and the world have been immobilized by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Some families we have talked with are so fear-stricken that they are even afraid to open the door of their own homes.

Some families are medical families. Their worry and stress is exacerbated every time they suit up and go out onto the floor to see patients who may or may not carry the deadly disease. Doctors, nurses, and medical professionals of all kinds arrive at home, strip down, scrub their bodies raw before touching their precious children or hugging their husbands and wives.

Health conscious families whose bike rides and hikes have been limited by closures of parks and recreational areas are struggling to find a rhythm again. Food items that were once readily available and a part of their family’s diets have now been scavenged both from store shelves and online.

Families with faith at the center have been stripped of in-person fellowship as worship services and small groups have been cancelled. Those who like to share a meal can only share a cup of coffee over a ZOOM session.

School? Teachers? Ride-sharing? Babysitting? A challenge to be sure.

A lot has changed for families in the last weeks. In the days ahead more learning, shifting, and adapting will happen among churches, businesses, communities, and families.

Imagine for a moment that you or one of your family members had the name Noah. Lets just say for the sake of our narrative Noah was 500 years old. One day God gets in touch with Noah and tells him that life as he knew it was about to change. Not only that but him, his family, and some animals are going to get on a boat that he will build himself and then be isolated until it was time to come out many days later (40 days, 40 nights).

How much of a shift would that be in Noah’s life and the life of his family? Pretty intense right? Well that is the account given in Genesis beginning in chapter 5.

I say that to say that the learning curve, shift, and adaptation we must go through is nowhere near that of Noah and his family.

Our families have been asked to stay home—not build a boat. The earth as we know it with all the people on it including the animals are not going to be wiped out—at least not by this alone according to biblical scholars.

In fact, the projected numbers are even way more promising and hopeful than Noah’s that’s for sure!

There is however, a very big danger. It is not the danger of a word like “virus” that is striking fear in the hearts of people globally. It is the danger of becoming worse people and families rather than better ones.

As many of us have thought about the state of the church today we often think of them as perhaps a bit selfish and self-serving. Out of touch with the rest of the world if you will. When we find churches that “do it right” we applaud them because it can be rare to find churches looking outside of themselves to serve others in their communities.

That very same thing has happened to the “micro-church” or more plainly our families that make up the Body of Christ which we call the church. The question becomes, do we have to wait on the guy on stage to give us the go-ahead to reach outside and help or can we understand from the very beginning that Christ designed the church to be living and breathing inside of communities all over the world?

The danger for us is to live in the same fear that many churches have. As we have been around churches and consulting for many years, we have found that churches look like the families that attend them and the leaders that lead them. If families and leaders are fearful of loosing what they have they often go inward and into protection mode and that can be the beginning of a bad journey downward.

Our life’s work is dedicated to uniting the global church to look and function like the Body of Christ was intended to function. When we say global church we don’t mean all the people in buildings on Sundays, we mean every person who believes in and follows Christ in every home, in every community, everywhere in the world.

Our calling as families during this crisis is the same as it has always been according Jesus. That calling is to live as Christ did and follow Him even now into the world as He heals, loves, and restores it. That certainly will mean leaving the idea that it is all about our own families getting through this and embracing the idea that it is really about every family getting through this and what can we do in our families to reach out and help.

What does that mean for us and our families? It means we get involvedwith our communities–maybe for the first time ever. We join emotional hands (because obviously we don’t want to get sick) and link hearts with everyone in our communities. Here is how.

-Give financially to people and causes that will benefit others more than ourselves and our own families.

-Serve as a family in ways that help the community and those around us.

-Comfort others that need comfort and hope, not just those we love.

-Inspire others as we inspire our own families to reach out and do the same.

-Love. Love others more than you ever have. Drown them with compassion, grace, forgiveness, mercy, patience, and kindness.

This is how families should respond to the COVID-19 crisis. This is what will mobilize an immobilized world. This is what will move us forward past the fear and into a relationship and understanding with each other and with God.

Of course, after all that talk you didn’t think we wouldn’t help you get started right? If you don’t already have some ideas of your own but you and your family are ready to help. Here are some ways you can get started.

First, you probably already guessed we are involved in helping people in crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are getting requests in daily from people with emergency needs. Of course many of those needs take finances, volunteers, and partners.

If you would like to give financially to meet the needs of people impacted by this crisis CLICK HERE.

If you, your family, or business would like to partner or volunteer with us: CLICK HERE

Of course, if you are a person, family, or business that needs help, we want you to tell us how we can help by CLICKING HERE.

Thank you for being the church Christ intended!

The Missing Partnership We All Need

Reaching out to communities also means reaching out to businesses in those communities that people utilize for daily life. So many businesses will not make it back from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Not only will some business owners and key personnel suffer financially but another reality is some might succumb to the ravenous Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that doctors are fighting diligently against each day.

In terms of our communities, that might mean job losses for them and their families. In fact, from the requests coming in to us it is already confirmed that businesses are shutting down and people are struggling to pay their bills. Unemployment offers some help but not immediately and not permanent.

For many business owners a loan will not be enough to save them. In fact, it might be enough to tank them in the end. In some instances, the death of owners and key personnel that run those businesses will inevitably impact all of us. Homes will be lost, lenders will suffer loss, real estate markets will fill with foreclosed inventory.  The ripple effect may be daunting to say the least.

Imagine if a daycare that parents rely on goes out of business. That mechanic you have come to depend on to fix the car you drive to work every day. That grocery store where you shopped for specials all the time. How about that family doctor that couldn’t make it through the pandemic?

Here is where it is important for the church to be the church. Rarely have we seen the church step outside of their membership building strategies to build up their communities, much less have a strategy to help businesses in them survive for the benefit of those that rely on them. Don’t get me wrong, some churches do–but more don’t. I don’t say that as a jab or a right hook to the pastors of those churches. I say that because we work with those churches and they struggle too.

Here is where the disconnect lies. Something that has always been true about the Body of Christ is that it has never been able to fit into a building. The Body of Christ is woven throughout communities across the globe. That perspective has been harder for us to grasp than most would admit.

People are waiting to be connected and mobilized to better their families, their businesses, their communities. Unfortunately, the church has not partnered well in this area.

Can a church partner with businesses during this crisis? Yes. Of course they can–and they should. Here are three ways they can do that.

  1. Reach out to businesses around you and ask how they are doing and what needs they might have.
  2. Mobilize your existing church membership AND community resources to pitch in or help out financially. Often it will take both.
  3. Engage the community around you to rally around those businesses and buy their services and offer volunteer help when necessary.

If you would like to be connected to businesses in your area that need your help and partnership CLICK HERE to let us know and we will connect you.

If you are business owner who is struggling to stay afloat CLICK HERE and let us know so we can connect you with a partner willing to help.

Maybe your business has been a success and you would like to adopt another business or even perhaps a struggling church. That is wonderful! Plenty of room for that too. Let us know how you would like to help by Clicking Here.

CORONAVIRUS: The Church’s Response

Uncertainty and fear have gripped our world. Change has been challenging to most, very cruel to some.

The media continues to find new ways to report the latest angle, pounding fear into the hearts of many like a relentless hammer with a will of its own.

Cries of family members ring out as their loved ones have succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the globe.

Glimmers of hope shine forth in pockets around the world. Italian streets filled with singing. Spanish firefighters clapping in front of a hospital in honor of the heroes working tirelessly inside. Cuban doctors arriving in Italy to confront the death rate head on. All the while the church is struggling to shift its gaze to the communities that surround them.

Elderly are lost in the number of people struggling to make sense of it all, yet they are the most vulnerable—the most at risk. All the while young people are anxious to crowd the beaches in search of a good time.

What chaos our world has been thrown into. Where should we begin?

It wasn’t long ago that churches were stuck trying to figure out how to reach out to people in their communities. Demographic and psychographic data served up the latest statistics helping churches understand what their communities liked. Where they worked. How they lived—and what challenges they faced. To be honest most churches we have worked with at Leave.Follow.Shine. had grown to look nothing like their communities. A challenge to say the least.

The pandemic as we know it has caused everyone to learn, shift, and adapt. It is no different for churches today.

Here are those three things broken down in a sensible way that can help us move forward as the church.

LEARN-

  • From the leaders in our communities how to serve the needs that exist. Although Christ has the answers, we might not. Look outside to find God working and join with Him there.
  • How you can join with other churches and organizations to battle the difficulties ahead. We can no longer afford not to partner with one another. We must conquer this stain in our Christian witness once and for all.
  • To adjust our church’s focus away from the invitation to Sunday service ONLY and towards the inter-connectivity of our community as well as the inter connectivity of the global church. This will be the most challenging to unlearn and relearn.

SHIFT-

  • From the Sunday service only model to serving the needs of the community. Begin to move your church membership out into the community and resettle them there to minister and to make a difference.
  • Shift our finances out of church only programs and into community-wide programs available to all. Utilize all resources, locations, leadership, not just those within the local body of your church.
  • Shift teaching to include more informal and intimate ways of communication rather than from the pulpits only. Today 90% of our pulpits are setup in empty rooms that benefit only a few. People need the teachers of the church to model, instruct, challenge, and grow their communities from outside church walls with grace, service, and humility.

ADAPT-

  • To new realities and resist the temptation to go back to what you knew. Make what you have learned meaningful to your community and to the global church.
  • To new ways of leading and growing the church. Use concepts like APEST, or LFS to drive the thrust of your ministry. Utilize materials, thinking, and church philosophy that do not create limits on people but open up new possibilities for them.
  • To the global church mindset (Kingdom not Fiefdom) to lead your decisions moving forward. Allow yourself and those you lead freedom to explore their place in the church on a global level as well as a local level.

The challenge for the church today is after we have learned new things—when we have shifted our focus—after we have adapted our ministry–will we so easily run back to the systems and structures we had built before? Or, will we engage our apostolic calling as a church and pioneer new and engaging ministries? Ministries that work together creating a synergistic approach to serving people and building up the family of God.

Will we be able to look at the global health of the church worldwide like never before and embrace it before allowing a local only focus to creep back into our ministries?

Can we envision entire communities connecting with each other, not because of a building or a preaching series or Sunday morning service but because Christ has welcomed them when they cried out to Him and helped them through whatever hearts were willing. Maybe those hearts lived in non-profits, compassionate neighbors, and people that will never be acknowledged in our current structure?

I have heard from our pastors and leaders how they are struggling to maintain connectivity with their people. Smaller churches feel they must compete with the larger churches that have the money and technology to stay connected. These leaders fear they will lose people to the larger churches.

Larger churches are struggling to address their people in smaller more intimate settings to ensure all their people are served and taken care of and you can almost hear the envy in their voice of those that do not have to finance a large building, pay large staff salaries, and keep people from falling through the cracks.

PARTNERING in COVID-19 Conditions:

Can large church pastors invite smaller church pastors into their live streams and invite them and their congregations to join them? Imagine how we could mobilize the church together to make a difference?

Can churches join with local non-profits, city and government officials, and community HOAs to understand and meet the emerging needs? Absolutely they can.

I couldn’t tell you where the death rate will end up but mortuaries are already overwhelmed and I can only imagine what it must be like to do a funeral for hundreds of people while practicing social distancing. This requires large and small churches partnering together to provide those services.

Can we mobilize online counselors for those isolated with depression and anxiety and survey their physical needs at the same time? Of course, we can!

The church is still one of the most powerful forces for good in the world. It is the way Christ demonstrates His love, His compassion, His healing, and His character to the world. United the church means more to this world than divided.

What should our response be to the coronavirus? To unite the church to serve and love the world, even as Christ did, even until death.

NOTE: You didn’t think we would write an article without a way to get you started did you? Here is how we want to help you connect with and engage your community. We want to partner with you by offering direct help to your church or community through our website: CLICK HERE!!! to sign up. Of course its FREE!

5 Growth Strategies for Every Church

So much has been said already about church growth strategies that adding one more thing might just make you puke! If you were to add up all the growth “principles”, “methods”, “strategies”, and put them into a folder you would most likely need a whole room of filing cabinets, terabytes of storage on your data server, or at the very least a few drawers full of folders.

Church growth has been on the mind of every church leader since it first began. All the Apostles were concerned with it. The Jewish church wrestled with what should and should not be tolerated. The church elders living in predominantly pagan cities were certainly just trying to hold things together while awaiting another Pauline epistle to arrive to provide some “clean-up” instructions for the messy state the church was in.

In fact, Paul was the very first church health and church growth consultant writing book after book to the churches in order to keep them healthy and growing. Sometimes he was able to visit in person, hang out awhile, and help get things back on track and moving forward. Other times he was unable to be their in person but was there by letter.

Either way. The church has always needed help keeping on track and discerning what was needed in a order to sustain the growth and health of the body of Christ in their local setting.

Although there is enough articles already written, books already published, conferences held, and sermons preached on this subject. I feel the need to push in a little more. Why? Because the church has not yet arrived to the “full level of maturity” that Christ desires in Ephesians chapter 4. Secondly, because most of what has been said about this subject is less about Christs own instruction to the church and more about coming up with different “attractional” models for ministry.

So here are 5 Christ centered strategies for growth that are foundational for every church.

ONE: Rediscover Ephesians 4:11-13 which is the mind of Christ for the Church.

  1. Dream about what a church might look like driven by the 5 ministries of Ephesians 4:11.
  2. Understand that all of those ministries where given by Jesus Christ Himself and according to Paul they are to be for making disciples.
    • the “perfecting” of the saints (KJV)
    • to equip His people (NIV) for the equipping of the saints (NASB)
    • to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work (MSG)
    • …in other words, they are used to “equip followers”/”make disciples”.
  3. Admit which of the gifts have the weakest support or are completely absent from your ministry model.
  4. Establish their importance in your church once again.

One of the best resources for this process that we at Leave.Follow.Shine have found and have begun to use in our church coaching is found at www.5Qcentral.com

TWO: Realize that everyone in your church is broken. With brokenness comes trauma. With trauma come obstacles that prevent Kingdom growth.

The very reason Revelations 21:4 is such a powerful verse is because it speaks to every person who has ever lived.

and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.””
  1. Dream about a church where people are constantly finding emotional healing from their traumatic pasts and getting set free.
  2. Place the right leadership (according to Ephesians 4:11) over that healing ministry in order that it might flourish.
  3. Create an environment where trauma can be dealt with biblically and safely in order to get people out of being immobilized and into kingdom work.
  4. Have a transition plan once people are set free to join the work of the kingdom in a meaningful and powerful way (again according to the 5 gifts of Ephesians 4:11).

Two of the impactful systems that are currently helping thousands of people are www.celebraterecovery.com, www.cleansingstream.org.

THREE: Simplify discipleship so that is easily reproducible

  1. Assess your current offerings and realize their might be too many. Having many ministries or programs for people to participate might give the impression to people that participation in your programs equals being a good disciple.
  2. Have a simple definition of a disciple. For example at LEAVE.FOLLOW.SHINE we help churches define a disciple as “someone who makes another disciple”. While of course a disciple is always learning, doing, and teaching what Christ commands (which we teach in our workbook) he or she is always focused on discipling others.
  3. Align your church offerings with the definition of a disciple. Every ministry whether it is structured as a childrens, youth, young adults, seniors ministry (age) or sports, homeless, food, foster care, elderly, (external service) or choir, transportation, shut-ins, (internal service) should have a focus on making other disciples based on a reproducible definition.
  4. Eliminate church offerings that are too self-serving and do not lend themselves to making new disciples.

FOUR: Treat the Bible as the basis for community.

  1. Be Aware of the difference between “A” community and a “Biblical Community”. There a distinct difference between the two type of community. One is highly self-serving and the other is highly missional and kingdom focused. You want the one that is building Kingdom always.
  2. Encourage diversity. Diversity is something that distinguishes a biblical community from others. Although it can be tough (Acts 6:1) it is the vision of Christ for the church. This means racial diversity, socioeconomic diversity, stylistic diversity, diversity of traditions, and so forth. Too often we see a white church STAY a white church or a black church STAY a black church based on history, traditions, and preferences–even if the demographics around them are changing.
  3. Embrace the Shift. When a biblical community is constantly shifting that means kingdom work is happening. As the early church wrestled with the different groups of people becoming disciples there was a lot to tackle. As the church grew and Paul came to the church in Jerusalem I am sure it was tough to embrace people from Roman cities and pagan religions responding to the gospel–but it had to be done in order to continue the work of the kingdom. Can you imagine the many traditions, cultures, and worship customs that came with that? If your church isn’t constantly shifting it is not constantly growing.
  4. Stay Healthy. Most unhealthy behavior in churches come from two things. First, it comes from conformity. When a church conforms to what feels good and is comfortable it will eventually arrive at a place where people are no longer engaged in the mission. Second, unhealthiness comes from bad teaching. When a churches teaches more about how important we are to Christ rather than how important Christ is to the world we have placed an unhealthy focus on us rather than the mission of Christ.

FIVE: Use globally focused lenses for everything

  1. Create a global identity locally. Many churches are focused on creating a brand for themselves in their neighborhoods and in their cities. Having worked with and visited many churches, LFS coaches have seen many similar style churches trying so hard to distinguish themselves as a “cut above” the other churches in the area. Traditional marketing says a business must stand out from others. Christ says we must be ONE (John 17:21). Focus believers on being a part of a global church body.
  2. Stop calling your local church “the body of Christ”. It is only part of the body of Christ and must function alongside of, in conjunction with, as a part of–the global church, the entire body of Christ of which Christ is the head so that “the world will believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). Hard to believe Jesus is real and functioning as the head when the body of Christ (churches, ministries, etc.) refuses to get to know each other, work with each other, and glorify Him together.
  3. Care about the world outside of your church. Ephesians 4 gifts are not only valuable inside of the church walls, they are valuable to the entire world to push the mission of Christ forward into new territories (apostolic), connect the outside world to the body of Christ (evangelistic), and hear from and represent God in today’s culture (prophetic) even before the pastor gets a hold of them and glues them altogether with Christs compassion (shepherd) or they receive a theological foundation on which to base their lives (teacher). Think about the education and business sectors, healthcare and hospitality sectors, and connect with community, city, and state leaders to bring about positive change using the gifts God has given your church.
  4. Leverage global partnerships. In order to leverage global partnerships to advance the kingdom, you have to create some. Start creating them. Get innovate, strategic, and creative on how you can partner with churches, ministries, and Christian organizations around the world. Explore how all your partnerships can work together to create a global impact for the kingdom. Get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each other and learn to unite the body of Christ in a way to create a holistic approach to advancing the kingdom.

I hope some part of this can be helpful for you wherever you may in the journey with your people. Use it wisely and always with prayer.