So, who isn’t tired of hearing about the pandemic, or the “new normal?” I sure am, but here we go with another way to look at this mess.
COVID-19 is an asset for those who allow it to be!
Not to overlook the immense pain it brings, but for some it creates opportunity. Amazon.com, for instance. Or me. I’m able to do far more ministry because of no more endless hours in airports or crowded seats eating rubber chicken.
Some churches are shutting down. Others remain paralyzed, waiting to get back in face-to-face contact. Still, others rack up massive numbers online. It’s not quite “what you make of it.” But how you approach it will determine your future.
Saul of Tarsus was a villain to be despised. Or, he was a catalyst for the most significant missionary effort, ever. The one he kicked off in Acts 8:1, not the later effort kicked off in Acts 13.
Pain, fear and loss of life drove ordinary people out of town and into ministry. They mobilized like nothing seen in the nine years since Acts 1:8. Saul of Tarsus provided a “tipping point” for a church poised to mobilize members for multiplication. They remained poised—frozen in place until persecution drove them to Samaria, Cyprus, Cyrene… and eventually Antioch.
The Larger Culture is Tipping
COVID-19 is a tipping point to companies previously fooling around with work-from-anywhere platforms. In the past, these were mostly reserved for higher echelon workers still suspicious that ordinary people weren’t up to it (sounds like church). Telemed and other such platforms remained fascinating toys until the pandemic tipped doctors into online appointments. My wife and I even “discovered” online grocery delivery, which was available for years.
So what about you? Is the crisis the event to tip you into ruin and perhaps leaving your post? Or, could you see it as an opportunity to topple over into multiplication?
Messy at the Moment
Most congregations successfully negotiating the mess are in a messy state. Some gather in homes. For some, public meetings occur in parking lots and a few in buildings with people sitting too far apart to laugh at jokes or sing well. Mostly those churches which prevail are hybrid online and physical entities. Those with an effective microchurch network prior to the epidemic found it easy to morph to Zoom meetings, etc. Those without that benefit either jumped into action or are suffering. Those who had, or have launched, microchurch networks are primed to move a few microchurches outside the circle of the larger congregation. They will plant as a result of this tragedy. These churches are positioned to move to level 4 or 5 church reproduction/multiplication networks.
It just depends on leadership and whether they choose to tip into darkness or into the light of organized, albeit online, disciplemaking and church multiplication. By “leadership,” I mean you…
Five Levels of Fruitfulness and Opportunity
If Level 1 is a shrinking church, this can be an opportunity to reverse the process through better communication such as phone chains, interactive Zoom services on Sundays and tighter face-to-face groups meeting online.
Level 2 is a plateau where life is often pleasant, but not in a pandemic. It’s time to look for the opportunity to grow and to multiply wherever that is possible. Remember, Samaria was never far from Jerusalem. But, Philip only made the journey after Saul made it expedient.
Some Level 3 addition model churches turn in crushing numbers because they’re good at events and probably had an active online presence before this mess. The challenge here is to overcome that magnet, which makes it so much fun to grow and grow. Turning your organizational and recruitment skills into a network of churches is the task at hand. Remember, Jesus promised to prune us if we’re fruitful. Pretty sure a pandemic is pruning enough to help you reproduce. At least I hope so.
Level 4 church reproduction is in full swing in some smaller. Reproduction seems more natural if you’re smaller because reproducing something large and complicated is, well, complicated. Still doable, and with our world adopting hybrid online/brick-and-mortar operations, it becomes more viable to think your people might be up for something new.
Level5 multiplication is usually a pretty tough call. That’s because it requires a high level of permission-giving. Something that doesn’t come easy—especially if you are trying to give your best and expect others to match your abilities. But with the pressure to go online, many churches find themselves touching people on other continents. Now, if you can just figure out how to organize them into microchurches while discipling the right people to lead…
Pain is an asset if you value it as that. Or, it is a stumbling block if that is how you choose to regard it. It can make you bitter or better. You choose!
I’ve planted three churches and multiplied a lot more. Financial reversals, human failures and natural disasters accompanied each one. But we somehow managed to see God working for good in every situation. When you prune a tree you first get wounded branches. After healing, the tree produces more branches. Finally, there is all that fruit. Since fruitfulness is the core purpose of our efforts, we need to get used to the pruning. And we should anticipate a greater harvest.