Which Churches Will Make It?

bible

There will be no lack of thoughts, informed and/or uninformed opinions, and posts that seek to answering of that question.

This morning, as I was returning from my four-mile walk, I again had the opportunity to talk to my British “ministerial” friend, Andrew.  He was on the other side of the main boulevard, waived, then crossed the street to where I was walking . . . .

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winston

I haven’t been out walking in recent weeks with Winston (his dog) because . . . . 

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(I looked down at Winston, and a obvious large patch had been shaved and the stitches ran about 12-18inches)
Oh — wow — those are some big stitches — what happened!

Yes, he went through an operation and was barred from walking for several weeks until today.  Nothing life-threatening.  He gets the stitches removed today!

Well, that’s good!
How are things going at the church?

[Hesitating] Good —  The Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are upon us, and trying to figure out what that means during COVID is difficult.

The churches that figure out how to navigate these final months will be the advantaged!

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Andrew is a protestant minister. I well imagine that many of us would not consider his church within the definition of “Bible-believing.” Nevertheless, throughout our conversation, it was evident that he was focusing on ministry ideas during these final two months of 2020, during these nationally celebrated “holy days” throughout America.

We talked about some unique and interested ideas for making the Thanksgiving & Christmas season meaningful during Covid-19.  As he was leaving . . . .

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By the way, I’m stealing that idea.

It’s yours.
Enjoyed the interaction.
Hope all goes well with Winston.

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speeding boatChurches realize that 2020 has taken a real toll on attendance.  Most believe that there will be an end to this COVID-19 crisis, but will the wake of COVID-19 produce some long-lasting or irreversible damage? Some All church leaders are praying that the impact does not permanently bleed over into 2021.

Which churches will be advantaged?  We talked about some unique and workable ideas, but it is not the ideas we talked about [1], but a mentality that flowed through the conversation that will advantage a church.

#1 — Self-Motivated:  Isn’t it somewhat of a surprise (at least to me) that there are churches and pastors who we (as baptist) might well marginalize, but are thinking about — “How do we do Thanksgiving and Christmas as we finish off the final months of 2020?”  There isn’t anyone pushing Andrew.  He is self-motivated.

I have often repeated these words in different contexts in order to cast and recast the vision of what we were doing in respect to this-or-that ministry (a VBS example). . . . .

Churches all over the Trenton area will be promoting and conducting a VBS ministry throughout the summer. Ours will again be the two full weeks after July 4.  It is a lot of work — 6:30-8:30 every evening, Monday thru Friday.  Approximately 400+ children will be attending night after night.  Then on Friday we invite all the families to a cookout with their children during the two hours before VBS begins.

At the end of those two weeks, we will all leave exhausted.  In fact, after those two weeks our Sunday attendance will probably be the lowest of the summer because many will plan their family vacation!

Now imagine with me — driving by the local Jehovah Witnesses’ “Kingdom Hall” during this VBS season. As you drive by, you see 100’s of children attending their VBS program. Cars, parents, kids, leaders, pulling in and out of their parking lot. What are your thoughts?

Those children will be taught out of a Bible translated by their organization, designed to mislead people about the person of Christ. The Jehovah Witnesses will teach a false Gospel of works. Children — not just the children who may attend that ministry — but 100’s of children who have little to no church background will attend and listen to a false Gospel!

As you drive by — how are you feeling? What are you thinking?
Now listen — we have the opportunity to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the truths of the Bible to 100’s of children! We may be the only source of Bible teaching some of those children and their family members hear this year — this summer. If not us, who?

The same reality is present this Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  If not us, who?  The world is going to do something during these final months of the year — during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  Either it is the world, or we can provide an alternative.  If we are not ministering to our people, someone else will.  If we are not reaching out to the community, someone else will be.

The advantage will go to those who are self-motivated.  Without an aggressive mentality that thinks through options, midst COVID, little or nothing will happen.  Not only will the season pass, but so will the potential advantage in this 2020 moment.  I don’t know if this-or-that idea will work out for Andrew.  But I do know that the answer is not “do little-to-nothing,” or “do nothing!”

When I stand before our Lord, I may hear . . . .

That was a lousy idea. 
There were some really better options and ways to minister.

What I do not want to hear is . . . . .

You never even tried! 
Why didn’t you do something with what you had!

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And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:
For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.
And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:
Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?
And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
(And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
Luk 19:20-26
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#2 — Creativity Born Of Drive: As stated before, drive and creativity are “buddy-buddy.”

Drive & Creativity:  In the equation, neither one can be “zero,” or there will be no effective ministry during difficult times.

  • If drive is zero, brainstorming comes to a halt. There is no desire to come up with possible options. Without drive, the various options all speak of . . . .
    • too little money
    • too much energy
    • too much planning
    • too little resources
    • not enough time
    • too few calendar days
    • to few people
    • etc.

There will always be a reason an excuse “not to.”

  • If creativity of thought is zero, the result is a “mistaken perceived inability.” Without creativity, the drive ends because there seems to be no good way to reach the goal. If creativity is in the lower numbers, creative ideas are hackneyed and/or feeble. Rather than bringing in others who are highly effective in thinking outside the box, the goal slowly slips away.

The advantage goes to those who are driven to come up with creative options.  The lepers of II Kings 7:3-5 put many a ministry leader and/or pastor to shame.  A wild option? — Go the camp of the Syrians!  When driven, creativity never stops thinking about the options.

And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?
If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.
And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the Syrians: and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria, behold, there was no man there.

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#3 — Understanding Connectivity: “Lost Connectivity” may be the greatest cause of the ministry damage of COVID-19– a lost of fellowship and/or pastoral concern!  Fellowship is part of what makes a church a church.  Preaching relies on the belief that the pastor truly cares about those who listen.  There is little influence by those who show little concern and connectivity!

May I suggest that if you do not have preaching and fellowship – – you do not have a church as the Lord designed the local church.

When Little-To-No Preaching, It Is Not A Church:  That is why you merely have a social club if the Word of God is not central on the Lord’s Day.  That is why a worship service, marked by more entertainment components than by the exposition of God’s Word, is a consumer event.

When Little-To-No Fellowship, It Is Not A Church: That is why “streaming church services” on the Lord’s Day, as a long-range approach to ministry, is unacceptable.  That reality has become obvious and clear to us during the COVID crisis in America.  That is why merely listening to various church services online (even before the COVID crisis showed us that) is not “church.” [2]

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As Andrew and I talked, the various suggestions revolved around getting people connected again — member to member AND with Andrew their pastor.  It was a connectivity idea which caused Andrew to close saying . . . .

By the way, I’m stealing that idea!

It resonated because he knew the loss of connectivity was the damage maker.  It resonated because he saw the need for and the road to creatively promoting connectivity!  He knew that the idea had the potential of connecting people during this COVID crisis.  At least it was worth a try!  Now, it was about thinking through the logistics — about making it work!

The advantage will accrue to those who rightly identify the damage-maker.   If you misjudge where the damage is coming from, you will only come up with solutions that never address the real problem.  The creative options will address the wrong problems!

The advantage goes to those who understand the nature of the challenge and then can turn squarely into the wake.

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1. I am not disregarding the importance of ideas.  The ideas do matter to the degree that they are doable ( we can pull that off with our resources), meaningful (address the problems which are accompanying the crisis of COVID), and innovative ( are more than a rehash of the same old same old).

2. Link to previous post on what makes a church a church

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