Jeff Christopherson on Relaunching Church: How to Seize This Moment for Your Church’s Future

Image: Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

Jeff Christopherson is a church planter, pastor, author and Missiologist at the Send Institute – an interdenominational church planting and evangelism think tank.

Each life is shaped by a series of defining moments. Sometimes, these crucial episodes are a single, unpredicted hour within our lives. Sometimes, they are seasons.

It is true that every day of our lives matters, but they do not all have equal weight in shaping the person we will be in the future. For good or ill, our lives are marked by a handful of significant moments.

The same holds true for churches. Each church is defined by key events or periods of time that have uniquely impacted the shaping of the values, beliefs, and practices that it now embodies. The church that you lead has been deeply imprinted by a few defining moments of the past – many of which have little to do with the present, and nothing to do with the future.

But it is an exceedingly rare occasion when both people and institutions all face the same defining moment together. A moment like that calls for a courageous church leadership to become ruthlessly honest about its current state, equally frank about the conditions of the mission field, and then audacious enough to ask the most candid question of all: “How should this shared moment prepare us to become Jesus’ church for the present-future?”

Since we know that this is a defining moment, and we know that this moment is changing both us and the churches that we lead, let me ask a more approachable question: “What do we want to take into the future from the present crisis?”

We at the Send Institute, with our colleagues at Christ Together, have been leading coaching cohorts with over 1,500 churches of numerous denominations across North America, and additionally, dozens of global networks, in order to assist pastors and network leaders in navigating the present crisis into future Kingdom opportunities. Our rubric that underpins the discussion are four strategic stages in navigating a cultural crisis: stabilize, normalize, mobilize, and finally, futurize.

1. Stabilize. This first phase of the COVID-19 crisis was marked by the frenzied, and often frenetic, activity which dominated all available energies in instantaneously creating a new reality on a dime.

For most, this was the process of virtualizing things always thought to be physical. Facebook Live, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Push-Pay – things considered by many as periphery – now occupied most every church leader’s attention. Best efforts were given—sometimes awkward, clunky efforts—in order to bring some kind of stability to a congregation that could no longer congregate.

Things once considered secondary to the Sunday headcount suddenly became primary: missional communities, missional impact within neighborhoods, missional training. The stabilizing season is coming to an end for most churches.

2. Normalize. Once some semblance of stability has been achieved, we naturally enter into the phase that most churches find themselves in right now – normalizing our new reality. Easter is over, high-speed upgrades are tweaked and working, we are semi-comfortable with our tech. So now what?

Many have noticed that the gospel upside to the cataclysmic collapse of our ecclesial praxis is that the basket containing or extinguishing the Light has been crushed—and Light is leaking everywhere.

What day in history has had more ears tuned to the gospel message than this Easter Sunday as it was livestreamed into the living rooms of both the spiritually curious and devout alike? When have neighborhoods had more Christ-followers from various tribes joining forces in prayer-walking, needs-meeting, and gospel sowing than these past weeks? When have more disciples been driven to their knees on behalf of the spiritual and physical condition of others?

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Source: Christianity Today