Covid-19 has caused the church to reexamine the way she serves the community of believers. Many pastors have felt the pain in the weeks that followed an extended period of closure due to reduced attendance, offerings, and gathering times. They have been burdened with trying to figure out the right course to chart in uncertain times. Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak with many collogues about what should the church do to rebuild amid a pandemic. Some leaders have suggested closing the doors for good and for them to find another profession. I do not think that is God’s plan for the leadership or the local church. God reminds us that He is the rock, and if we build his church on his Word, we will make it.
Building Block One: Pray not for a return to normalcy, but a return to being a Christ- centered church.
How many times have you heard or said yourself; I wish things would return to normal. It is becoming more apparent that things will not return to normal for some time, and maybe that is a good thing. For too long, the church has operated the same way week after week, with little deviation or room for the Holy Spirit to move. The church is broken, and God is calling her back to centering herself again on him. A time of intentional prayer focuses on what God wants for the church and what He wants for his people. It can be seen as an opportunity not to be lost in the rules and regulations of the local and state governments. While you can not control what is happening in society, you can control what happens in your soul. Leading your people in intentional prayer times will recenter the church back on Christ and prepare the way for the future.
Building Block Two: Go smaller to grow back forward.
Many local churches are running less than half of what they were running before the pandemic. Instead of seeing less, see God. What an opportunity to become an Acts driven church where the church is not about numbers but about meeting together in small groups to share life. Small groups do not have to be an afterthought in expanding ministry but at the forefront of returning the local church to its biblical mandate and roots. Jesus showed that smaller is better when developing a team of ministry leaders to reach people with the gospel effectively. With twelve men, he helped change the world. Now, imagine with the number of people who have returned what would happen if they grew smaller to go deeper to come back larger? What a radical transformation that would take place in them, in the group, and the larger church.
Building Block Three: Return to people and not programs.
The members have become scattered. Some have disconnected from being a part of the church. Programs had once attracted these members to attend, but today, they are seen as a threat to their health if they gather in large masses. The fear of catching Covid-19, and the time-lapse during the closure have lured once faithful people to stay away. Programs are not what people want; they want to feel connected. For months many have been isolated away from family, friends, and routines. The church has an opportunity to fill the void, by reconnecting with the disconnected. Telephone calls, text messages, social media touchpoints, and old fashion snail mail can make people feel that they are a part of something greater than themselves. Without people coming back to church, there will be no need for programs. Connect with people to share Christ’s love, encouragement, and hope for the future.
Building Block Four: Be adaptable in all ways, always.
If you have learned anything over the last six months, it should be to be adaptable. By now, you realize that you can not control what is happening to you, but you can control how you react to the prescribed changes. The rapid amount of change should be seen as an opportunity—and a chance to evaluate everything. Evaluate what are the essentials of worship and what is elevated above worship and discard the latter. Being adaptable is taking away sacred cows and replacing them with God-focused ministry and items that enhance the worshiper’s understanding of their faith by allowing them to grow deeper with God. For too many churches, things have become idols and have taken away from the valid reason people come to church. Use this time to change the old ways of hosting church. Do not be constrained by the past but adapt to the present situation and needs of the church.
Be encouraged, God is still on the throne, and he will work this out for the good of the church if the church is willing to do their part in building the kingdom.
Dr. Desmond Barrett is lead pastor at Summit Church of the Nazarene in Ashland, Kentucky