Once in a Lifetime

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment. You own it. You better never let go. You only get one shot. Do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.  Lose Yourself by Eminem

Okay, Eminem is not my usual go-to voice on church things, but I can’t get this song out of my mind as we discuss re-opening church buildings in the coming weeks.

I work with 96 congregations.  Some of them have essentially closed in that they didn’t have the capacity to offer online worship or Zoom meetings.  Some pulled off extraordinary worship experiences with breathtaking choral synchonization.  And most did something in between.  But all of our church leaders are exhausted.  We’ve had to wrap our minds around a new way of being the church.

We’ve made technical changes: online worship, online giving, Zoom Bible Studies.

If we believe that those technical changes will (and must) go away after the pandemic is “over” so that we can return to “normal” we are missing a once in a lifetime opportunity in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ.

This is the perfect opportunity for Adaptive Change. Please let’s not waste this opportunity.

From this Fuller Seminary article:

Adaptive challenges happen when we ask people to adopt new beliefs, when we hope people will pursue better values, or when we help people see that the ways that they have been doing things in the past will not work for them. 

We need to read (or re-read) Ron Heifetz.  Here and here are places to start. Also:

  • Look at WHY we’ve done ministry a certain way. Is it about sentimentality first and foremost?  Or is it about making disciples of all nations?  Is church – for us – about personal comfort and good feelings?  Or is it about following Jesus in hopes of bringing in the reign of God?  Does it make sense to continue the way we’ve always done it if fewer and fewer people are spiritually fed?
  • Both/and is a good thing.  Expect the Church to offer both virtual and in-person practices in the future.  We are not going back to one way of worshipping God on Sunday mornings.  Or if we are, we do so at our own peril in terms of cultural obsolescense.
  • What practices have we appreciated during this pandemic and why?  I hear young parents say they love Zoom Church Meetings because they can participate without needing childcare.  I hear older people say they love Zoom Meetings because they don’t have to drive at night.  I hear almost everybody say that they love virtual worship on Sundays because they can participate with multiple services on a given morning while drinking coffee and wearing fluffy slippers.  Let’s build on these things.
  • Let’s try lots of things and see what works.  More than ever, we are serving diverse demographics and reaching out to new people (or at least we say we want to do this) and not everything will work for everyone.
  • In the midst of disconnection and isolation, how have our technical shifts influenced adaptive shifts?  Have we realized – once and for all – that The Church Is Not a Building?  How has the Church not been a building over the last 3 months?  Discuss.
  • Let’s look at the creative ways that Christian Educators and Children/Youth Ministers have been ministering to our youngest people.  Some of what I’ve seen is not only excellent, but it’s more relatable than ever for generations who already use screens for everything.  Again – technical changes spark conversation about adaptive changes for the sake of the Gospel.

I am on the brink of begging you, Church Leaders.  If we don’t use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-think and re-make the way we are the Church, we are fools whose churches deserve to die so that The Resurrected Church can thrive.

We cannot go back to the way we were the Church before March 15th.  Cue Eminem.  Such a good song.

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