Here are some updates from our leaders in the Sub-Saharan Africa region of NewThing.
Coronavirus has come and, unfortunately, overstayed. It somehow didn’t get the memo that it was never welcome in the first place. Since its arrival many churches across the world were forced to close their Sunday services as a result of the pandemic. Many of those church doors remain shut. A great number of those churches still have no idea when they can, or will choose to, re-open. The global Church, in the eyes of many, seems to be in an unparalleled state of flux.
As the Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa I have been privy to the inner circle conversations with the leadership of the NewThing Network about the global Church and its future. And to be honest, we (an organization that is focused entirely on multiplying new churches) couldn’t be more excited for the outlook of the Church.
This season has illuminated that which was previously unseen by many: the unimaginable potential of the local church. COVID-19, and all that came with it, has shone a light on the cracks and faults and deficiencies of our previous way of operating the local church and, thus conversely, begun to enlighten us to what could be. The power and capacity of the Church in this era of time has never been more evident or more stirring.
It was with that excitement and anticipation for the future that we, as the Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Team, had a meeting (on ZOOM, of course) with visionary and influential leaders from across Africa last week. We posed to them a series of questions about the future of the Church (specifically in Africa but applicable globally) and then we simply backed away and watched them discuss. Here are a few takeaways from that meeting:
DEFINING “CHURCH”: We have redefined to our congregations what “church” actually is. This means making house churches and small groups the new norm and helping them see this mode of operating as an acceptable, and in even as a favorable, way of “doing Church.”
CHURCH ORGANIZATION: Pastors & leaders cannot be scared of losing their role, title, authority, power, reputation, or anything else. For the Church to succeed and thrive in accomplishing the Jesus Mission, we must continue to deinstitutionalize and decentralize. This includes:
Simple systems that reproduce leaders
Complete a due diligence of internal reflection and evaluation to decide what was and was not working organizationally.
What do we need to start, stop, continue, and change?
Relying heavily on technology and small groups as the only way forward and not a temporary stopgap.
LEADERSHIP AND THE YOUTH: Spend large quantities of time training younger leaders who are more adaptable and unconventional in their ways of reaching others.
Many older leaders are simply waiting to go back to the “old normal” (and that way of operating wasn’t working) but younger leaders are pivoting and innovating for the Mission quickly and effectively.
Repurpose the elders, deacons, pastors, and other leaders to become coaches for these young leaders.
Break the tradition of making young people wait for specific life stages before responsibility and roles are given to them.
Transition “older” leaders into servants and mentors for the young instead of preserving and perpetuating the myth that the “more mature” must always be the leaders.
FREEDOM FROM GOVERNMENT CONTROL: Innovate and implement systems that are not reliant on the approval, acceptance, or allowance of any government for Missional progress to happen and to remain happening.
Our models and practices need to be organic and uncontrollable.
CHURCH RE-DEFINING CULTURE: The Church should be defining culture and not folding under the pressure of external culture.
When we operate with a kingdom-mindset, we are necessarily operating differently than our surrounding culture – we must be grounded and strong in our church-mindset.
The future of the Church hinges on us being able to answer this question: “How will we, the global Church, prove to the world that we are ‘essential’”?
If the Church is truly the hope of the world then we shouldn’t struggle to answer this question. But if those outside of the Church don’t see us as “essential” then we’re probably doing it wrong. For the future of the Church to thrive, we must start there.
Matt is the Regional Director for the Sub-Saharan Africa region of NewThing.