In the movie Jumanji (the first one), on every roll of the dice something strange or catastrophic happened. Some of us feel the same way about 2020. Truly, we are living in difficult, troubling and trying times.
Nothing has prepared us for COVID-19.
There are no books written on how to do church during a pandemic. It has changed everything. The political and cultural unrest has just added to the uncertainty of the times we are experiencing. Also, almost every day we hear of a new crisis. Our world is being rocked physically, morally, politically and culturally. Most are wondering, “When will this all end?”
We are struggling with how to do church, much less how to continue or even start revitalization during this time. To be honest, this is a good question. Many are just trying to survive in their minds and turning a church around may be out of the question.
In the midst of all that is going on, we need to remember some important things:
- Jesus loves the church. He promised the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (I suppose that even means COVID-19). We find in the book of Revelation that Jesus walks in the midst of the candlesticks (churches) and holds the stars (pastors) in his hand.
- God is the sovereign Lord of all. He knows all, sees all, understands all and has all power. No doubt this time has caught us off guard, but it didn’t come as a surprise to God. He’s got this!
- We need to remember that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Times may change, but he doesn’t. We can still trust him and walk in faith.
Troublesome times have always been a part of church history. The first century was a very difficult time. Israel was under the thumb of the Roman Empire and the brutality and paganism that was a part of it. The Jewish religious leaders were vehemently opposed to the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus Christ. We know the rest of the story. But, in this climate, the early church was born. The church was birthed in troublesome times. When you look at history, even in the terrible times, the church endured and flourished.
The question still remains, can a church revitalize in light of COVID-19 and the political culture of today? The bigger question is how can this be accomplished? Will the “3-Legged Stool” of the SBTC Revitalization remain or do we need another process? The answer is YES, churches can and should revitalize today! We don’t need another process and I’m convinced the “3-Legged Stool” of preaching, evangelism and discipleship will work, even today. Honestly, it worked in the first century and has worked throughout the history of the church; therefore, there is no reason it would not work today.
Let’s examine the three-legged stool in light of COVID-19:
We must be convinced of the validity and the power of Scripture. COVID-19 has shown us that we cannot or even dare not attempt to “do church” apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. We sense the Holy Spirit works primarily in conjunction with the Word; we must place an importance on preaching the Word.
Our people are coming out of COVID-19 spiritually dehydrated and malnourished. They have missed the assembling together. The number of opportunities to study and listen to the Word has in many instances been decreased. The focus of people is everywhere and on everything else. They need a renewed infusion of the Word.
Fear is also a product of COVID-19. People are fearful. Fear is gripping the hearts of many of the people we are in contact with. We know the cure for fear is faith. We are told from Scripture that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Once again, we see the need for preaching.
Preaching has always been important in the revitalization process. Today more than ever we see the need for us to be biblically focused and driven by the preaching of the Word. The truth that people need to be convicted by the Holy Spirit, comforted by the Holy Spirit, filled by the Holy Spirit drives us to the Word.
In times like these, we need to be more intentional about our preaching. The preaching of the Word of God works even more powerfully in troubled times.
We know that no church will turn around without evangelism. We also understand that churches, especially during difficult times, have a tendency to become inwardly focused, and reaching the lost is put on the back burner. Just because we may not be able to go door to door, doesn’t mean we can’t evangelize. COVID-19 has caused such fear that people are forced to admit their own mortality. This makes people more open to the gospel. People are confused, discouraged and disillusioned, needing answers and hope. The gospel is the answer and hope. What an opportunity we have to share the good news.
If COVID-19 did one thing it revealed one of the glaring problems we have had in church life. For so long the church has relied and functioned on the evangelistic work of a few. This is no way biblical or how the first-century church operated. Because of the way things are, we are forced to look to the relationships that have been already developed. Not to say that new relationships are impossible, but forming them will be more difficult. Therefore the circle of opportunity has shrunk even for pastors.
The church in Acts 1 had only 120 people, no building and no resources, and they were persecuted. They didn’t even have John 3:16; the New Testament had not been written yet. Without anything, they changed the world. According to B.H. Carroll, within 28 years of Acts 1, the gospel had gotten out to the entire known world. They really turned the world upside down with the gospel. How was that possible in such difficult times? They had a message, a mandate to get it out, and the means (power of the Holy Spirit). By the way, even in COVID-19, we have the same things. The key is that they, all of them, were witnesses.
In today’s environment, it is going to take all hands on deck to reach the lost. The whole church must be mobilized to live life on mission as witness in their areas of influence. Gone are the days in which we can depend on the efforts of a few. We must all take the mandate to be witnesses personally again. It worked in the New Testament and it will work NOW.
Even though we say discipleship is the third leg of our stool, we can’t separate evangelism and discipleship. Evangelism and discipleship are the DNA of the Great Commission. We must remember that the Great Commission is the mission of the church, no matter the times or circumstances we live in.
During this pandemic, people have become isolated and disconnected. Discipleship has become even more important. The opportunity to disciple from the pulpit is still there with on-line Sunday School, small groups and Bible studies. As we begin to meet back in person, the opportunities will be even greater. To be honest, during COVID-19 we have to work harder to stay connected; we know connection is an important element in discipleship.
Small, intimate settings have become necessary and more desirable during this time. This is not a bad thing. In fact, one-on-one discipleship has always been the most effective way. Once again, like evangelism, we cannot depend on the work of a few. It is going to take the whole body looking for those who need discipling and to connect with them. It cannot be a program, but the culture of the church, as it always should have been. We must become more intentional about it.
COVID-19 identified more problems than it caused. Like so many times, trouble and difficulties have caused us to examine the “what” and the “why” of our ministries. The fires of the trials of difficulties do not break us but make us. We can and should be refined by this pandemic and come out stronger.
The three-legged stool of revitalization will still work in a Jumanji world!