Church, What’s Next?

design-60Many Pastors, while still working hard on their online ministry are beginning to think ahead. What is next? How will this pandemic play out? Once we get back into our church buildings, how will the Church function over the next several weeks and months?

The “unknown” is the worst part. How do we prepare for a future that is uncertain? I think we can prepare by doing the painful work of considering worst case scenarios. Not expecting it or believing for that, but considering it. What will be the role of the Church if this crisis continues for 6 weeks or 6 months? 6 months on this trajectory would mean communities of hungry people, families in crisis, social breakdown and vast emotional trauma. Ask ourselves: If this happens, what would we, the church do?

We don’t like thinking like this. You might even think that I am having a crisis of my faith. But ignoring possibilities is not a lack of faith. Be reminded that many tried to, in the name of faith, ignore the possibility of the Corona virus in the first place. It is a spiritual leader’s responsibility to prepare for the future as much as possible.

Many are saying that our focus only on online ministry is shortsighted. We’ve got to be prepared to resource people beyond online services, and beyond getting back into our buildings.

I am finding that the churches that were more inwardly focused before Corona are having a harder time making the adjustments needed now. It’s difficult but not impossible. But my concern is, some churches have as their only goal, getting back into their building. While we cannot wait for that!, there is so much more we need to consider.

I think that it is reasonable to consider that we will never return to the old normal.

Let’s pray and seek guidance in what an effective ministry will look like in the future. I highly doubt that it will look like what it has in the past.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m so thankful for online ministry. And I’m very excited for the future physical gathering of God’s people. We need it so badly. But we also need to engage a hurting world with the hope we gain by coming together.

Without question, now is the time for the Church to lead the way in prayer, repenting, fasting and focusing on the Lord. I believe this is the primary starting point to discerning the best path forward. We must hear from Him! Come what may, God’s Church will be strategically positioned by Him to redeem this crisis.

Let’s be the Church!

Respect the Generations

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Having grown up in the church and making my livelihood in ministry my entire adult life, I have an observation: every generation thinks they are right. In the family of God, there is a big problem between people who just can’t seem to accept the way the “other generation” prefers to do church. There are divisions about music style, Bible versions, proper attire for church services and even whether or not coffee should be served in church. This problem is not going away and it keeps the church from being as effective as it could be. Rather than fighting the devil, we fight each other.

I have a proposal for our consideration: Let’s not disrespect what God is doing among generations other than ours. This goes for every generation.

For the elders: Of course the younger generation is making some mistakes. We all do when we lack the experience and wisdom that is needed in life. They want to change everything and they have no idea of the ramifications. This is part of the growth process. They act like they know it all. Keep in mind that those who went before you thought the same thing about you, and it was probably true. Our job is not to force the younger crowd into our interpretation of the “right way”. Our job is to encourage them to experience God in a fresh and authentic way. That way will be different than your way, just like your way was different from those who went before you. Remember, there was a generation before you that could have criticized every thing you did. Hopefully they supported you. Offer the same benefit to those who are coming along behind you. They are counting on you – they are looking for heroes, not critics.

For the younger: Remain teachable. Those who have been around longer than you know more than you do. Don’t presume to have it all figured out. Be sensitive and respectful.  They have paved the way for you. If they hadn’t paid the price, your life would be harder. Show gratitude. Find a mentor, a spiritual grandfather. Listen to him. Obey the Scriptures: I Peter 5:5-6 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (NIV)

For all generations: Let’s share mutual respect and support. Celebrate the differences. Operate with grace and tolerance. Be intentionally multi-generational in ministry. If a church does not include every generation, it is out of balance.

And finally, stay humble (we are not God).  It is very presumptuous to think that whatever we prefer is what God prefers. Our ways are His ways, my music is His music, and so on. On judgment day, God will sort out Bible versions and hymns vs. hip hop. Until then, let’s embrace those who are different than we are.  The future of the church and the salvation of the world depends on it.