Equipping Your Reimagine Journey
Don’t #ReopenChurch … #Reimagine Your Church
Phil Miglioratti • The #ReimagineFORUM
Many Pastors are afraid of what might happen when they reopen their church schedule. Members missing. New (strange?) persons who don’t fit the congregation’s homogeneous profile. Reduction in giving. A dissatisfaction with traditional patterns or a disconnecting from old programs. New expectations of leadership. Uncharted territory.
In truth, every Christian leader knows the Church can never be “reopened” because the Church is the Body of Christ, a 24/7/365 living, breathing entity. We can’t “close” down. Jesus told his disciples: “Don’t yield to fear. All you need to do is to keep on believing” (Mark 5:36). The Amplified Bible’s version: “Do not be afraid; only keep on believing [in Me and my power].”
But, even though we all experience fear, it is not to be feared. Fear can actually be beneficial as it alerts us to a problem that must not be ignored or an enemy that must be conquered. It gets our attention by screaming through body, soul, and spirit: “Do something. Now!” Our biggest mistake is trying to silence or outrun fear rather than heeding the wise words of scripture to keep focused on the Lord of life, the Chief Shepherd of the Church. As Pastor Andy Stanley would say: “Fear. Less.” I would add: “Fear wisely.”
Fear less because “…we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.” Romans 8:28 (The Passion Translation)
Fear wisely, congregation, because “…we are convinced that every detail of our church is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good through the mission and ministry of our church, for we are his community who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.” Romans 8:28 (my paraphrase)
Fear less. Fear wisely. Refuse a return to business as usual. Resist the temptation to merely reopen your church. Instead, reimagine how a church lives out faith, hope, and love in the shadow of a pandemic. Invite the Holy Spirit to take you (pastors, lead teams, affinity groups, congregations) on a journey of rethinking by:
Make a fearless assessment of the new normal.
Begin to daily ask for the mind of Christ so that you (personally but also with congregational ministers) discern how to reimagine how to develop:
Pursuing a Spirit-led, Scripture-fed journey may lead you to begin a new chapter of ministry. Your congregation or team may be called upon to make a radical change or to recalibrate systems or reorient programs. Focus on Jesus. Fear less. Fear wisely. Follow Jesus… to the places where Almighty God is already at work; an invitation to serve with our Savior.
The Church is meant to be a tipping point into community transformation.
Pointing-Acting-Moving towards justice-mercy-peace, love-faith-hope.
So, don't reopen your #church. #ReimagineCHURCH...
By Rob Swanson
“Our church is uniquely poised … ", stated the pastor leaving his script on the first Sunday in June - my first Sunday back.
I do not remember the end of the sentence but I thought about it later.“uniquely poised” … for what?
The church is slowly bouncing back. But bouncing back to what?
Not to “a return,” in any sense. History just does not work this way.
There is no going back. Same = repetition and repetition is slow regression.
The quarantine slogans have included: “We’ll come back better than ever.” “We’ll get through this.” “We took it all for granted.” “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
Many Christians found lots to like about their time away.
A new back door emerged. For every “eager returner” there is another having discovered a new and more fulfilling routine.
The world throws problems and challenges at us like an octopus hurling oranges. More than we can handle, if not for the grace of God. To this we now add recovering from Covid-19.
At a 2020 Discipleship Forum, gifted pastors voiced their frustration with a lack of effectiveness. The best of the best were wondering, “What are we doing wrong? … Why can we not correlate discipleship intentionality with growth? … Is there something amiss with our understanding of the gospel? …”
Most of the churches participating in a supporting study were claiming to lead 1 person per 100 members to faith each month. 10% of those churches led 2.
Both groups average no numerical growth.
50+% of churches where ½ to ¾ of the members are involved in discipleship still are not growing.
One asked, “What should we do going forward?"
Work harder? Plod along and trust God? Preach better? Pray up a revival?
Find a success story and buy their material? Scour the internet?
“Lord Jesus, come quickly.”
The church is "uniquely poised" … and “going forward.”
I would like to add, “…by re-forming the church.”
We cannot expect to get by, much less advance, with antiquated readings of the Bible or an archaic understanding of the church and her mission.
Acquiescently retaining the 20th century, highly cultural understanding of the church is the leadership of the lazy man or woman. That was then. Thank God for our heritage but we are moving on and hoping to keep Ichabod way. The culture that so well supported a post World War II "institution" is not shared by our children.
The key for the future does not rest on improving the quality of the believer but improving the functioning of their church.
The church needs to re-form toward a demonstrable expression of the Body of Christ.
Our church gatherings consist primarily of music and teaching ministries coming in the form of songs and sermons, directed from a platform to people seated in rows. Nice, but cultural, temporary and passive. The church's greater need is for interaction among body members. Relationships need time and a place to develop.
The old dogs must learn some new tricks … new ways.
Of all the relational images for church, “the body of Christ” is number one.
Where is the risen Christ to be found? In his body.
Properly led, we can be the expression of the risen Christ!
Or, the church can remain the organization that it is with people happy to be serving, receiving nurture, enjoying friends … and declining.
We want to invest time in the things that matter.
What matters more than witnessing the presence of Christ, who is alive today!? Expect Holy Spirit led participation, gift expression, and mutual up-building of all the body members - members who hear from God.
They teach, exhort and encourage in accordance with their gifting and opportunity. They pray. They love.
They need to be equipped for ministry. Pastors already know this (Ephesians 4.12). Prompting the body of Christ to function as the body of Christ should be our first priority.
This priority we have not inherited from the 20th century!
The pulpit, pew, order of worship, leadership expectations, role of music, and altar calls are historical developments becoming dated.
The steeple evidently has its origin with the Roman obelisk fascination. A better symbol for church is the table. May the 21st century major on discussion and the table is where we discuss, learn, pray for, receive prayer, become known, share ideas, and share life. Table dynamics require planning and leadership. Poorly led gatherings are one and done. The Holy Spirit’s primary aim is for the fullness of Christ to be experienced and seen and with evangelistic consequences (John 17.23,24)!
The primacy of relationships is the most basic attribute of the Trinity.
And we are now filled with that divine nature (2 Peter 1.4.) Whoa!
God has equipped his church to bring forth the fullness of Christ through body life. Ingredients include: fellowship, gift identity, gift expression, variety, equipping, loving, worship, witness, encouraging and celebrating ministry initiatives, learning, accountability, order, Scripture, musical genres, visual arts, drama, communion, correction, prayer, celebration of grace …
Good leadership results in Holy Spirit guided ministry toward an assembly uniquely “united in the same mind” (1 Corinthians 1.10). This is ongoing, not to become the set pattern for a future generation.
Where in the world today can be found regular gatherings of genuine people in relationship? The church should have this market cornered. Again, it will take time and work. And it is easy for one mistaken and misled individual to torpedo the whole enterprise, hence the need for preparation, training and leadership.
Children do not get adopted without a fine home awaiting them. The believer’s fine home is not our typical Sunday morning offering. We can do better. Perhaps our long sought re-vival / re-newal awaits table ministry (figuratively and literally).
As a visitor last summer I sensed the sermon, with its banner and graphics, had internet origin. So I searched for the title, “One Step at a Time” and on sermon central and found 220 links. The point: The role of the sermon is not what it use to be when throngs would seek out the masters. Today good preaching is everywhere, 24/7, videos, podcasts, FB, books, Amazon’s “Try a Sample”… The sermon should no longer be our centerpiece, nor is it our need. Learning is. And learning happens best when it is interactive (i.e. at the table). The pastor is free to train the congregation to be pastoral leaders.
Re-form comes in a couple of months, or a couple of years as body life practices seep into Sunday morning gatherings. All children of Adam are prone to get it wrong at first, not to mention most congregations have few “early adopters.” Established convictions are not modified easily. There are kinks to work out. So the pressure is off in getting started. People learn how to shift from personal prayer habits to the principles of praying together; how to listen – to one another and the Holy Spirit; how to bless.
Uniquely poised and moving forward …
toward a re-newal … re-vival!
First we Re-form.
Rob Swanson, Centerville, MA – former missionary and pastor, author of The Bible Reader's Companion.
"The Glory of God on Cape Cod" Google group.
“This may not be a storm that passes very quickly~we just don’t want to operate week to week anymore as we have been and then wake up six months from now look back and realize how much we missed (in making disciples) because we didn’t adjust.”
Do We Really want ChUrch to Return to Normal?
What we need is revival. Our nation is ripe for spiritual renewal. Our culture has been accelerating headlong in the other direction since the turn of the millennium. There are signs that Selfism is already breaking down. The end of that road, making yourself your own god, is Nihilism – nothingness. Suicides, substance abuse and rampant immorality has been the outcome of seeking happiness and fulfillment in the absence of God. Misplaced faith in science and government is diminishing as once-deified leaders struggle to understand the COVID-19 disease and protect citizens, revealing the limitations of the ultimate object of atheists’ worship – human intellect. Doors are flung open right now to spiritual conversations. Neighbors are scared and opportunities abound for Christians to step forward to provide prayer, compassion and answers to their difficult questions.
Yet what most churches are seeking today in this time of crisis isn’t revival, but survival. Big “C” (universal Church) interests are taking a back seat to little “c” (individual church) sustainability. Pastors worry about how to navigate a potential “new normal”. They’re stressed – many just trying to figure out how and when to reopen. Few can look past those minute details to consider the bigger picture – like why their members were more concerned with self-preservation than self-sacrifice on behalf of those who were ready to hear some Good News – but never did.
How can we return to business as usual when the Church’s growth, impact, influence and public perception has been in such rapid decline? Isn’t this the perfect time to rethink America’s building and event-centric model for conventional church? This blog has been questioning that status quo for 5 years, advocating a return to the biblical definition of church and its intended “customer”. If America’s churches had followed that advice, the response from church leaders and congregants during the pandemic and pandemonium would have been vastly different. A revival already could have been taking place right now if Christians thought of themselves as the embodiment of “church” and took it upon themselves to bring “church” to the doorsteps, iPhones and Zooms of their struggling neighbors.
However, revitalization consultants are reinforcing the status quo, providing advice within the context of “Church as We Know It” (CAWKI). They understand that few pastors are truly interested in rethinking existing models. Most are praying hard that the virus will go away as soon as possible, disregarding the possibility that the pandemic could be God’s will to wake our nation and His Church from its slumber. Even those who claim to want genuine change are highly likely to revert to their comfort zones as soon as a vaccine is discovered. Church strategists understand that we seem to have little choice in the matter. There are simply too many empty buildings and too many pastors trained by seminaries to do one job and one job only – run a conventional church. It’s too late to turn back now, right? How could we risk shifting more responsibility to members for evangelism and compassion when churches desperately need them to return to the building as quickly as possible – and to bring their friends with them? Decentralizing by equipping disciples to make more disciples at a time like this could hasten the demise of a fragile “nickel and nose” model that hinges on centralization and dependency.
Just as we shouldn’t expect a process designed for church indoctrination to produce personal transformation, strategies designed to ensure church survival shouldn’t be expected to produce revival…
Evangelist Charles Finney, credited for much of America’s “Second Great Awakening,” said,
“If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discernment, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in Christianity, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.”
After visiting America in 1831, the same year of Finney’s famed Rochester Revival, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America,
“There is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.”
God is His infinite wisdom and power can accomplish all things, but America’s history of spiritual revivals points to 7 characteristics that are clearly evident in churches whenever our nation has recommitted to following Jesus:
Those elements found in most revivals do not align with the advice found in articles and webinars today about how pastors should adapt their churches to new realities during and after the Coronavirus pandemic…
A deep concern about the state of the universal (capital “C”) Church would lead to changes that could bring revival, but authors and consultants are promulgating a set of (little “c”) strategies that won’t rectify the shortcomings of America’s prevailing church growth model – flaws that have become readily apparent over the past few months. Instead they primarily advocate the following 7 principles:
In other words, revitalization pitches and promises touted today are built around about getting CAWKI back up and running smoothly again. Few call for reformation to address the discipleship deficiencies brought to light by COVID-19 when the “church gathered” forcibly became the “church scattered”…
The pandemic and pandemonium in America should lead to church reform, an entirely different set of operating principles and metrics that are in sync with the 7 characteristics of revival listed earlier in this post. However, the path to a spiritual revival will require pastors do what they’re commanded (in Scripture) and not what their being taught (in seminary and articles).
Lord willing, revival will come when reform leads to a reversion to the biblical definition of “church” and its intended “customer” – to make disciples who reach the “lost” in the community and across the globe. Tactical “revitalization” won’t bring revival because it will remain centered around a building, event and pastor – a model proven ineffective before and during this pandemic and racial strife.
*Originally posted at: