Hopefully, we are past the shock and disbelief of the way we now have to hold worship services. We paused and began to think through how we would make the necessary changes to remain spiritually and relationally connected when the battle cry to contain the virus is social distancing. The move to virtual church was a stampede and many websites and streaming services crashed on March 15. Then, we began to think about online giving and plans were made to take that step and other necessary adaptations.
Now we must prepare and plan for the future. Many believe that the real crisis is at least a week or two away. Will we be prepared if it gets worse before it gets better? Leader, what if this is the new “normal” until June, September, or later? What if we must continue worshiping virtually and then when we do re-engage our finances have taken a 30% decrease? Please know that I am an optimist by nature and my prayer is that we will not just survive this crisis but that we will be the church through it and emerge the other side stronger and better equipped!
About ten to twelve years ago my good friend, Dave DeVries, challenged me in his training, The Multiplication Workshop, by asking what would happen if we removed the queen (Sunday Morning Worship) from the regular rhythm of most churches? If you play chess you understand that the queen is the most powerful piece in the game. The queen has the ability to move in all directions but there are also pawns, rooks, bishops, knights, and a king. The Sunday morning worship service (event) is important but the other pieces are important also.
Dave asks church planters to stop and think, “How will you start being the church even before you start public worship services?” Are we only focusing on losing our worship crowd right now? Please let me say that you should be reaching out to them and caring for them. They need shepherds to care for them right now more than ever. Figure out creative ways to stay connected through phone calls, texts, emails, and virtual meetings. Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw people who were harassed, helpless, and without a shepherd.
While we are watching over the flock we should also be focusing on training and equipping our core. What if your core of trained disciple-makers grew during this time? What if instead of three disciple-makers you came out of this crisis with six who are trained and ready to go? What if your 12 became 24 or your 120 became 150? The new “normal” could be a refocusing and a recommitment on the Great Commission of making disciples and not just making more worship attenders. How many disciple-makers could you connect to disciples during this time?
Our goal, when we are able to have services again, is to show our church the one-on-one disciple making that has been occurring during this challenge. Then we hopefully will have 20 new disciple makers ready to disciple the next 20. We are using the Small Circle tool that is a free app on your smart phone and free PDF’s can also be ordered at smallcircle.com. The other good news is that you can go to bmamission.org/activate that offers six hours of free training by the author, Steve McCoy. Just scroll down to the red tab that says discipleship training.
A new study on discipleship states that, “fewer than 5% of churches in the US have a reproducing making culture. This report found a disappointing low percentage of churches with a culture of and strategy for reproducing disciples and disciple makers.” The new normal should be training and equipping husbands to disciple their wives, fathers to disciple their families, and single parents to disciple their children. The next question should then be; who is the one, after your family, that you could disciple during this time?
In Innovating Discipleship, a book worth reading, Will Mancini speaks of having input results, output results, and impact results. He wrote it ten years ago but it sounds like the exact situation we find ourselves in today. He states, “Innovation can easily revolve more around gadgets than changed hearts. It’s easy to talk technology without connecting the dots to better outcomes in people’s lives.” It will be sad indeed if all we came out of this with is more simulcasts, Facebook live, and online giving.
God seems to have slowed us down and given us a wonderful opportunity where we can work “on” the ministry instead of working “in” the ministry. Do you have a process of discipleship in place in your church? Do you have trained disciple makers who are ready to be a Paul to a Timothy? Could you train and equip several to be disciple makers to begin pouring into the lives of young disciples? Maybe this is our opportunity to return the church to the new “normal” of making disciples.
This is a chance to discover new strategies (actually quite old) and take full advantage of this time. It very well could be the greatest window of imaginative opportunity that we will ever have in our lifetime. As we look back at the systems and programs we had before this began what did our impact results look like? Were we seeing changed lives, transformed families, and a real difference in our communities? What needs to change and are we willing to make those changes?