Joe Park, CEO at Horizons Stewardship, explores the idea of the post-COVID church being less focused on “Coming to Church” and more focused on “Being the Church” with Tim Stevens, author, speaker, and Executive Pastor, at Willow Creek Community Church.
Watch the conversation.
Highlights from the Interview
While COVID has certainly been disruptive, there may be an unexpected upside for church leaders. Few church leaders didn’t long for the opportunity to reset expectations, renegotiate commitments, and redesign ministry structure. But trying to do that was next to impossible for most. However, the possibility of churches emerging from COVID with less of a focus about coming to church and more of a focus about becoming the church is real—and the perfect opportunity for churches to begin again.
The truth is people were already curious about spiritual things but fewer and fewer people were finding themselves in church pre-COVID. Many faithful church members have realized over the past eight months that their faith has grown even without attending church in the same way they did pre-COVID. So, what is it going to take to get them to come back? However, that may not be the best question.
Tim explains how certain measures were in place pre-COVID to help church leaders determine whether or not their ministry was effective. These measures were largely around numbers of programs and participants.
Participation Is Not Discipleship
The opportunity post-COVID is to engage people in discipleship and spiritual formation beyond the walls of the church building. That doesn’t mean attending church can’t motivate you to be the church, but it does acknowledge that sedentary Christianity was not what Jesus intended when he said, “Follow Me.”
How do we engage and equip them to make a difference in their day to day lives? That will look different than it did before. Forever, church leaders have spent millions to reach thousands. Now, church leaders need to spend thousands to reach millions.
This change will begin first in your thinking and then will reflect in your messaging. If you are wanting to shift the emphasis from coming to church to being the church, then you’ll need to make some adjustments.
Adjust Your Expectations
One place to start is reflecting on what you’re asking people to do. A lot of call to actions embedded in sermons center around getting people to programs that take place on the property. In the future, it needs to focus on helping people take their faith out into the world through how they treat people, where they volunteer, and how they engage with the people around them.
COVID has provided church leaders the ability to start with a blank slate. You will need to decide what your church is going to start doing and stop doing. When you haven’t been doing something for months—or even a year—it’s a lot easier to make changes that might have been considered off-limits before.
In many ways, this is an opportunity for church leaders to see their ministry as a church plant with a strong core group of supporters. The real opportunity is to deeply embed yourself in the needs of your community and be flexible enough to adapt your ministry operations to position yourself for maximum Kingdom impact.