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Are Churches Behaving Like Malls In the Age of Amazon, Just Hoping For People To Shop Again?

As the world slowly re-opens on the other side of COVID, a question for you today.

Are churches behaving like malls in the age of Amazon, just hoping for people to shop again?

The mall and retail industry, which, pre-COVID, already had its share of challenges and decline, is not in denial that whatever normal emerges from this post-pandemic world,  it will not be kind to retailers.

Sometimes it feels to me like mid-pandemic church leaders are behaving like pre-pandemic retailers, banking everything on people returning once things are normal again.

I’m surprised by the number of comments, messages and emails I get from leaders who assure me that people are just waiting to gather again and everything will be fine.

Well, yes. But not so fast. And not so absolute.

First, of course people are anxious to gather in person again. And yes, actual in-person gatherings and human connection are critical to human flourishing and the mission of the church.

But they’re not the only way you can be the church.

If you limit your future ministry to in-person gatherings, or over-focus on in-person gatherings, you’ll overinvest in a method and miss the bigger mission.

If you limit your future ministry to in-person gatherings, or over-focus on in-person gatherings, you'll overinvest in a method and miss the bigger mission. Click To Tweet

Because crisis is an accelerator, it reveals and amplifies the weaknesses that were already there, and also accelerates trends that were emerging anyway.

It’s amazing to me that despite the fact that virtually every thought leader and business leader I’ve read or have personally spoken to believes that the crisis is a disruption, not an interruption, a surprising number of church leaders still think of the current crisis as merely an interruption.

When you consider what’s been set into motion during the pandemic: from working from home, the rush to digital,  a damaged economy, massive unemployment, the re-emergence of regional governance, deeply restricted travel, the instability of entire industries, and, of course, the virus itself,  to think that life is going to simply go back to the way it was is not a wise bet.

Which brings us back to the question of this post: Are churches behaving like malls in the age of Amazon, just hoping for people to shop again?

I hope not, but I fear so.

Instead of seeing the obstacles ahead of the church, maybe it’s time to see the opportunities.

As much as going fully digital was no one’s choice, we’re here now, and you have a digital presence.

The best question to ask in a disruption is “What does this make possible?”

So that we don’t behave like malls in the age of Amazon, here are 5 things the church can leverage right now to move toward a brighter future.

Are churches behaving like malls in the age of Amazon, just hoping for people to shop again? Click To Tweet

1. While In-Person Gatherings Can Do Things Online Can’t, the Reverse Is Also True

There is no substitute for certain things that can only happen in person…and in many ways, no one should be able to out-relationship the local church.

That now includes online.

To pretend that the only valuable relationships happen in person is to resist both everything that’s happened in the last decade and everything that’s going to happen in the future.

Relationships have gone digital, and so has content.

No one should be able to out-relationship the local church. That now includes online. Click To Tweet

And, as this Stanford research shows, people are often more honest online than they are in person.

Why? Well, first, you can be fact-checked online in a way you won’t be in a conversation. If you’re lying, people will google you or your claim and are more likely to call you out.

Second, people may feel safer about admitting their problems via a keyboard than they are in a face to face conversation. It’s harder to look people in the eye and tell them about your addiction or affair than it is to admit it online.

Someone may confess to a struggle on line, which makes (where possible) in-person follow-up conversations in real life even more powerful.

Think about it. You’ve told friends things by text or chat about stuff you don’t have the courage to talk about face to face.

So, paradoxically, the very thing we claim works best in physical gatherings—relationship—perhaps works as well or at times, better, online. Again, I’m not arguing the church shouldn’t gather physically, but to dismiss digital is a mistake.

And  when it comes to content, the church can become far more creative in the experiences and content we share online. From social, to short videos, to interactive services, to showing up every day rather than Sunday, the only limits on how the church can reach out online and do discipleship online are biblical faithfulness and human imagination.

Rebroadcasting what happens in a room for an hour is just the beginning.

It’s like the church has been given a blank canvass to paint on, but we’re afraid to even hold the brush. Or, we just paint the same picture over and over again (something I did when I was seven…but not a good adult strategy).

Paradoxically, the very thing we claim works best in physical gatherings—relationship—perhaps works as well or at times, better, online. Click To Tweet

2. Everyone You Want To Reach Is Online

I have heard from literally hundreds of church leaders who keep asking “What about all the people who aren’t online?”

As much as I love the pastoral heart behind that, it’s the wrong focus.

Yes, please call people who don’t have full internet access, or as things open up reach out to them personally in safe ways.

But—don’t miss this—everyone you want to reach is online. The younger the demographic, the more true that is.

If everyone you want to reach is online, why aren’t you investing more, not less, in online in the future?

If everyone you want to reach is online, why aren't you investing more, not less, in online in the future? Click To Tweet

3. You’ve Already Made Progress You Don’t Want to Erase

Think about where you were in early March 2020.

Now think about where you are today.

And as much as it’s easy to focus on loss, take a moment to focus on what you’ve learned, how you’ve grown and what you’ve gained.

It’s not all loss.

The same conditions that are putting troubled retailers like J. Crew under are the conditions under which companies that were positioned for the future are thriving: Amazon, Netflix, and DoorDash are all growing.

Crisis doesn’t create failure, it accelerates it. Crisis doesn’t create momentum, it accelerates the momentum that was already there.

As hard as it is to admit, this crisis is just revealing what was already there.

Crisis doesn't create failure, it accelerates it. Crisis doesn't create momentum, it accelerates the momentum that was already there. Click To Tweet

Outside of the grace and providence of God, external conditions don’t make or break organizations; leadership does.

My guess is you’ve learned more since March 2020 than perhaps you’ve learned in the last two years combined, about yourself, about reaching people, about your team and about the mission.

Keep building on that. You’re closer to the future than you think.

External conditions don't make or break organizations; leadership makes and breaks organizations. Click To Tweet

4. You Haven’t Truly Innovated Yet

So you’ve made progress, which is awesome.

I don’t want this next point to sound like an insult. It’s not.

But think about it.

In the last 8 weeks, what did you (and I) do? You reacted to something you couldn’t control. You get full marks for that.

But the pivots you’ve made in the last two months aren’t really innovation yet. They’re simply a response to externally-imposed change.

Sure, you’ve done some new things. Everyone has.

But the real innovation curve is just about to get started. When you get some time to reflect, think, respond, pray, imagine and dream, that’s when the real future will open up.

The problem two months into a crisis is that you’ve reacted, but you haven’t really innovated yet. Nobody has.

The problem two months into a crisis is that you've reacted, but you haven't really innovated yet. Nobody has. Click To Tweet

So keep going. The real breakthroughs are ahead of you.

Take all the learning and change you’ve experienced in the last few months and lean into it way harder. Lean into the future much harder.

And when you do, you’ll see and often realize tremendous possibility.

If you’re willing to further rethink your methods, you’ll further advance your mission.

You’ve only really just started.

If you're willing to further rethink your methods, you'll further advance your mission. Click To Tweet

5. It’s Just Not As Binary As You Think

The debate that’s surfacing online about the digital future church is more binary than it needs to be.

It’s not a question of whether church should be physical or digital, or whether digital is just a bandaid to get you back into your building.

The future is both digital and physical.

Retailers were having this debate two decades ago. Most lost. A few won.

If you want an intriguing analysis of the war that’s been going on for decades between retail and e-commerce businesses, the Amazon v. Walmart series on the Business Wars podcast is a fascinating case study.

The discussion and pivoting that shook e-commerce businesses and bricks and mortar business in the late 90s and early 2000s is finally coming to the church decades later.

Interestingly enough, the retailers who have stayed ahead of trends quickly realized that clicks lead to bricks. In other words, the best way to keep their stores growing is to have a killer internet presence.

And, conversely, Amazon is also embracing the ‘clicks lead to bricks’ trend in a fresh way as they open retail locations.

It’s just not binary.

Clicks lead to bricks Click To Tweet

So what does the future look like?

Here’s my guess.

I think in the future there will be more and more digital-only churches who as they grow will foster or open physical expressions.

And the churches that are thriving five years from now will have powerful in-person expressions and meaningful, helpful and robust digital ministry.

Church leaders, don’t make the physical ministry v. digital ministry discussion binary. It’s not.

Church leaders, don't make the physical ministry v. digital ministry discussion binary. It's not. Click To Tweet

Preaching Matters…More Than Ever

art of better preaching

As much as everything’s changed, some things haven’t.

My guess is you’re communicating more than you ever have, and in a variety of formats.

I’ve been communicating in front of crowds and alone to cameras for decades. So has Mark Clark, one of the next generation’s most compelling preachers.

Mark and I put the best of what we know about preaching into our online, on-demand course, The Art of Better Preaching.

Every week, Mark and I preach to thousands of churched and unchurched people, Mark at Village Church in Vancouver BC, and me at Connexus Church north of Toronto. We have very different styles, which means this course is not a preach-just-like-me approach to preaching. And both churches are reaching many unchurched people in a thoroughly post-modern context.

You can customize it to help you preach better messages, and it draws from the rich tradition of different approaches that actually connect with unchurched people. Plus, we share our best secrets on how to craft the best messages we know how to create.

In the course, Mark and I cover:

  • How to Preach to the Unchurched
  • How to Give a Talk Without Using Notes
  • The Why and How of Preaching
  • How to Craft a Killer Bottom Line So People Remember Your Talk Years Later
  • How to Stay Fresh over the Long Haul

And much more.

We’re so excited to help you become the best communicator you can be.

Sunday’s coming. Reach the churches and unchurched without selling your soul.

Click here to learn more and gain instant access to The Art Of Better Preaching!

CRISIS BLOG SERIES AND THE FUTURE CHURCH

I also have a free blog post series on the current global crisis and how the church can respond:

Avoid This Big Mistake: Stepping Back Into the Past When You Step Back Into Your Building

Some Awkward Questions About How to Measure Online Church Attendance (+ 5 Growth Strategies)

Half of All Churches Are Instantly Growing. Here’s Why And Here’s What To Do.

The Top 7 Reasons Everyone Ignores the Online Content You Produce

5 Ways The Current Crisis is Accelerating The Arrival of the Future Church

5 Predictions About the Future Church While Everything’s Unknown

Crisis Leadership, Christian Leadership and the Corona Virus

How to Lead Through Rapid, Unexpected Change

4 Ways To Quickly (and Unintentionally) Stop Your Church Innovation Curve and Miss the Future

8 Ways to Lead in the New Digital Default Church

My Top 7 Rules for Leading a Digital Team

3 Simple Ways To Make Sure You Don’t Break In the Crisis

8 Early Tips for Producing Digital Content During the Current Crisis

Why Motivation Alone Won’t Get Your People (Or You) Through This Crisis

The Three Kinds of Leaders You See In A Crisis

5 Quick Things That Can Make a Long Term Difference During Your First Digital Easter

Hope this helps you and your team lead well in a very challenging season.

What Do You Think?

The next year for many churches will be critical. Because crisis is an accelerator, the decisions you make will have a bigger impact than normal.

What are you sensing?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

 

Are Churches Behaving Like Malls In the Age of Amazon, Just Hoping For People To Shop Again?

49 Comments

  1. Todd Pettibone on May 9, 2020 at 10:47 pm

    As a church plant pastor of a church with 2 services – Pre-Covid19 – totaling about 30 attendees, I’ve had more conversations about the quality of our “online experience”, which is exciting!! The unsustainable challenge we face is, 1) we’ve had more flexibility with our secondary jobs, so we can be more creative and spend more time filming, editing, and doing things differently. I believe the challenge we personally face is, “what principles can we take from our current ministry model and how can we adjust moving forward. As a small church, we can EASILY surprise our attendees with fun “Ding, Door, Dash” moments and maybe that’s how we build relationships with 1st Time guests… We can also continue to be involved with community wide needs based ministries… I also believe the online experience has impacted those who would NEVER have experienced our services before, it’s opened doors for personal conversations, spiritual conversations, and ministry opportunities. God will build His Kingdom! I want to make sure I’m doing my best to be obedient, not to “what’s comfortable”, “what’s trending”, “what’s working for everyone else”, but to “WHAT GOD IS DIRECTING” me to for such a time as this! Carey, having regularly listened to your podcasts, I know that’s your heart as well!!! So appreciate your encouragement to keep pushing the Gospel forward, in ways that are fruitful vs. ways that are mundane.

  2. Greg Schuessler on May 6, 2020 at 11:46 am

    We are looking at how to engage our community outside the walls with a bigger digital footprint. Online will explode as now we are asking “will you be coming back to church when the doors open?” and the answer is scary. 25% are saying maybe not. The other venue we are considering, as we reopen the country, is high-tech coffee shop churches. Gen Y (Millennial’s) and Gen Z’s would gravitate to such a venue (method of Gospel delivery) that serves coffee, has spaces for discipleship, has TV’s in corner with short messages or topical talks with embedded engagement links, charging stations, and more. Volunteers from the church would serve coffee and be able to engage with guest. This is in the early planning stages, but that how the church needs to think. When I read Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger, I hear over and over again that we are in new territory and need to think differently because the missional church must be different to survive. By personal experience, I am a saboteur of such things. I have been doing church the same way since the early 1960, but the paradigm shift is here and pushing on the margins of our current reality.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 7, 2020 at 4:33 am

      Greg this is really fascinating and a deeply helpful comment. Thank you. I think you’re right, the future will be different. Very much so. And experimentation is the key. Also talked to numerous pastors this week who polled their church on whether they are coming back when the doors open. The results were not nearly 100% yes. Everything from “not till it’s safe” to “when there’s a vaccine” etc. I’m also wondering if some will prefer digital. The world as we new it is gone for a long while, if not forever.

  3. Cody Deevers on May 5, 2020 at 3:22 pm

    Interruption: Someone yells “Cannonball” at your pool party while you were in the middle of telling a great story.
    Disruption: Your neighbor drives his car through your fence into your pool during your party.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 6, 2020 at 4:19 am

      Okay that made me laugh. And yeah, the neighbor’s car isn’t in his driveway anymore….

  4. Jen Cowart on May 5, 2020 at 8:23 am

    Although challenging, this is such an exciting time to be the church! Seems paradoxical to hire at this time, but I’m ready to add a Digital Community Pastor to our team. What was an idea in early March feels like a necessity now. Thanks for your thought-provoking words to us Carey.

    • Mark on May 5, 2020 at 9:33 am

      Do you not already have someone for young adults/professionals? Why would you need to hire more staff when you don’t know what your future donations will look like?

      • Carey Nieuwhof on May 6, 2020 at 4:18 am

        Two thoughts Mark. Online ministry is not just young adults or professionals. And not all churches are struggling. Some are growing and thriving.

        • Mark on May 7, 2020 at 8:17 am

          Oh I realize that there are shut-ins who would benefit from online ministry, but they are the ones who typically get the in-person pastoral care. I was think the online ministry for the rest. And I know some churches do have funds.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 6, 2020 at 4:17 am

      Encouraging to hear that Jen!

  5. ROGER on May 4, 2020 at 6:37 pm

    Once again another article telling pastors they are not doing enough. While I can agree with some of the things stated, my goodness, when are we going to allow people to be responsible for their actions. The word is presented, and while we can distribute that word online, it is their responsibility to grab hold of it and allow it to take root and shape them.
    So, yeah, pastors go ahead and add more to your already full schedule. Forget that you have adjusted quickly to become available throughout this pandemic, now you need to maintain and improve it. This is all expected while most of you pastors are working full time jobs as well as pastoring, short staffed, and still trying to figure out when family gets your time.
    Stop putting so much pressure for pastors to adjust to every whim and new fad and encourage them to preach the word how God has called them to do so…..so much more I want to say but its a waste of time on this site.

    THANK YOU TO ALL THE PASTORS THAT ARE DOING THIER VERY BEST. AND DO NOT FEEL PRESSURED TO ADJUST TO A MILLION DOLLAR BUDGETED CHURCH. YOU ARE DOING GREAT, KEEP IT UP.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 5, 2020 at 3:57 am

      Love your heart for the small church. You likely haven’t read many other posts where I share that you don’t need much money to make an impact online or have an online ministry. Traditional ministry is actually far more expensive than online ministry. So you may want to rethink your assumptions.

      • T.J. on May 5, 2020 at 10:19 am

        What? Roger didn’t say anything about financial costs.

        • Carey Nieuwhof on May 5, 2020 at 12:32 pm

          You missed his all caps…

    • Justin Klatt on May 5, 2020 at 10:00 am

      Roger, thank you for the encouragement to keep it up. And I too agree that pastors should not just “do more” that is not good.

      But I do agree with Carey, digital online, face to face church service can be:

      1) cheaper to do then typical church

      2) reach more people all over the globe

      3) and not as taxing as traditional church.

      4) and can foster true discipleship even when compared to “regular” church settings

      Fun facts, my wife and I have a church with 75 people so far, we started 15 months ago. It is face to face church done over our Digital Platform (zoom). We have people from florida, Arizona, California, Illinois and others. All with an actual necessity budget of about $1,000 a month.

      Even one day when we have our dream studio that we record our services in and even if we have 5,000 people on our church we could still have a nessesity budget of under $5,000 a month.

      This is sustainable.

      Also when it comes to time. With the Community Builders we have trained to host each Communuty we have with we will not get burned out.

      A few months ago we were at a pastors conference and hearing about pastors getting burned out (basically all the stuff you said in your comment) but things can be built
      In such a way that you don’t get burned out.

      Please please reach out if you would like to know more or want to talk further with me on any of this. I would love to explain more so that you can free up your schedule more and not get overwhelmed with reaching more and reaching outside your local area.

      Justin@imagine.church

  6. Pastor Chris on May 4, 2020 at 5:08 pm

    We have to be innovative and use the methods available, but this article is overly optimistic and somewhat disconnected I think. Covenant community cannot be properly facilitated online. It’s a nice backup plan and it’s something we should always have available for folks when they’re out of town or for potential visitors and so on. However, it makes church a commodity and that is something church community and covenant can never properly be presented as.

    • Taneisha on May 4, 2020 at 10:03 pm

      I am devoted to the local church and wildly on mission with my church. I also was a part of an online small group for four years where we never met in person and are all around the world, but these ladies are some of my best friends! We fully experience community with each other. I’m not quite sure what you mean by covenant community?

      I never thought I’d experience community like my small group.

      I think what Carey is saying is that it’s a both/and situation.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on May 5, 2020 at 3:59 am

        Taneisha gets it. 🙂

    • Mark on May 5, 2020 at 9:36 am

      If it weren’t for online communities, many people would have no access to people, ethical advice, Bible teaching, Christianity, etc. You don’t realise how many people are unwanted in most organisations, secular and religious.

  7. Geoff Sinibaldo on May 4, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Great stuff as always. nice being with you today at the ELCA Larger Church Conference. Peace and God bless.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 4, 2020 at 7:01 pm

      Thanks Geoff!

      It was a fun day.

  8. Fiona on May 4, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    I love your stuff and maybe we’re different in the UK than the States, but what I am hearing a lot is people becoming tired of online because it revolves around and is all about content. If church is just about content, then yes, online can be as good if not better and reach way more people, but is church just meant to be about content? Should we perhaps be having the conversation about what church is really about and what it is really meant to look like and start there? Online is a fantastic front door but is there a biblical principle that suggests it should be the lounge as well? The reason people go to Amazon not the High Street is convenience. Is anything Jesus asks us to do convenient? Should we be making convenience a principle for discipleship? It’ll get the numbers up but will it produce disciples? I have more questions than I have answers but some simplistic comparisons like Amazon and the High Street aren’t always accurate or helpful… There are lots of people here in the UK who cant wait to get back to the coffee shops and bars even though they could make coffee at home. They’re clearly being drawn out beyond their 4 walls for more than just content…perhaps we church leaders should be asking some other questions? I would love to wrestle with the notion that if online is a great substitute for meeting together, what are we missing from our meeting together? The answer might well be that our physical gatherings don’t look like God’s original plan for them and that’s where we should be innovating……

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 5, 2020 at 3:59 am

      I hear you. Physical is not going away. But look, it’s just not binary.

    • David on May 7, 2020 at 8:30 am

      Fiona, I love that last sentence! Have our past physical weekend meetings been what God really wants?

  9. Tracy on May 4, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    I’m in agreement with much of the use of technology to reach the unchurched. We do need to be ready to engage people in as many ways as God sees fit.

    My question for those doing all digital church…how do you handle communion?

    • Justin Klatt on May 4, 2020 at 3:59 pm

      We do communion once a month, together face to face in our services all week on our digital platform.

      • Tracy on May 4, 2020 at 5:41 pm

        Justin,
        sorry if I’m being dense here….are you physically in one location once a month to do communion? Or, is the Pastor leading communion at one location and others “partake” from whereever they are? Could you clarify how this works for me?

        • Justin Klatt on May 5, 2020 at 9:46 am

          Hello Tracy, it sense at all. I tried to answer fast so i don’t take a bunch of room on Carey’s thread.

          Here is how we do church and communion.

          We planted our church 15 months ago with digital, face-to-face, communities that me all over America, so far. All eight of our services use Zoom, so that church is face-to-face.

          We record our services and worship here in Phoenix Arizona with our studio team/studio community. And then we build discussion points right in the middle of our sermons for communities to discuss the teaching in the morning face-to-face. We call this community discipleship.

          We have trained what we call community builders Who are the hosts of each community, and their job is simply to build community and foster discussion/community discipleship with their community.

          Like the church is an acts, The apostle Paul would send them letters, and they would meet in holes and read his letters, then they would have to pasture each other, disable each other figure things out together as a community.

          In our teaching recordings we build in altar calls and communion times, for the communities to take communion together face to face on zoom.

          Our church is 40 full-time RV years, touring Van Ness, truckers military, also people with diseases and other things that prohibit people from having traditional church community. This format enables people with These types of occupations or lifestyles to have a church community with the same people every week no matter where they are at in the world.

          We have seen people just saved, discipled by the community, baptisms can happen. And yes communion happens.

          There is so much more i could and want to say, but i do not want to take over Carey’s threat. This is his not mine.

          If you would like to talk more please email me and we could set up a time to talk. Justin@imagine.church

  10. Andrwe Miller on May 4, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Really helpful stuff today Carey! Your articles are helping me to be a better shepherd and CEO pastor! Keep doing what you’re doing brother!

    ~Much grace!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 5, 2020 at 4:00 am

      Appreciate the encouraging words Andrew. Thank you!

  11. Mike on May 4, 2020 at 10:08 am

    How does this blog post take into account the Triune nature of God, who is fellowship in his essence, and the incarnation of the Son of God, who bridged the divide between heaven and earth in order to bring us into that fellowship? Do we suppose that digital connections can fulfill what God has so graciously given to us in his Son and the fellowship of the body of Christ? Might there be a reason Jesus did not come to announce the kingdom in the YouTube era?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 5, 2020 at 4:02 am

      Mike I love your heart for theology. I’m pretty sure the Kingdom of God didn’t disappear when YouTube launched. God is very much alive and well and moving. People worried about the printing press, industrialization, TV and radio, and now online. The more things change, the most they stay the same. The mission never changes. The methods do.

      • Mike on May 5, 2020 at 1:20 pm

        Hi Carey- thank you for engaging and starting the conversation. My question is whether our methods should flow from our theology or in response to culture? Do you agree that the “medium is the message” in the sense that Neil Postman articulated in “Entertaining Ourselves to Death”? The implications of that question become somewhat evident in the choice to compare the church to consumer retailers…I’m not sure that’s an apt or even desirable comparison. I do not mean to be disrespectful and I hope my questions do not come across that way. Thank you again.

      • Justin Klatt on May 6, 2020 at 10:18 am

        Amen Carey!

  12. Mark on May 4, 2020 at 9:58 am

    Do you want the people to come inside who you found online? You have to answer this question honestly. What will you do if half of them join? Will you welcome them and make some necessary adjustments or let them come as long as they keep quiet and don’t ask for anything? Or will you say you don’t recognize anyone in the crowd and find somewhere else to go? No one can answer these questions for you. Now before someone mentions the donation aspect, I am aware that younger people do not and cannot donate as much as old people. However, it may be a time to examine the expenses of the operation to run leaner or with less money per member. Younger people though should not cost too much per member as they generally get pastoral care in different ways and from different people. Instead of another building campaign, try another service or rent a facility if needed.

  13. Thomas Sharpe on May 4, 2020 at 9:30 am

    It reminds me on Systems thinker Ed Friendman comment about why some people don’t mature. “People are going to grow up people are going to mature when other people stop adapting to them.” The world is not going to adapt to the church. We are hear to connect the message to the culture of Jesus Christ. We believe God incarnated himself to connect out of love. The church needs to grow up and get beyond itself to connect. It is easy to cling to our patterns and forms for our security and righteousness and judge others who don’t conform to us.

  14. Ryan on May 4, 2020 at 9:21 am

    I truly feel this is such an amazing opportunity for churches to reach out into their communities (safely of course) and do something they’ve never done and reach people that would never come to their church.

    As a church plant, our church has partnered with our local downtown business district to do special events for graduates and kids for Easter. We also help out other business owners as they are trying to clean up and be ready to reopen.

    Like many places, churches in my area have really gotten on board with “drive-in church” and I think they’re great. But I was thinking the other day, “Are we really reaching out if we never leave the parking lot?” Isn’t it the same paradigm as before?

    Just a thought.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 5, 2020 at 4:03 am

      Love your outward focus. Way to go Ryan!

  15. Justin Klatt on May 4, 2020 at 9:20 am

    AMEN CAREY! You are the man and say these things so well!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 4, 2020 at 7:04 pm

      Thanks Justin!

  16. Michael McLendon on May 4, 2020 at 9:16 am

    The internet, on-line church, and technology do not replace a body of believers praising, worshiping, being joyful, and fellowshipping together face to face with fellow believers. Every time I read on these articles I feel like the message is just the opposite. These articles make me feel like that if I were a pastor or staff leader that if we are not tech driven then we are not doing our job. With all respect technology is not the front door to the church. Preaching and demonstrating the word of God are the mission. How well we use technology is not the mission. The measures of merit are not the db level of the drums and praise band, the colored lights illuminating stage that is no different than a secular rock bad stage stage, the number of on line participants, or the declining standards of dress. I have noticed that when many young new pastors take over a church they change the web site and want to be like the secular world. It is as if there is an intent to kick to the curb those church members who do not believe that technology is the front door. Is a division being created, yes. is it healthy for the church, no.

  17. Pastor Didi Gray on May 4, 2020 at 8:47 am

    I was beyond blessed by the read.. thank you for such insight during uncertain times in our Church’s.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 5, 2020 at 4:04 am

      Thanks Pastor Didi.

  18. Leah Eubanks on May 4, 2020 at 8:41 am

    Thanks Carey! I think this is a really important conversation that we need to be having right now. Another trend that I’m seeing, however, is that over the past 2 decades as technology has come into our lives we have actually seen a rise in division. I would say that in some ways technology has lead us to be less able to deal with real-life social, emotional, and spiritual interactions.

    I agree with you that technology is the “front door” of the church and it is here to stay. We need to embrace it as a part of our ministry and discover ways to use it for building up the kingdom of God. Technology is like many things, it can be used for good or evil. Ultimately, I hope that our use of technology now and in the future will help lead people out of anonymity into a place where they are fully known. That’s when the work of church becomes difficult. Loving others despite our flaws and imperfections. Teaching others how to live in community and manage conflict. Online we talk about our values and beliefs, but living them out is a true spiritual discipline.

    • Justin Klatt on May 4, 2020 at 9:19 am

      Hello Leah, the digital does not have to be just the front doors.

      True, deep community can and does happen online. I don’t think in chat boxes, but face to face church and discipleship online, for us has been just as effective as in person.

      Our church for the last 15 months has had Digital face to face communities on a digital platform that we can see and hear each other, discuss the teaching on the spot. Disciple each other, pastor each other, all week long. So far we have 8 of these services 6 days a week with people from all over the globe.

      Anyway all that to see, real deep, crying and laughing type discipleship from across the country.

      I have had people in my church for over a year that I have not met in person yet, but interaction and discipleship and life happen on a regular basis so it feel like we have known each other for years.

      Sorry for talking so much, just want to encourage you to not see the digital as secondary or just a front door.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 5, 2020 at 4:05 am

      Well said Leah. I share your heart. Just scroll through many of the comments on this site. Division is deep. Things we’d never say to each other we say online. But connection that isn’t possible in person is possible online. I love the tone of your comment and heart for God and people. Thank you.

  19. Josh Pennington on May 4, 2020 at 8:22 am

    Carey , once again, is proving to be a prophetic voice to the church without the label. I wonder if we will listen this time?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 5, 2020 at 4:06 am

      Appreciate the encouragement Josh! Thank you for all you’re doing for the Kingdom.

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