These are unprecedented times. Everyone is learning new things about themselves. New ways to work. New, home-friendly hobbies. Even as I write this, I’m sitting with my kids as they play with slime at the kitchen table—not my usual work environment.
Like most people out there, my home life is now my only life. And because of that, my job has gone through a major revamp. But this isn’t that new for my line of work. My industry has actually been under reconstruction for decades. It didn’t start with the Covid-19 pandemic, but it’s certainly being brought to a head because of it.
I work at a church. One of the nearly 45,000 churches in the U.S. What we do is timeless. But how we do it isn’t. How we approach church in the U.S. right now, is not how we will approach it in the future. It’s changing every day, and the Covid-19 pandemic is only bringing to the surface what many of us have been seeing coming for decades now.
This doesn’t mean that the church is bad or irrelevant. It doesn’t mean we need to throw it out. The Church began with Jesus and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s the greatest movement in history, and it’s something to be proud of.
But it also needs periodic refocusing. Periodic re-strategizing. Covid-19 is doing just that. It’s serving to remind us of some major things that will affect the future of how we do Church.
1. Technology isn’t optional
I’ve heard many church leaders talk about social media with a bit of distain. Saying it isn’t real. That it isn’t as important as being at church. That it’s only surface-deep and real ministry can’t happen through it. But suddenly we are seeing the importance and validity in this form of communication more than ever.
The week Covid-19 officially kept congregations home, I got many messages from churches trying to livestream from scratch. Scrambling to climb a steep technology curve in one week. Or in some cases, one day. Many churches who had no social media manager or anyone on staff savvy with new technology was suddenly in the dark and unable to communicate.
The internet is the greatest revolution in communication since the advent of the printing press. We live in the middle of the greatest shift in communications in the last 500 years. But unlike the invention of the printing press, many churches have been slow to use the technology. The world around us has changed vastly, but many churches function as if it hasn’t.
Jesus told us in the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations.” But in the pandemic season we live in, we can’t jump on a plane and physically go to the nations. So what do we do?
Right now according to Google, Facebook has over 2.5 billion accounts. Instagram has nearly 1 billion accounts worldwide. TicTok is the up-and-comer with nearly 500 million active users. The nations are now in our pockets, and we can go to them any time we want. We can’t keep expecting people to come to church, we need to bring the Church to the people. We need to “go” to them. And the people are on social media.
Leaders like Chad Veach or Mike Todd are leading more people on social platforms than they could possibly fit in a church building. TikToc features teenage preaches with millions of followers. That’s right, millions. These are leaders you will never read about. Leaders who are bringing real ministry to real people, in massive numbers.
Covid-19 has taught us that social media is very real. Yes it has real consequences, but it has real benefits too. It can cause lasting life-change in people. And in this season, there is no option but to use it.
2. Ministry is not just reserved for professional pastors
For a long time now, we have separated parents and children in our church services. Created quiet environments for us grown ups to quietly learn from one preacher while our kids are in the other room. This isn’t true of every church, but most of them function this way.
Now, it’s all changed. Parents are not just tasked with getting their kids to church, they are tasked with bringing the church home to their noisy and attention-deficient little congregations. They are tasked with leading and teaching their children spiritually. They are now the pastors in their own home.
The same shift is happening to people without children. Friends, neighbors and coworkers who need Jesus and need real hope right now. And these Christians have now become pastors to their spheres of influence.
And I can’t help but see this as a major step in the right direction. Ministry is not reserved for the professional pastor, it’s something for all of us. Our job as church leaders is to equip people for ministry, not require them to come to us for ministry the rest of their lives. The Church is not built on the educated few, it’s built on the teachings and leadership of Jesus. This means it’s going to get messy. It’s going to involve loud children. It’s going to involve imperfect people.
As church leaders, it isn’t our job to control the church, it’s our job equip the people in it to do ministry themselves.
3. We need to asses local impact
Many of us have heard the challenge that if our local church disappeared, would our neighborhood miss us? Covid-19 is really challenging that question all the more. Without Sunday services and Bible studies, what are we offering people? Are we missed?
This is the season to asses the practical impact of our local churches. Many churches are doing amazing things to meet the needs of the neighborhood around them. But many are not.
We need to asses this now. Are we equipping our congregations to minister practically to their neighbors? If not, how can we change that in this season? How can we keep doing it afterward? If our local church is not missed in the community right now, then let’s make sure it takes a more-central roll in practically impacting our neighbors in the future.
Overall, Covid-19 is teaching us all a lot right now. I’m sure many more lessons are being learned across the country. And in the Church, we need to look at what lessons are coming our way right now so that we can be poised to make a powerful impact on the culture around us.