ChurchNext I: What Shifts Are Necessary in the Church?
The Church can take the initiative in a changing world and be proactive instead of reactive
Our world has changed. The Church Next series is a collection of conversations with pastors and prophets from around the world, to canvass thoughts surrounding the unique events that the year 2020 has presented us. We seek to realize the effects and opportunities being presented to the Church.
This is the first in a series of conversations.
What shifts do you think are necessary in the worldwide church as a result of COVID-19?
Vincent Lun (Senior Pastor, Kingdom Community Church, Singapore): The context for each nation is different, so it is difficult to generalize. But I do believe God is shaking his church world-wide so that we will return our focus on building His Kingdom on earth, in preparation for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. We do this primarily through building Christ-like and Kingdom-minded disciples.
Benny Ho (Senior Pastor, Faith Community Church, Perth, Australia): The Covid-19 pandemic has shifted our perspective on how we view ministry on several fronts:
First, onsite and online church. Both the onsite church and online church are here to stay, just like physical and digital storefronts are co-existing in the retail world. Churches will become digital organizations with physical locations rather than the other way around. The Church must be ready with skills and resources to build both.
However, we may need to consider how the online church can serve to build the onsite church, rather than to allow it to cannibalize the onsite church. One way is to view the online church as a good entry point for seekers to explore Christianity and then intentionally direct them towards the onsite church as the long-term goal. This will then help us to build the depth of the onsite church and at the same time, take advantage of the reach of the online church.
Next is the shift from centralization to decentralization. Until and unless a vaccine is developed and made ready for mass distribution, the possibility of a resurgence of COVID-19 is always there. We have seen different waves that have brought fresh restrictions on physical gatherings.
Therefore, the Church needs to be future-ready in terms of technology, but also crisis-ready in being able to go into smaller group gatherings promptly and readily. As such, churches are beginning to recognize the importance of small groups. The ability to stay flexible and be in touch with members in the church through the small group network is the key to being crisis-ready.
Another shift is in the realm of Faith@Home and Faith@Work. The focus shifts from the Corporate Church to the Church at Home and the Church at Work. The next phase of church life will see an increased emphasis on the home and the workplace as the main disciple-making and spiritual formation centers.
Covid-19 has caused many to recognize that churches can close but our home will never be closed. When restrictions are lifted, the workplace will be amongst the first to be reopened. Therefore, if our homes and our workplaces (where we spend the bulk of our time) are not spiritual formation centers then our faith will not be relevant.
Covid-19 has awakened us to this reality. Going forward, we must strategize towards building Faith@Home and Faith@Work.
Katia Adams (Senior Pastor and Founder, The Table Boston, USA): As much as I don’t believe COVID-19 was from the hand of God, it has given the Church the opportunity to stop relying on structures or formulas. It has forced us to become much more flexible as a body, and to lean into God for Him to lead us season by season.
This shift, that is being forced upon us, is making us much more flexible and open to the leading of the Spirit and not reliant on organizational formulas.
Julian Adams (Senior Pastor and Founder, The Table Boston, USA): I think that this season has highlighted and emphasized our need for community more than ever. We’re going to need to develop genuine communities of the Holy Spirit, that are connected at the heart level, but also connected to a mission.
“We’re trying to reach outsiders, and we have to be able to touch them in that short amount of time.” -Ben Richards
When you look at the early Church, whenever there was drought, pandemic, or other disasters, what always stuck out was the unity of the Church, just being that community to those around them. This has always been a launchpad for successful evangelism.
Ben Richards (Senior Leader of The Gatekeepers, Dubai): We need to rethink the content of our services. Most of what the church has been doing in response to the lockdowns is to say, “Let’s just take what we do in our physical services and replicate it online.” But I’ve been encouraging people – let’s not just replicate but innovate.
For example, you have your sermons that last about 40 minutes. Can you do another one in 20 minutes? Can you do it in 10 minutes? How about a 5 minute snippet? For preachers, especially people like myself, we love to talk for long periods of time, so it’s a challenge. But it’s a healthy challenge, because we have to engage with people that are willing to give us less of their time.
I’m not talking about disciples and committed followers of Jesus – we shouldn’t be begging them for time. They should be shaping their entire lives around their faith. But we’re trying to reach outsiders, and we have to be able to touch them in that short amount of time. If we do that, they’ll be willing to give us more of their time.
It’s a mindset shift we need to make. How can we effectively reach people in our city, while they are out in the city? How can we deliver the Gospel to them while they are in the streets?
“God is shaking his church world-wide so that we will return our focus on building His Kingdom on earth.” -Vincent Lun
It’s really an elevator pitch. I follow a very interesting account on Instagram, where they challenge entrepreneurs who want to start businesses to pitch their entire concept in 60 seconds. Can you take this broad idea and boil it down to 60 seconds? I think that’s a challenge we have to be willing to embrace.
What’s your biggest concern in terms of the church’s response to this pandemic? How are you hoping the Church will NOT respond?
Julian Adams: I think my biggest fear is that the church would stay in lockdown. The danger is that we will stay locked down in our thinking and our ways. We could miss the unique opportunities that we get in this season – the simplicity of a hug, the simplicity of dropping off groceries, engaging with people, and all of those things that make for an amazing opportunity to extend the kindness and the love of Jesus to people in the church.
The problem is that much of the church was in lockdown before the lockdown.
We are going to need to think differently. Let’s not stay in lockdown. Get back to what we’re called to do, to be the people of God.
Benny Ho: There are 2 major concerns that I have: convenience vs commitment, and passivity vs engagement.
The online church can turn Christianity into a spectator sport where we only watch and consume rather than engage and participate. A certain sense of passivity has resulted. I have noticed that even after the people returned physically, there is a drop in worship engagement and word receptivity.
Vincent Lun: One of my concerns is that some believers will get used to attending online worship services and stop being part of a local church community, which is vital for our spiritual health. Some may even stop attending worship services altogether, including online services. I am especially concerned for those weak in their faith and not well connected in a church community.
Check back regularly for more of our conversations with these 5 leaders.