12 Shifts That Living Churches Should Make In Lockdown And Re-gathering, By Francis Akin John:
1 Timothy 3:15 ”But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth”
It is crystal clear that different churches reacts to the lockdown, due to the pandemic virus, in different ways. Churches and their pastors reactions can be categorized into three groups
a). These are churches that totally closed their buildings since then and no service or fellowship whatsoever. Some employ online services later.
b).These are also churches that struggles with the lockdown a lot and secretly still doing services one way or the other. A number of them were arrested and prosecuted by governments, and
c). These are churches that became creative, went back to small groups fellowship in different places and allows their workers and under leaders to nurture their people
All the same, whichever group your church reactions fell into, you need to adjust to the ‘new normal’ about running and leading a local church for Christ.
Not all churches are ‘living’ churches. Some are dead in dogmatism, traditionalism and institutional schemes. Such churches will largely be unable to respond to the realities of ministry today.
To shift is to move away from traditional, set ways, to change, evolve to new realities, to move away rom old, archaic ways to new, effective and innovative ways that brings results. With the new normal in social distancing, mask and abhorrence for large crowds, local churches need to shift in our ways of doing church, if we hope to be relevant today. We must shift back to our original mandate. We must shift away from those ‘appetizers’ we have added to the simple faith of our Lord Jesus. We must shift away from the institutionalized church to healthy, living local body of believers that is not just a figure but a positive spiritual force in her community, shinning as Light to dispel darkness and dark works of the devil in hearts and lives of people. These shifts must be in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit of God.
3 GROUPS THAT WILL COME BACK TO CHURCH.
As there is pressure to open up churches for fellowship and services again, these are the three types of group of people that will come.
- I’m Running back. This is the group that can’t wait. They have their running shoes on and are ready to sprint. Many would have never left had you not closed the doors. They don’t need or want masks, and some would hug you if you let them. Some in this group are excited about the date the doors will reopen, and some are frustrated that you have not opened already.Let’s estimate that this group comprises about 25% of your congregation.
- I’m Walking back. If the “I’m running back” group carries great zeal, the “I’m walking back” group carries sincere caution. The “I’m walking back” group wants to carefully process what they see and experience before they return to a church building. This is likely the largest group, let’s estimate that this group is about 60%. The overall concept is that this will be the largest of the three groups, regardless of the percentage you estimate.
- I might not come back. Don’t panic about this group. Their delay, even indefinite delay, is not necessarily a bad thing. You may have done such an excellent job with online ministry that they discovered they really like it. That’s good! If you communicate the freedom to attend online as a regular place of worship rather than subtly pressuring someone to come back, they are much more likely to return in time Keep in mind that some may have some degree of compromised health conditions or a combination of age and health issues that suggest they hold back for a season. If you go with the estimates I’m offering as an example; this group might represent about 15%.
To be relevant in this pandemic and post pandemic, churches must SHIFT in these 12 major ways if we are going to be His living churches that will impact and transform our communities for Him.
- Shift from analog to digital: In the last couple of weeks, especially during the lockdown, many churches and church leaders have come online and embrace digital services to reach their people and much more. It will have to continue. Invest more in the digital format and preach the gospel only, not conspiracy theories that breeds controversies. Your technical guys must now be strong part of your ministry workers and well remunerated.
- Shift from large congregations to small clusters: This is crucial during the lockdown and even after. It’s time we embrace the small group settings that make relationship with individuals very vital for the gospel and nurturing and growth in the spiritual life
- Shifts from teaching to equipping: It’s time we start equipping the believers to grow in the Lord and embrace Christ lifestyle. Also to practically demonstrate their faith in the market place of life and take up the responsibility of discipling and growing others for Him.
- Shift from secular to spiritual: The living church is not a secular but spiritual gathering and house of the Lord. The church is not just about the physical building, but a spiritual house which His Spirit dwells as we gather and fellowship together. The church must return to that through prayers, repentance, pure worship and sharing the sound Word of God.
- Shift from gathering to connecting: The living church is not just about gathering together but also connecting with each one for spiritual edification and transformation by the Word and Spirit of the Lord. We must shift to that from the leadership downward.
- Shift from central control to local impact: While the central/ headquarters church coordinates and supervises the operations of the Local church, yet the local church is where the Lord really wants to make mighty impact in people’s lives. So the central church should shift away from the tight control and allow the local church to thrive spiritually, financially, materially, administratively, and allow her to offer her own services to the locality as lead by God’s Spirit. Giving semi-autonomy to the local church and her leaders.
- Shift from global to local: It’s time to shift from global outreach to localized impact. Every local church must seek to make major impact and positive contribution to her immediate community, which is her ministry area. Yes, her vision-eyes must be in the world, yet, her feet must be firm in her locality!
- Shift from over- spending to generosity:It’s time to stop overspending on non-essentials and focus on the major in ministry. White elephant projects that has no immediate impact and contribution to people’s lives should be done away with and embrace care, nurture and empathy with the people, especially the downtrodden and needy.
- Shift from complexity to simplicity: We just have to shift away from making ministry things complex, but embracing simple gospel and discipleship. This is the heart of ministry work. We must do away with all the packaging, branding and come down to preaching the simple gospel of repentance and discipling people for Jesus.
- Shift from counting multitudes to impactful engagement: It’s time to do away with the mindset of numbers, crowds and large gatherings, but embrace the new normal of impactful engagements with individuals. See the one person to reach, get converted, discipled and equip to live for Christ and carry out His gospel truth anywhere he is found.
- Shift from offering emphasis to Spirit-inspired giving: Surely, it’s time to de-emphasize our undue emphasis on offerings and tithes, but to shift to Spirit- inspired giving in the church or fellowships of the saints. It’s time to teach money in a wholistic, biblical ways and let the people chose to give as led by God’s Spirit.
- Shift from normal gathering to His Supernatural presence and power: The living church is not just a normal gathering of people, but a supernatural gathering of called out saints of God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. Therefore, the church must shift to that supernatural mode. The presence and power of the Holy Spirit must be made manifest in every meeting to change, transform and perform spectacular miraculous works that Only Him can do among and amidst His people as they gather unto Him.
The pastors, leaders, bishops, apostles and ministers must lead the way first. If these changes doesn’t happen in us first, we can’t see it happening inside our churches. No local or headquarter church has the power to adjust to these new normals without the active inspiration, challenge and direction of her leaders. Therefore, church leaders must lead the way as the government prepares to start opening the doors of the churches for in-person services. The shift must happen in us now before that happens, else, we will revert back to our old ways, which will largely make our churches irrelevant in our communities.
.. Francis Akin John is a gospel minister.