The following post is authored by Chad Farrand. Chad and his wife, Melody are from Orlando FL. They have three daughters. Haruka, lives in Tokyo, Japan. Kailey and Molly are in Michigan. Chad has been a pastor for over 20 years serving as a youth pastor, discipleship pastor and church planter. He was formerly the Director of Discipleship for the Reformed Church in America and now serves as Classis Executive for the Classis de las Naciones. He is passionate about church multiplication and discipleship. Recently, I was talking with Chad and the conversation turned to how the coronavirus is affecting the Church. I asked him to share his reflections and lessons from Covid-19 with you.
I recently watched an interview with one of my favorite authors, Brene‘ Brown, this week. She was talking about how Covid-19 will forever change this world. It was this phrase, “what did you learn from Covid-19?” that really stuck out with me. It made me wonder, “how will the Church be forever changed? What will we, the Church, learn from Covid-19?” Rather than purely seeing Covid for its destruction, perhaps we can see how it might change the way we think of “Church.”
Lessons from Church History
Before we get into our lessons from Covid, let’s take a moment and look at a few key transitions in Church History that still impact our understanding of our faith and how we think of “church.”
What is the Church?
From the origins of “The Way” into “Christianity,” the Church was a people who lived differently by changing their lives to imitate the life of Jesus. The daily gatherings happened in homes (or caves) primarily. Once Christianity became a religion of the Roman Empire (around 333 AD – Emperor Constantine/Council of Nicea), Christians eventually began to gather in Temples. A simplification impact to what the Church is that remains today is that Church is a place, more than a people.
What is the focus of the gospel?
Another big shift in Church History happened during the Black Plague. Obviously, the prevalent question people were asking was “what happens when I die?” So, the focus of the Gospel was not about life (or living “The Way” of Jesus) but death, or “God sent His Son to save us so that we can go to heaven when we die” to summarize. This continues to be the focus of the Gospel for many, many Christians today.
What do people look for from the Church?
Yet another shift was The Enlightenment. The big lie we began to believe was that if we could just have better information, we would live better lives. The carryover we still experience today in the Church is not only it’s a place we can gather so that we might be good people who go to heaven, but the point is to learn something from a pastor who speaks really well.
Then, the Great Awakening happened, and people like Charles Finney moved Church into the theater. Suddenly, you could merge church with entertainment. Now, Church was a place to go to learn good information and be entertained and if we go often enough, we go to heaven when we die.
Lessons from Covid-19
With that said, let me offer you five lessons we are learning from Covid:
Scattering > Gathering
One benefit we’ve learned from Covid is that “Church” isn’t what happens when we gather, it’s what happens every day as we are sent out in our every day lives. We are the Church, and the people of God must learn to carry out the life of Jesus for the sake of the world around us. Covid made gathering impossible, and suddenly we became free to imagine what we could do if a Sunday service wasn’t the focus of who we are.
Shepherd > Teacher
Another benefit we are learning is that the point of being a pastor isn’t to teach great sermons, but to offer healing to a broken world and equip the saints for works of ministry. I know many pastors who felt useless during lock down because they only knew how to teach, because that was the focus of the modern era. What happens to good teachers when the focus moves to healing the sick and equipping others to be the pastor of their houses and neighborhoods?
Studio > Office
Leonard Sweet recently gave this great image. Once upon a time, pastors had studies. They would hunker down in their rooms surrounded by books to craft wonderful sermons. In the modern era, pastors have office’s because we became pseudo CEO’s that also manage staffs and big budgets (we have to pay for that fancy entertainment each week!). After Covid, pastors are moving into studios. Not just creative studios to produce our messages in video and podcast formats (which are great!), but studios in the vein of the old masters who had apprentice painters around them learning the craft and becoming better artists than their masters. That is the pastors studio of tomorrow!
Hospitality > Programs
Ah, Church programming. The answer to any modern dilemma. Hey, teens don’t have much to do after school (a long time ago that was true), let’s make a program to gather them together, entertain them and (of course) give them good teachings. We made programs for everything and everyone. Covid shut down most programming and they were replaced by the dinner table. Many of us have begun to re-gather in homes before re-gathering in church buildings. Tomorrow’s Church will need to become experts at the lost art of Hospitality. We have to re-learn person-to-person care, friendship and support.
Innovation > Tradition
Perhaps the biggest gift from Covid is that it has forced us to innovate. In my area, we have many new churches that won’t ever meet in buildings. They exist purely online and are reaching people around the Globe. I often ask my pastors the rhetorical question, “Do you think Apostle Paul would use the power of the internet to reach the world?” OBVIOUSLY he would! However, it took a pandemic to force us from gathering in buildings to YouTube channels that offers content 24/7 whenever people may interact with it.
I am certain that there are many more lessons we will learn from Covid, (networks are better than denominations for example…), but I think these are the big five we are learning in my region.
The Discipleship Difference- If you have yet to read through this book, now is the time. The Discipleship Difference lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship. It offers a simple structure that is flexible enough to meet each person wherever they are and help them take their next best step in their relationship with God.
Finding the Flow- Small groups are where it’s at. So if your small groups aren’t making the impact that they should, it time to regroup and invest in your leaders. Finding the Flow is an excellent book to place in the hands of small group leaders. Covering essentials like fostering a safe environment, conflict/resolution, and how to ask questions that invite open response, Finding the Flow could be the key to growing disciples in your small groups. We also highly recommend the Finding the Flow Small Group Leader Training. Covering everything from asking good questions and active listening listening to conflict resolution, this is a ready-to-go kit for Small Group Leader Training. The downloadable leader guide, powerpoint presentation, and participant guides make it easy to adapt training to online meetings as well.