One for the pastors…

I think today (or maybe tomorrow) would have been the end of the circuit breaker period had it not been extended for another month.  I admit, I was a little slow on the uptake as far as coming up with an alternative for our Sunday services goes.  By this, I mean that we had one Sunday without a service before I got into the pre-recorded video messages that can be found on this website (click on “Resources” at the top of this page). Since then, it has been a journey of expanding capability and engaging creativity.  (I guess being a teen at the time music videos were just gaining popularity has had some impact! J )  Mind you, I don’t have a film crew or a worship band to get it all done.  It’s a one-man-operation that is guided by the Holy Spirit.  In a short space of time, I had to learn how to use film editing software – something that I had not dabbled in previously.  Seems like the years spent as an IT guy have helped in the learning process.  So far, I think the biggest challenge I’ve faced was when I had to stop recording in the office and do it at home.  Not my ideal situation but I have adapted.

When the order came down that churches were prohibited from meeting, I saw how many churches scrambled to get online.  Something didn’t quite sit right in my heart about this new “move”.  And then, either on social media or in some email, I saw a picture, similar to this one, of people sitting in a living room watching a church service being streamed “live”…. and I was disturbed.

Until now, I’ve not been able to articulate what I was sensing, perhaps because, as a pastor, I was doing the same thing!  My perturbation was, I believe, Spirit-prompted. 

So why did the living room picture disturb me?  Because, for years, we (or maybe it’s only I) have been saying that church is not a “spectator sport” but then we’ve insisted on putting up a great show on Sunday, thus increasing “spectatorship quotient” (our propensity to spectate).  This “spectatorship” has been further intensified now, when we get to sit on our comfy couches, literally put up our feet and watch from there.  We even tell our members to worship in the living room as though they were in the sanctuary.

And this is the crux of the matter, could it be that, as pastors (or any of the “fivefold ministry titles” we may accord ourselves) may have succeeded in preventing worship services from stopping but failed in one major part of our mandate?  I am referring to this mandate in Ephesians 4:11-13 .

“And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.”
  • Could it be that, instead of scrambling to get live streaming up, we ought to have been commissioning and releasing the saints for the “body building” ministry?
  • That would mean that, before Covid-19, we should have been equipping the saints to do the work.  Were we?
  • Have we been so focused on numbers at the expense of maturing the saints in Christlikeness?  Our accounts statements will reveal the answer.
  • Instead of depending on a building-centric church, have we just created a technology-centric one?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying we are doing the wrong things or that we had the wrong response to the situation at hand.  Whatever I write here, I write to myself as well. These are things I need to be thinking about.  Imagine if our response to suspension of religious activities, circuit breaker was not to go into livestreaming, but to call a meeting of the mature, equipped saints and say, “OK, brothers and sisters. From next week we won’t be able to meet up for service but don’t fret!  This is what we’ve trained you for!  This is the where the rubber meets the road.  You’re here by commissioned to go do the work of the ministry, build the body of Christ so that they mature to be like them.  And don’t worry, we’ll be working alongside you and you can still contact us if you face challenges.”

I don’t know who I am writing this to.  Perhaps it is to a pastor or church leader who is busy building his own kingdom.  Perhaps it is to a pastor who was busy getting things in place that they didn’t have time to think more broadly.  Or perhaps I am just writing to myself. How should I (or we) respond?

  • If you are a pastor and you are reading this, press on!  Keep advancing God’s kingdom!  Don’t stop! 
  • When things are lifted, don’t fix up whatever organizational apparatus you have dismantled during this season.  Let your assembly of believers by lithe and agile, ready to adapt and change direction quickly.  Don’t worry about being strong because God is the Mighty One, not you! 
  • Train your members. Equip each one.  At the heart of the matter, as far as I can ascertain, there are actually only 4 things every believer needs to learn:
    • How to hear and recognize God speaking to them.
    • How to read the Bible correctly because God speaks through His Word too.
    • How to obey what God says to them.
    • How to love God and love others (including, and especially, their family)

Everything else is really secondary…

Of late, many have been talking about the “new normal” in reference to what life will be like moving forward from now.  It is likely that Covid-19 will be around for some years and, with appropriate measures, live will go on.  What will happen to churches? The only thing I can say for sure is that God will still have a church on the earth.  What it will look, sound, feel and smell like, I don’t know.  But we need to be ready.  Read the book of Revelation and you’ll know that things will get worse before they get better.  Let us be ready and not be caught unprepared again. Selah…

What do you reckon?