Think Differently: Responding to Unprecedented Times
Grappling with identity in a politically and religiously charged environment amidst a global pandemic.
New challenges require a new way of thinking, both in and outside of the Church.
How should church leaders be responding to COVID-19? How can we live lives of faith and risk during this time?
This next statement may be contentious, depending on how you view this person. But Steve Jobs once said, “Think differently.” That was the tagline of Apple, and the rest is history. No matter what you believe about Steve Jobs or Apple, the statement, “Think differently,” was an invitation to innovation.
In this season, there’s an invitation to innovate for the Church and all of us in the Kingdom. Let me put it like this. How do you build something you’ve never seen, in preparation for something you’ve never experienced?
Think of the story of Noah. God came to him and said, “Hey, build me a boat.” God knows the rain is coming, but Noah has never seen anything like this. What did Noah do? All he had was the voice of God, all he had was his connection with God, and he had nothing else. He had people who laughed at him, people who ridiculed him.
“God has erased the boundary lines of comfort and invited us into courage.“
This is what happens in these seasons, when we step out and think differently. When we become reformers, pioneers, and innovators, you’re going to have the crowd that laughs at you. But if you know that you’ve heard from God, you go ahead and build something you’ve never seen in preparation for something you’ve never experienced.
I’ll tell you, the people in the Church who are ahead of the curve right now are those who listened to God and innovated, doing things like buying cameras and building a studio. These things connect you with community outside of the four walls of the church. All these innovations were what people once laughed at.
Why do you think there’s a reluctance among some pastors to engage and “think differently” during this time?
We have people that are prepared, like the wise virgins, and we’ve got some people who are unprepared, like the unwise virgins.
So I think there’s an invitation for innovation right now in this season, to actually think outside the four walls. We can connect with the community, with business leaders, and actually find favor with all people. Why? Because we have simplicity of heart, and we’re getting back to the simplicity of the gospel, which has always been the way to go. We’ve always been called to reach out.
In 2 Corinthians 11, the Apostle Paul talks about how Eve was deceived from the simplicity that is in Christ. I think that is a tension in the church right now.
Are we going to engage with the leaven of the Pharisees, and inherit the political and religious spirit? If we do, it’s going to derail us.
“My focus isn’t on my restrictions; my focus in on my freedoms.“
The political and religious spirit will always cause you to forget what you have, who you are, and who you are with. Just like the disciples forgot Jesus was with them when it came time to feed the 5,000 – they forgot that Jesus was able to multiply things beyond human ability. Right now, even during COVID-19, I’m seeing a lot of pastors being sidelined by a political spirit and a religious agenda. They forget who they are, what they have, and who they’re with.
You mentioned not getting infected with the political and religious spirit, but how does a pastor or believer engage in changing the nation without confronting that political system? After all, there are times we need to stand against injustice. How do we do that?
A flower doesn’t compete with the flower next to it – it just blooms. One of the things we need to remember is that God called us to build people up. A lot of times people use prophets like Jeremiah as a sort of license to tear people down, but we’re not in the Old Covenant any longer.
Think of Jesus and John the Baptist. In Luke 7, John the Baptist is in prison, and he sent his disciples to go ask Jesus, “Are you the One? Are you the One we’ve been waiting for?” This is odd, because it was actually John who first said Jesus was the One. But John is now in prison, and whenever you’re in prison to a political, religious agenda, it causes you to forget who you are and who you’re with.
What I love about Jesus is that He didn’t use this opportunity to tear John down. He didn’t ask, “What happened to you? How did you lose the plot?” Instead, Jesus just spoke of who He was. He said, “The blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised. Wisdom is justified by her children.” He responded by talking about who He was, not by tearing John down.
“We spend too much time trying to prove we are the Church, instead of just being the Church.“
I think this is the key in this day – we need to keep building the kingdom. In this day, we spend too much time trying to prove we are the Church, instead of just being the Church.
You don’t have to advertise when you have a miracle. You don’t have to advertise someone raised from the dead. So I think we are all learning.
I know for our church here in Melbourne, God is inviting us not to engage in tearing down or in partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God is calling us to plant a tree of life. At the end of the day, when everything is said and done, people are going to be drawn to life. People are going to be drawn to fresh bread. On a winter’s day, they’re going to be drawn to the fire.
I encourage pastors not to try to be a political preacher. Don’t be known as a conservative or liberal pastor. But believe for signs and wonders, be on fire for God, be a person who believes in the Kingdom and builds it.
If there was no fear or government restrictions right now, what would you like to see the church doing during this time of COVID-19?
I think we need to look at the bigger picture that is at play here – there are Kingdom exploits that He is inviting us into. Our current situation has exposed complacency.
We need to connect with community like never before, and come back to the temple and table thing [read Part 1 of this interview for Gary’s explanation on this concept]. If we are so focused around the building, I think we’ve lost the potency of the kingdom. We’ve lost the importance of what it really is to be a church member.
God has erased the boundary lines of comfort, and invited us into courage.
I truly believe that this is a Caleb and Joshua time. Before, we were talking about the giants that are stopping us. Now we’re talking about the Giant that is God, and the kingdom that is unstoppable.
My focus isn’t on my restrictions, my focus is my freedoms. Therefore, I don’t spend all day talking about what I’m restricted by; I celebrate where my freedom is.
Gary Morgan, with his wife Sarah, is the founder and director of the School of Prophets in Australia. Check out part one of our conversation with Gary here, where he talks about learning and leaning into God during this season. Read our past conversations with him at the links below: