As part of my role, I meet regularly with leaders from other denominations who are also interested in church health. We talk about the state of the church, trends, new ideas, and what we are learning. It’s always a very helpful conversation.
At our last meeting we talked about what the church might look like coming out of the pandemic. There were some theories shared from ideas we had come across and things we had seen working, but there was a lot of, “I don’t know,” which was quickly followed by, “But it won’t be what it was before the pandemic. It can’t be.” We all agreed on that basic thought.
This got me to thinking. If the church is going to change (and of course it will), what will the church need from me as it moves into the next chapter? When I say “from me,” I don’t mean from me as Director of (whatever all those words are) or guy from HQ. I mean from me, the guy who attends a local church. A guy who is part of a local church body/community/family. I guess I also mean you, the Jesus follower reading this. Here is what I came up with as a sort of get us all thinking list.
As it moves into this next chapter, my church will need me to:
- Pray. A lot. Pray for wisdom for the pastors and leaders who have to figure out how to lead us. Pray for unity in what is a somewhat fractured body at the moment. Pray that my church will be “good news” to the community around it. Pray that we will obediently and joyfully be about our Father’s business so that lives can be changed and disciples can be made.
- Be patient. If I think the church is moving too slow into this next chapter I need to be patient with tired pastors and leaders who need to catch their breath after what has been a long, exhausting grind. If I liked things the way they were, I need to be patient with new ideas and with mistakes that are made. As always, I need to be patient with people who don’t agree with me on everything. I need to be quick to listen and slow to speak, seeking to understand another point of view or opinion so that I can better understand other people. So that I can better love and serve them. Which leads me into the next thought.
- Not win every argument. This has been a divisive time in the life of the church in general. We have let political opinions and COVID disagreements rip us apart. When did it get stuck in our heads that everyone had to agree with us on everything before we could love them? Or that folks who disagreed with us on masks were evil and needed to be chased from the church? I need to remember that my job is not to find people who don’t think like I do and drive them into the ground with my thoughts and opinions. My job is to look for common ground with people so that we can help each other be more like Jesus.
- Participate in fellowship. This is not an argument to stop participating in online services, but it is a reminder that our faith life can’t just be us on a couch Sunday morning watching, any more that it can be only showing up at a building for an hour and facing the same direction as other folks. We are meant to be body together/community together/family together as the church. Whatever happens next, it can’t just be about watching stuff. We need to engage with one another. We need to open our homes and our hearts to those who are part of our church family. We need to meet needs and serve and listen and pray and encourage and …. well there is a long list of “one anothers” that we are called to live out.
- Participate in disciple making. I need to be learning, growing, and seeking out folks who will help me be the person I have been called and created to be, but I also need to be looking to help others grow as well. That can be a small group who wrestle together to understand and apply the truths of Scripture to their everyday lives, but it should also mean that I am looking for others to invest in and to disciple. It for sure means that I am looking for ways to love my neighbour who doesn’t go to church in a way that helps him become interested in discovering Jesus. Again, whatever programs and services and methods the church explores in this new chapter, we need to remember that Jesus told us that we need to be making disciples. All of us.
I don’t know what’s next. None of us really do, but I hope I have helped us start to think about the kind of people and church we need to be as we step into what God has for us next.
Director of Leadership Development and Church Health
Free Methodist Church in Canada