First, congratulations to all the leaders out there. No matter who you are, what you went through last year was a very trying time. Many if not all of the ministry leaders quickly pivoted to online worship, Bible studies, devotions, confirmation and catechism classes, pastoral care and counseling. You shifted to online giving and thought of innovative ways to do ministry. Congratulations. Well done. Thanks be to God! In an industry where things don’t change a lot, you led change in a massive way and most of you did very well. Sure you are tired. Sure you may have been frustrated. Sure you wish this or that could be different. But at this stage of the pandemic, you can say you did very well. Take a minute to let that sink in. Take a breather! Take a vacation!
Now as things transition again, you may wonder how things will sort out. Sure there are issues of people not coming back. But are you really surprised? Many of those who were infrequent attenders have taken the step to be even less frequent. Numbers are down. Ok. Give yourself permission to mourn those changes and hurt for those people. You will sort out how to love them over the coming months as well.
Now, are you giving yourself permission to dream? What if?
What if there was a new habit for you? What if this new habit was instilled into every elder, member and new member? Like what? Well, what if very Christian, by God’s grace, duplicates themselves? What does this mean? (to repeat a famous question)
Years ago I went on a mission trip to the middle east. It was a predominantly Muslim country. Most were not radicalized but they were definitely anti-Christian. There were few public churches and church buildings and instead there were numerous small house churches filled with small numbers of faithful believers. To a person they followed a few habits and norms that they believed were essential to being a person of faith in Jesus. Publicly, Christians did not hide their faith. Then when by God’s grace someone came to faith through their witness, it was that Christian’s responsibility to disciple the new believer. No handing them over to the pastor or the class or someone else. If you were used by God to bring them to Jesus, it was on you.
Think about that. Talk about a huge shift for us in the North American church! If the pandemic was a big change, this would be an even bigger game changer! Right now we turn over disciple making to the pastor, from conversion to confirmation and beyond. We turn over pastor training to the seminary and oversight for the church to the district and synod. Along the way we have (unconsciously?) not just “turned over” but abdicated our personal responsibility to make disciples! Little public faith, fewer faith conversations, prayers or witnessing. Even less mentoring of new believers, even our children. And since we have surrendered our responsibility to others, that has made us less eager to stay close to Christ and grow in our own faith and life. there is little incentive to learn because we don’t have to teach! You know the saying, “the best way to learn is to teach.”
Those who follow statistics are reporting that churches that were getting older and weaker in their life cycle pre-pandemic, are now experiencing and even faster decline post pandemic. There are a lot of small churches in big beautiful buildings that will close their doors. They will sell their property to another group of people who will make a go of it. How sad. We can’t do it but someone else will with our old church building? Ouch! But why?
Perhaps it has something to do with the “turning over” of our personal responsibility to others. After all, did Jesus speak the great commission in Matthew 28 just to the disciples? (I know of some who think so.) Or did Jesus say, “make disciples, by forfeiting your responsibility to the pastor and to the seminary and to the district…and oh, by the way, if you can’t get a pastor or you have to close your church, it’s not your fault.”
I don’t think Jesus said that or meant that. What do you think?
So give yourself permission to dream a little. What do you see for yourself and your ministry? What if every believer was to duplicate themselves? Even the pastor? Who are you bringing to Jesus by His grace, working through the Word of God? Who are you maturing in Christ intentionally through that meeting for coffee or whatever it is that brings you together? Who are you raising up for leadership, for pastoring, for…? With intentionality!?
As long as God gives you life and strength…what if? Let’s talk about it. I’d be honored to walk beside you as you explore this question.
Rev. Scott Gress is believes in Growing People for Ministry by focussing on leadership, discipleship and teamwork. Contact Scott if you are interested in him working with you or your church. A free 30 minutes sample session is available to explore how you might work best together. The Coaching Leader Podcast is also available on iTunes and his YouTube page. You can contact Scott through email firstname.lastname@example.org or his blog page scottgress.com or at 561-542-4472
"Growing People for Ministry" Leadership + Discipleship + Teamwork
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