You marry the mission and date the model
From a presentation at Future Church Summit 2021
Recently, I listened into an online conference based in the USA but attended by people from around the world. Every country is and has been affected by the pandemic and I wanted to hear some reflections on church thinking and practice during this time of disruption.
Here are some relevant extracts from one presentation:
COVID has been a great accelerator of new approaches but it's also been a great exposer.
Things were going on before COVID. It just exposed them. Things like team tensions, people realising they're ending the last season of their ministry, unnecessary practices. It's exposed and accelerated. It's accelerated a healthy ministry's opportunity to grow, drill down on who they are, their culture, their vision, return to what they're all about. And you see that happening over and over and over. Either it's unhealthy acceleration, or healthy acceleration.
The thing that has been concerning to me about the local church is how quickly so many local churches felt like they've got to get back in their building, shoulder to shoulder, doing what they've always done. It was the exact wrong response to COVID because we had the opportunity of a lifetime.
The opportunity of a lifetime to do new things, try new things, experiment with new things because we couldn't do the old things. And instead of focusing on what we can't do, we should have been 100% focused on what we can do.
We realised in stages that we would not meet until 2021. The greatest thing about all of that was I was able to say to our staff, "Hey, we're out of the 'Here comes Sunday' rhythm. So what can we do with this time? What can we do with this energy? What can we do digitally? What can we do in the community, to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community?"
Now we are freed up to do what we can do that before we couldn't do because 'Here comes Sunday'. So we have learned so much. We're going to carry so much of what we've learned forward. I was embarrassed about churches who argued with the government about getting back into the building. We're in it to serve. And there is more need than there's ever been. Everybody's experiencing the same thing all at the same time. That's never happened before. Not just all over our communities or our country, but the whole world. So I am proud of our staff and what we have done in this season. And we are so much better for it. I'm better for it. Our community is better for it.
In 2021, I believe we are going to reap what we sowed during those difficult months of 2020, when we were having to do things differently. I think the churches that took advantage of the disruption saw it as an opportunity because there was this accelerated pace for digital. Accelerated pace for online. Accelerated opportunity for online things with children. I just feel like we are so much better for it.
From a leadership standpoint, a crisis is always an opportunity and you got to deal with the crisis, but it's always an opportunity. Rick Warren said, "There's so much that church can accomplish in the community. And so much the church can accomplish in the world."
We were able to do so much more than we've previously been able to do in the community because the community had our undivided attention. Adults in our church put up with me saying, "No, we're not going to meet. I know the church down the street's meeting. I know that, I get it. But you know what? We are intentionally redeploying and refocusing our attention at this time, because this is a unique opportunity and it's going to come to an end."
Here's what I tell church leaders, "You marry the mission. You date the model.". You marry the mission, inspire people to follow Jesus. That's our mission. You date the model. Shoulder to shoulder in a building, singing songs and worshipping and listening to sermons - all that is, is a model. Well, during this season, you abandon the model for the sake of the mission. But some local churches abandoned the mission for the sake of the model and rushed back into the model because they felt like they've got to be shoulder to shoulder in the building.
Scarcity breeds innovation. A lot of churches realised the one thing they had hung their hat on was taken away. They had no choice, but to innovate. And for thousands of churches, they may have had their most innovative year in the history of their church, if they didn't spend all their time trying to figure out how quick can they get back.
They took a deep breath and said, "Okay, instead of focusing on what we can't do, what can we do in this season that we didn't have time to do before?" As leaders, we can't afford to miss that principle - that crisis, that disruption, always creates opportunity.
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