I am an average chess player. I taught my son and son-in-law to play and never let them win until they could beat me on their own. It cost my son-in-law over thirty losses to finally beat me. Like I said, I am average at chess. They kept getting better but I seemed to be stuck.
One of the things that even an average chess player knows is, if you lose your queen, it will be hard to win. The queen can do almost anything and move any direction she wants. She is very valuable.
I recently heard someone compare what happened to churches in America during COVID to losing your queen in chess. Of course, the queen for American churches is the Sunday morning service. Everything is built around that. I know of a megachurch pastor who told his staff, “All we really have to do is have services”.
That perception of the value of the weekend services does not consider the limitations of the corporate worship time. It is important, but not enough. Disciples are not made from the platform. Even Jesus didn’t attempt that. He preached to the crowds but poured his life into the twelve.
Success has been measured in the American church by nickels and noses or in other words budgets and butts. The attendance and budget metric has been the gold standard to see how a church is doing.
What if COVID brought some truth and reality to our approach to church? Is that what Jesus would have measured? Suddenly pastors and church leaders had to scramble to connect with their people and many learned some important lessons in the process.
Churches had to rely on the internet, Zoom, and small groups to a degree that few leaders were comfortable with. The question is now being asked, “What next?” Is there another pandemic in the offing or something even more earth shaking? No one knows except God.
Maybe COVID forced us to rethink church completely. What is the best structure and approach to reach the unreached in the twenty-first century? What role should small groups and microchurches play?
You can tell by this article so far that I have more questions than answers at this point. That is ok. The first step to doing things better is an honest evaluation of how well you are doing them now.
We have begun to re-emphasis small groups within the church and micro campuses to those outside the church. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to either of these. I sensed the Lord calling me to “create a trail” to the future. You can build a bridge to the future, but you must start where you are.
Most people resist change, at least until they see some results coming from the change. Not everyone is future oriented or future focused, but leaders must be. As John C. Maxwell says, “A leader is one who knows the way goes the way and shows the way.” A leader must be heading somewhere, or they are not a leader.
The only way I am aware of to get out ahead of what is coming is to pray, seek the Lord and ask him, and get counsel from others who sense the same need to hear from the Lord and follow his direction.
One of the events that happened to me when I was called into ministry was a very real encounter with the Lord at a service. The minister was preaching from Jeremiah 33:3, “Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come” (NLT). I prayed that and God answered me. That same Scripture is driving my prayer life now.
I believe God is speaking and directing those church leaders who want to hear. Wisdom is the ability to act on knowledge. It is the ability to adapt to future changes. Wise business leaders have anticipated and embraced change. How much more should those leading the church be open to transition and change.
There are basic principles for what constitutes a church, but each church and leader must adapt to the culture they live in. We began micro churches in senior centers almost by accident by just reaching out in love to the residents. That organic method is the best.
Every person and every church have a “world”. That word in Greek is “oikos”. In Acts 10 this word is used to describe Cornelius’ household. It is your sphere of influence. It includes your relatives and close friends.
What culture does your world live in? Are they cowboys, are they bikers, neighbors or whatever? God placed you in that world and your first step is to pray for them and ask God how to influence them.
My hope is that we, like Paul, will be able to influence people publicly and from house to house. For our culture, a hybrid model that continues in the traditional model along with a network of micro churches is the best way forward. It will be unique to our culture just as yours would be unique to yours.
Spend some time with the Lord and challenge your thinking about what things we are doing are Biblical and what things are cultural. The cultural isn’t wrong unless we elevate them to equal status with the Bible and begin to make the Word of God of no effect because of our traditions.
I have been a pastor for decades and I realize this is not an easy step. If we are used to doing things a certain way, it is hard to change. If you ask God, he will show you what to do and the way forward in your situation.
The future is bright. Are you ready for it? from Jeremiah 33:3, “Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come” (NLT). God must have trusted us to place us in this exciting time in history. We are here on time and on purpose. Embrace the adventure.