We are almost six months into a world changing pandemic, and it’s now clear that many things that are changing will remain changed. So, we have a choice. We can either lament the losses that we’ve encountered, or we can navigate forward, by faith, into a new chapter of our God-given mission. Through the collaborative work of the Send Institute and Christ Together, we have been in coaching conversations with thousands of church leaders over the past months, and the revelations of self-discovery have been both dramatic and encouraging.
The following ten marks characterize the cultural shifts that many of these leaders are moving toward. I thought that you might find these both encouraging and inspiring.
One: Leaders Characterized by a Calming Presence of Faith
Effective spiritual leaders are those who are capable of serenely pointing toward a biblically grounded future in the midst of organizational crisis. When faced with logistical obstacles, leaders will either wallow in fear and frustration, or lead themselves and the church to trust in a sovereign God and the surety of His promises.
Today, more than ever, it’s proving vital for leaders to spend much time sharing realistic, yet optimistic words of hope based on the finality of Christ’s work and His promises to His church. Sure “our normal” may never return, but perhaps “God’s normal” is waiting for a church. The frantic pursuit of excellence has, in many cases, been replaced with a calmer leader who looks beyond weekly statistics to the longer view of what God is doing.
Two: Leaders Shifting from Programmatic to Personal
The myriad of troubling issues facing the church ranging from sickness and death, to grief, to financial woes, to anxiety and depression, demand that leaders now take a highly personalized approach to ministry. Freed from many of the programmatic demands, leaders are now poised to reach out to church members through personal calls or visits in an effort to hear their concerns and find meaningful ways to meet their needs.
Personalized ministry of this sort has always been the bread and butter of healthy, spiritually thriving churches. It both builds trust between church members and their leaders and creates a vibrant culture of care that becomes contagious to those who experience the community of faith for the first time.
Three: Leaders ‘Looking Within’ for Missional Advance
One of the common bottlenecks on mission and movement has historically been the process of equipping leaders. Simply put—we’ve often not done the best job at equipping leaders to maximize their missionary gifts. To further exasperate the problem, many of our structural leadership positions are filled with people who do not value the missionary obligation of the church.
But the COVID-19 scattering has caused missionary leaders to rise to the surface. They are the ones who intuitively are finding ways to advance the mission of the church when the structural programs are no longer possible. Those who actually missionally engage, not simply those who wear a leadership title, are those best positioned to lead the church into its next iteration. Many have been asking for a long time as to where our next teams of church planters come from – the answer will be found within the church.
Four: Leaders Owning a new Urgency for Simple and Reproducible
Whether it be outdoor services or online discussion forums, the need for simple equipping tools has never been greater. In order to equip a scattered/deployed church toward a faithful and contagious walk with Jesus, leaders are developing tools for basic discipleship practices that the average disciple will use in the ordinary rhythms of life. At this point, discipleship naturally shift from curriculum and classroom to relationship and marketplace.
As the pandemic has steamrolled over our unnatural and often ineffective efforts at disciple-making, many leaders are now feeling a spiritual urgency to equip disciples in a simpler and more reproducible manner. By taking advantage of current “deployed-ness” of the body, many missionless ‘small group ministries’ are morphing into ‘missional communities’ or even ‘micro-churches’ as believers engage in a new spirit of sentness. Simplicity and reproducibility become the rails that guide their processes.
Five: Leaders Committed to Mission over Model
The former era of church life gave little margin for creativity or failure. The pressure to keep up was astounding, trapping many churches in models that simply tried to score higher week after week. Overnight that changed. Now that this season of liminality is here, churches have margin to dream and envision different operating norms, models of multiplication, or structure of leadership. Changes that would once have taken years, are uniquely possible in this season.
Early on in this pandemic, I sensed God saying to me, “Speak courage to leaders.” For years I have heard the heart cries of pastors who know a better way, but feel trapped by the inevitability of the ecclesial system. If they lead change, they fear they will be leading alone. But in a few short weeks, God has allowed His church to stop, reflect, and perhaps dream again. And so now, many leaders are courageously choosing ‘mission’ over ‘model’ – and preparing for a future church that becomes pandemic-proof.
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Source: Christianity Today