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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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