Don’t get me wrong- the coronavirus pandemic is awful. It is awful on so many levels but in this post I want to share 3 observations where I have seen good things recently in the local church. The image above typifies how we might communicate. today. Not face to face but face to screen yet still in community. Church has always been mainly face to face – we now have to think differently. How we communicate today is the basis of how we can authentically live out being church in the future.
- People are becoming more self resourced in learning, worship an prayer. The up-skilling to connect digitally is amazing. We have built an online facebook community from about 13 to 52. A place where genuine prayer requests, support, encouragement and resources are being shared. It has been hard, but with help most who want to, are connected digitally to join online worship.
- New leaders are being raised up. The sudden need for a technically savvy team to enable any ‘church’ to happen after lockdown tended to be the younger age group. Just as we are all made uniquely different- I have seen a technical team come together with different gifts – not there just for their technical capabilities but seeing the emerging of ministries behind the tech – leadership of pastoral work, prayer support, leading online services, managing a tech team and tech strategy, and bible teaching online. My focus now is mentoring and walking alongside these new leaders so the church is resourced in the next generation of church lay leadership.
- Evangelism: I saw a cartoon saying that God didn’t shut every church building He actually opened one in every home. Friends and family are getting a glimpse of worship and teaching in a very non threatening and accessible way. Networks and relationships are being made through facebook and interest groups meaning that we can meet people who are normally at work or with families and whom we never normally see in a church building on a Sunday. These relationships can be expanded and developed further after lockdown is lifted as well as keeping digital connections going.
The question now is how do we organise ourselves as church to reach out and share Jesus with our community to make the most of both the digital and the non digital world once lockdown is over?
Everything we do has to be considered both digitally and non digitally to be relevant to this generation and the next. Questions such as
How much of our budget is spent on digital communications?
How many of our staff are trained in digitally? Is it in our job descriptions?
How might we run half of our events online and half in real life?
Can we continue to livestream worship services after lockdown?
How can we embrace all that is good with online children’s and youth work?
Can parishes get used to the idea that their minister is “present but absent” as they spend half their time ministering through text, online, blogging, witnessing on facebook?
If we go back to the way we were – we have missed a serious and important opportunity in history to reshape church with a new vision for the future. We need to gather (online), we need to pray , and seek the Lord’s direction for people and skills. The aim after lockdown is to be present digitally and none digitally and proclaim who Jesus is for a world that more than ever is seeking meaning and is so badly bruised.
In the meantime we all learn about another 10 digital skills a day adding to how we are enabled – including how to write this blog!
Have mercy Lord. Show us your way.
April 22nd 2020
If you ideas about online church – please leave your comments and explore this in a conversation online so others can share in it.