And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14b)
In the 1980s, R.E.M released “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.’ This song became one of my favorites, and I have listened to it hundreds of times since then. It goes like this:
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.
This song is getting lots of play these days as COVID-19 spreads and wrecks havoc. People are scared and frightened that it is the end of the world.
Church leaders are also afraid. I have spoken to dozens and dozens of them in recent weeks. Many have expressed their fear in tears, and others in frustration. People are getting ill. Many are dying. Some leaders have first-hand experience of family, friends, or congregants getting ill. No doubt, COVID-19 is causing economic and social disruption in ways we could not have imagined.
This is a season of tension for the Church. It is a season of grief and lament. The old is gone and it seems the new has been thrust upon us. We mustn’t push past our grief too quickly or we will miss what God has for us.
Yet, the Church has faced challenges such as COVID-19 in the past. The Black Death, political persecution, war, famine, secularism, colonialism, and the list goes on. But we followers of Jesus have hope! After all, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Let that sink deep into your bones!
So, it is not the end of the world, but it is the end of the world as we know it. Let me say that again: it’s the end of the world as we know it. And I really do feel fine. In fact, I think the future is full of hope and opportunity for the Church!
Crisis brings opportunity and this crisis has changed everything. And I do mean…everything. Society, governments, and businesses will never be the same. And yes, this has also changed the Church.
We must face that reality, however much we would want to shirk from it. The old is gone, the new has come. There will be no going back to ‘normal.’ Be sure, we will re-normalize to a degree. But the normal we once knew is gone.
This means we are in the proverbial wilderness, and God’s people are once again on the move. The wilderness will leave us tired and hungry. We must keep our eyes fixed on the horizon and trust God to deliver us.
And that’s exciting because the promised land is ahead! This is the opportunity we have wanted, right? – to reach thousands of people in new ways with the good news of Jesus? If so, there has never been a better opportunity.
I am so very excited about what could be…if we dare.
But to get to the promised land, we will need to make some shifts. This will require us to understand where we want to go and where we are right now. One of the best ways to manage a crisis is to follow a map. If you have a map and get lost, then you go back to the place you weren’t lost and get going again.
Let’s pause for a moment and assess the situation. Most of us are lost. The Church is lost. Perhaps it was already lost before COVID-19. But there’s no doubt that right now, leaders are lost. However, there’s hope. We’re starting to see some church leaders prophecy the future and start leading us. But overall, we need to start making our way forward – and that requires a map!
At NewThing, we see 5 Strategic moves the Church MUST make now. If we do, there will be opportunities to grow the Kingdom.
Shift 1: Evaluation – Nehemiah 1
Like Nehemiah when he arrived into the devastated Jerusalem, we must assess and triage.
Shift 2: Digitalization – Acts 2
Like the Acts 2 church, we must connect everyone to one another using whatever technology we have available.
Shift 3: Mobilization – Matthew 28
Like the early disciples, we must mobilize the body of Christ.
Shift 4: Collaboration – John 17
Like Jesus prayed, the Church needs to embrace the Great Collaboration.
Shift 5 : Multiplication – Acts 1:8
Like the early Church, we are called to be a rapidly multiplying movement of Christ-followers on mission.
It’s Time to Dream Big!
It’s Time to TRUST GOD for everything. Our faith must be white hot.
Leaders need to embrace the opportunity for a bigger vision. Now is the time to dream big! Embrace vivid vision and GOD-sized dreams! We must create and innovate new expressions of the Church. We must try NEW THINGS…and realize that in our experimenting there will be failure, but there will also be breakthroughs.
It’s Time to Unify the Global Church!
We are a global body and we need each other more than ever because although we’re all going through this crisis, our context is determining how we are experiencing it. We have the opportunity to learn from each other in real-time. More sharing of resources to help us cope and innovate in this new space. This presents us with countless opportunities for missional engagement.
We also have the opportunity to build deeper and more profound relationships with leaders from other contexts with the result of greater collaboration. This collaboration will be at levels unimaginable before.
It’s Time to Move!
The Church is scattered physically. Soon it could psychologically scatter. I think people will forever relate to their local church in new ways.
This is an opportunity to embrace several things. The first is the priesthood of all believers. This is a ‘reset’ to our systems to rely on the truth that all gifts are needed for the mission. For that to happen, we must engage all elements of the body of Christ for the mission (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers as found in Ephesians 4).
The second concept is a minimal ecclesiology. If we can unite and find ways to overcome our differences, we will have a much greater impact! To do that, we start with the essentials of the Church as outlined to us in Luke 10 and Acts 2.
Thirdly, the Church will need to reproduce at every level. For the kind of adaptable Church on the move that we need to be, we’ll have to pivot rapidly and having a full leadership pipeline will empower us. But leaders don’t come from nowhere. This requires that we apprentice and disciple people in bold and new ways using chaordic structures that are organic, simple, and thus reproducible.
…As we know it.
It’s not the end of the world, but it is the end of the world as we know it.
The opportunity to mobilize the body of Christ, collaborate, and multiply disciples of Jesus will never be greater. We will not have this opportunity again in our lifetimes. That’s why what we do today and in the next weeks really matters.
This is a call to action for the Church! But we don’t have to do it alone, in fact, we’ve asked global leaders to write a series of articles, a larger manifesto, helping us find the map to the Promised land. Our intent is to help the Church embrace a missionally fruitful future. In these articles, we will get into the details and talk about practical outcomes, while helping each other see new opportunities.
We invite you to join and together we will get to the promised land! Are you ready for the journey?
Then let’s go, and let’s go together!