Is there a split in the future church ahead?

Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes.

It’s not your typical (and usually awful) church split about doctrine, polity, personality or the color of the carpet. It’s bigger than that, and for the most part, you won’t even realize it’s happening until you look back a few years from now and see what took place.

If you look a little more carefully right now, you can see that as the post-pandemic world takes shape, there’s an emerging divide between churches that are well-positioned for the future and churches that aren’t.

Essentially, the split is between churches that will be effective in accomplishing their mission and churches that won’t be.

We’ve seen a similar split over the last five decades between churches that drifted from historic Christianity orthodoxy and churches that didn’t. Between churches that embraced change and churches that didn’t. And we saw it in churches that understood the culture and those who were oblivious to it. And pre-pandemic, that split left approximately 15% of churches growing and 85% of churches plateaued or declining.

The coming split is a split between the kinds of churches that will thrive in the future and the kinds of churches that won’t.

The criteria between effective and ineffective churches continue to morph and accelerate as the world re-opens in at least four key areas.

The question, of course, which best describes your church?

Here are four emerging divides that are developing before our eyes.

1. Online-Optional Versus Fully Hybrid

The disruption of 2020 and beyond catapulted every church into the digital age whether its leaders were ready or not.

The pivot to online ministry is not just a technological change, it’s also a philosophical one (or theological perhaps…although for these reasons I’m not sure it’s truly theological).

As the post-pandemic world becomes a greater reality for a growing number of leaders (I understand the pandemic still raging in many areas), many leaders are showing their true hand.

For a lot of pastors, online church lies somewhere between a necessary evil, an unfortunate necessity, or a service they offer that’s an option for people who can’t get there for the “real thing.”

In all likelihood, those church leaders are going to have a difficult future ahead of them.

There’s a smaller group of pastors and leaders, though, who are fully embracing a hybrid church model: deciding to become 100% physical and 100% digital.

They see digital not as an ‘accommodation’, but as both real ministry and an abundant opportunity.

Forward-thinking pastors realize that the best answer to the question “Should ministry be digital or physical?” is “Yes”.

Almost everyone these days lives in the seamless slipstream of digital/physical lives. You order your groceries on your phone and then walk into a coffee shop in person to pick up a cortado.

Similarly, you text your best friend, only to put down your phone and chat with your son in real life in the kitchen who shows you a YouTube video he finds hilarious.

This is life. I’m guessing it’s also your life because, well, you’re reading this online.

If you live a fully hybrid life, and the people you’re trying to reach live hybrid lives, why wouldn’t your church fully embrace a hybrid ministry that seamlessly slips between physical and digital presence?

2. Bringing People Back Versus Moving People Forward

As the new world opens up, many church leaders seem hyper-focused on getting people back to church.

On the one hand, I get it. It’s been a long, exhausting season. And we all long for normal. I do too.

But bringing people back isn’t a vision. Moving people forward is a vision.

It’s hard to move people forward if you’re obsessed with getting them back.

Increasingly, one of the splits that will happen is between church leaders who are focused on recreating, reviving and restoring older approaches to ministry.

Signs this might be happening include thinking

  • If we could just get a few more people to come back, everything would be okay. 
  • I wish we could just see the room full again.
  • We really need to get back to where we were in 2019, and then we can move ahead.

Pastors who focus on moving people forward instead of bringing people back will have a much better future.

3. Churches That Embrace Versus Churches That Judge

Switching gears a little, another emerging line centers on the attitudes church leaders have toward the community they’re trying to reach.

So let’s start here: Judged anyone lately?

Sadly, the answer for most of us (including me) is… yes.

From the guy who cut you off in traffic, to the off-beat person who’s not picking up the social cues you’re sending, to your weed-smoking neighbor… it’s so easy to judge as the culture becomes more and more post-Christian.

And judgment just gets worse from there. It’s the basis of racism, sexism and almost every other ‘ism’ you can think of.

Churches that embrace the people they’re trying to reach will have a much better future than churches that judge them.

Judgment is also fundamentally incompatible with authentic Christian faith.

Jesus said Christians should be known for how deeply we love. Yet for years now, studies have shown that in the eyes of many non-Christians, we’re known for how deeply we judge, not for how deeply we love.

The problem in many cases is not that unchurched people don’t know any Christians. The problem is that they do. And they don’t like us—for good reason.

A Barna study revealed that 62% of lapsed Christians said the #1 quality they look for in a person with whom to discuss faith is ‘non-judgment.’

Only 34% said they know any Christians who possess this quality.

Sigh.

In the evangelical church today (and, yes, despite the reputation, I consider myself an evangelical), the hard edge of ‘truth’ has crushed many. And one of the most frequent expressions of loveless truth is found in judgment.

The presence of judgment almost always guarantees an absence of love.

I try to remember this rule: If I’m judging someone, I’m not loving them. You can’t judge someone and love them at the same time.

Pastors who love the people they’re trying to reach have a much better chance of reaching them than pastors who judge them.

4. Ideologically Driven Versus Gospel-Driven

A final gap is widening between churches that appear to be driven as much by ideology as by the Gospel.

Particularly since the crisis hit in 2020, a growing number of church leaders have used their influence to weigh in on everything from politics, to partisanship, to masks v. no masks, vaccines, supreme court nominees, to tax policies, to immigration.

Tim Keller recently weighed in on his surprise over how partisan, political and ideological the church has grown in the last year (you can listen to my conversation with Tim here or watch on YouTube).  Rick Warren expressed similar concerns and surprise (my conversation with Rick is here in audio form, and you can watch here).

This is actually quite predictable for a culture that’s rapidly moving from Christian to post-Christian. It’s tempting to want to hang onto power, to blame the culture for changing, or to see politics as your salvation.

Leaders feel overwhelmed, and it’s easy to try to ‘conserve’ the little that’s left and rail against the new attitudes that are emerging.

Here’s my sense: the effective pastors in the future will weigh in from time to time on critical social issues that the scripture engages (racial justice, poverty, moral values, etc—all of which were transformed by Jesus and the early church and created a more equal world).

Both Jesus and the first-century church were paradoxically apolitical while being deeply subversive. They were apolitical in the sense that they were deeply nonpartisan (Herod was a tyrant, but Jesus wasn’t part of a group interested in removing him, and his Zealot followers soon found another agenda), yet subversive in that that they turned the world upside down through an ethic of truth and love that made existing politics pale by comparison.

Scroll through any social media feed today and you’ll see some pastors commenting on everything from which party to vote for, to tax policy, to Supreme Court nominees, and more.

In the long term, that’s probably eroding their influence with the unchurched (50% of whom by definition won’t agree with them), even if it shores them up temporarily among some of their tribe who thank them for ‘speaking the truth.’

And while local church leaders do need to engage the dialogue between masks or no masks, how we treat the vaccinated and unvaccinated, and safety protocols, there’s a difference between creating a safe space for people to gather and tilting the dialogue to an ideological rant against everything that’s wrong with whoever you don’t like at the moment.

There are two groups losing badly when things turn partisan and ideological:

the next generation

and, ultimately, the congregation itself.

The culture needs an alternative to itself, not an echo of itself.

Most people (including you, I suspect) are exhausted by the division, tribalization, and anger that characterizes culture today.

It’s pretty clear that the culture is tired of itself too, but it doesn’t quite know how to escape.

That’s the perfect opportunity for the church to simply be the church.

An exhausted culture needs an alternative to itself, not an echo of itself.

Authentic, grace-filled, hope-bearing, truthful people are what our friends and neighbors need.

A generation tired of hate, yet caught in its grip, will only be released from it if there’s a clear alternative.

Imagine, if in the next few years in your church:

Love surged.

Hope got fueled.

You could disagree but not be disagreeable.

You focused on what united people, not on what divided people.

In a divided culture, Christians should be the help and the hope, not the hate.

What Are You Seeing?

So where does this land?

In my view, churches that effectively reach unchurched people in the future will likely be those that:

  • Fully embrace hybrid ministry—digital and in-person forms of ministry.
  • Focus on moving people forward, not getting them ‘back’.
  • Embrace the people they’re trying to reach rather than judge them.
  • Be Gospel-driven rather than ideologically driven or partisan.

Do you see a dividing line emerging between the qualities of churches that will thrive and those that won’t?

Scroll down and leave a (respectful) comment. As always, angry rants and abusive comments will be deleted.  As always, we’re trying to make space here for good people on a common mission who may not see things the same way. So be kind.

What are you seeing?

The Coming Church Split (It’s Not What You Think)

85 Comments

  1. sean getty on June 7, 2021 at 7:51 pm

    Hey guys, I am Sean just getting started. I am looking forward to getting to know some of you.

  2. Mark Brooks on May 27, 2021 at 7:57 am

    Why are we not asking this question, Is digital ministry increasing discipleship or not? We now know that most of the people we think we are engaging with are only on our site for a few seconds before leaving. Few churches have an accurate assessment of the number of online people they are reaching. So, are we arguing for something that isn’t working? I’m not opposed to digital ministry but I do question its long-term effectiveness to make disciples. We are now learning the negative effects of our children’s learning as a result of being forced into digital classrooms. I just think digital ministry is limited as we are presently using it. One more question, are we guilty of being more concerned about attracting a large crowd or making disciples one at a time?

  3. Mark on May 16, 2021 at 10:30 am

    FIRST WORKS
    Matthew 28:19–John 3:1-7–Matthew 16:19–Acts 2:38
    This is the Gospel of salvation Jesus and the Apostles preached.
    Although the majority of the pastors today are preaching Romans 10:9 as the way.
    Why skip past the Gospel which Jesus Himself preached?
    Jesus gave Peter the keys and told him; “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
    Peter [with the other 11 Apostles standing by] preached his first sermon on the day of Pentecost.
    Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be Baptized every one of you in the NAME OF JESUS CHRIST for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
    The Catholic Encyclopedia, II, page 263: “The baptismal formula was changed from the NAME of Jesus Christ to the Words father, son, and holy spirit by the Catholic Church in the second century.”
    They did this to further promote their doctrine/heresy of the trinity.
    Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be Saved.
    Colossians 2:9 For in him dwelleth ALL the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
    Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the First Works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

  4. Munford Alexander on May 15, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    I definitely see the difference between growing, thriving, evangelizing (not just evangelical) churches who are embracing people for the way they really are, not for who the church wants them to be. However, even in some of those growing churches, there exists people who (mis)judge someone, simply for using foul language or speech in a public gathering, especially when another person provoked it. I think this definitely needs to change. After all, none of us are PERFECT and we’ll never ever be PERFECT until we reach heaven. This happened to me PERSONALLY at a local Christian singles event. I won’t elaborate, since this involved a whole group of Christian singles, but just wanted to give an example of how quickly MOST, if not ALL Christians tend to be “QUICK TO JUDGE AND SLOW TO LISTEN.” I’m preaching to myself when I state this. Another thing, I plan to visit a local UMC tomorrow, where I’ve visited before in recent months. This church leadership, including the senior pastor, always makes anyone and everyone who enters their doors, feel really “welcome” and “right at home.” In fact, the very first time I visited there,I sensed God’s love in just about everyone I met that day! This church has been in compliance with all CDC guidelines during the pandemic, and has gradually re-convened in its sanctuary over the past several months. Also, this congregation hosts its own Recovery program, for those who struggle with addictions, OCD, co-dependency, and many other issues. This is a non-judgemental, non-fixing, non-matchmaking, Christ-centered ministry, using the AAs 12 Steps of Recovery.

  5. Jeremy Van Langenberg on May 11, 2021 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks Carey for another reality check about what it takes to ‘seek first his kingdom and righteousness’ and thanks everyone for the stimulating and passionate thoughts of those who take Jesus seriously. I have managed to encourage some of our congregation to ‘READ the gospels’ if we really believe Jesus is CENTRAL to ALL we do. Jeremy

  6. Paul Onder on May 11, 2021 at 4:58 pm

    The rebuilding of the 3rd temple has started, 2 CORINTHIANS 4:16-17
    Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

  7. Gregory Hainsworth on May 11, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    We need to use every tool at our disposal to strengthen the Church and not become a Christian country club.

  8. Lee Elgin on May 11, 2021 at 8:44 am

    I whole heartedly agree with everything here!! The Lord has worked on me for a long time about online worship ( especially in the last year). But, Jesus Christ was about relationships and it is hard to develop relationships at a distance. Online worship is a tool for churches to use to initiate relationships and plant seeds but we must still encourage people to come (back) to church. To community. To relationships!!

    • Dave Freeman on May 11, 2021 at 4:09 pm

      Hi Lee, wouldn’t you agree that deep relationships are usually not built in a church building on Sunday mornings when everyone is sitting in rows? Isn’t what happens between church meetings more important to building relationships than what happens in the meeting? Isn’t onsite worship a great “tool for churches to use to initiate relationships and plant seeds” but coming “back” to a church service does not guarantee the quality of relationships you envision? As you can guess, my responses to those questions is “yes.”

      • Nate on May 13, 2021 at 8:57 am

        There’s countless research that suggests the answer to your third question is likely “no”. Depression and anxiety rates have skyrocketed since the pandemic, despite the myriad of options people have to create and fulfill relationships online. The internet has never been a place to create meaningful relationships. And there are several dozen books that speak of social media’s negative influence on our culture.

        Not to mention, you lose so much by not seeking in-person relationships. In a time where racial reconciliation is so important, how do you do that from behind screens? How do you give a friendly, meaningful smile or embrace to someone in deep need in your church when simply engaging in online worship?

        Online is detached. There’s no guarantee that in-person services will restore every relationship, but I’d wager my salary that you’ll have better odds than online worship.

        • Gregg Doyle on May 13, 2021 at 9:50 am

          This issue is not diachromatic. Both can be done well. I have seen in person done horribly and the church body shrink. Conversely online can suffer from all the well-documented issues you raise. I believe that every leader should understand both well enough to choose when, where and how much. Every workman should have both hammers and screwdrivers. Aguing about which is best only applies to the context of whether you are working with nails or screws. Usually, you are working with both.

    • Matt on May 24, 2021 at 1:54 pm

      This is somewhat generational in nature, isn’t it? I know that for some of us the idea of meaningful online relationships is silly, we just don’t get it. However, for my teenagers they have all sorts of relationships that they maintain online and they would (rightfully) say are very strong relationships. They have friends they met when we lived overseas that they are still close to, they maintain a strong relationship with, and they are exclusively online. Maybe we’re thinking of online church too small (broadcasting Sunday service) and not thinking large enough to the things that they do to have these relationships like FaceTime, gaming together, chat rooms, discussion boards, etc.

  9. AJ MacDonald on May 11, 2021 at 8:30 am

    Hey, great article! It (and commenters) encourages me that I’m definitely not alone in all the thinking I’ve been doing lately about the future of the church. I’m seeing some real potential in your ideas here! I would be grateful if you could expand your thoughts on “Bringing People Back Versus Moving People Forward” a bit for me. The first part of that seems clear, but “moving people forward” felt a bit nebulous. (Perhaps on purpose?) I think a solid example would help illustrate this for me.

    Many thanks!
    AJ

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 12, 2021 at 1:33 pm

      Thanks AJ. For me moving people forward involves doing whatever it takes to advance the mission in this new era. As I’ve written about elsewhere, micro gatherings, on demand access to ministry, online presence and distributed gatherings will probably help advance the mission much more than just ‘let’s get everyone in the same room at 9 a.m.” will. I believe in gathering together, but we also have to innovate.

      • John Price on May 18, 2021 at 7:59 am

        Would you please link to the “elsewhere”? For the first time, this article has caused honesty to happen in my Leadership Team regarding getting back to the “way it used to be” and these online options will be very valuable in our upcoming discussions. I tried to search for it with no success. Thanks!

      • Roberts on May 18, 2021 at 9:35 am

        Our ministry enthusiastically embraced Micro-Gatherings for a season. We had people break up into groups of one. After just a few short hours people said they felt isolated, lonely, detached. Some indicated they believed being in that small of a group alone with their thoughts for that length of time became a negative mentally. We have since revised the strategy and now all groups must have at least 2 people.

  10. Jim Lamborn on May 11, 2021 at 7:32 am

    This is an excellent discussion of the future divide coming in our evangelical community. My question is rooted in a growing interest and belief in liturgical practices (“high church” orthodox protestant churches for example, like Anglican), which is showing growth in the younger generations. These traditions move preaching “off-center” and place the Sunday gathering around the eucharist and “physical presence” (embodied acts of corporate worship) that don’t do “hybrid” well. How would you consider the future split from this perspective (particularly as it relates to hybrid models and liturgical practices)?

    • Mark on May 11, 2021 at 11:35 am

      Liturgical churches have many services which do not offer the Eucharist. There are the Daily Office and Evensong. Some merely say the prayers as part of the canon of the mass without receiving the host and wine. Some churches make the elements available to parishioners on Sunday afternoons.
      Yes, some liturgical churches are growing and I too joined one since that was where I finally understood the faith. Just because the homily (sermon) makes 1 point and is not as long does not mean that less thought it put into it by the clergy.

      • Jim on May 11, 2021 at 12:18 pm

        I didn’t mean to imply there is less thought put into the homily! I was commenting on the centrality of preaching. I am trying to find space to talk about this with my wife, but it is hard if you are coming at it from the outside and a tradition where teaching/preaching is the reason to gather on a Sunday morning. There seems to be a lot more space for ego on the part of the pastor in this environment as well- when your sermon is the “meat” of the gathering, the presence or absence of parishioners can be a direct reflection on your value.

        • Gregg Doyle on May 11, 2021 at 12:28 pm

          That is hard to do in this particular forum. It’s like telling a fireman, not to put out fires. It’s what you go to college and seminary to do. It is your heavenly call in this mortal life. It is a matter of heaven, hell and eternity. Nothing can come close to preaching in importance.

          • Mark on May 11, 2021 at 2:15 pm

            The Bible does a good job of teaching if it is read out loud following the Lectionary (Prophets/Torah, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel) a 12-minute homily can explain and tie together the readings of the day. One point well made people can remember and look at their own lives.



        • Mark on May 11, 2021 at 2:24 pm

          The Eucharist puts the focus on Jesus which is why the altar is unobstructed and the pulpit and lectern are on the sides. Besides, there are numerous prayers and one or more hymns in a service. Sometimes just one sentence of a Psalm is the take home message. Take Psalm 62, the cantor would sing verse 1 “Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation,” simply (Plainchant) then the congregation would sing it, then he or the choir would read/sing the next few verses and the congregation would sing verse 1. Repeat the singing verse 1 every 3-4 verses until finished. Sing verse 1 again at the end. That may take a little time but gives the parishioners one clear message. You could do the same with verse 7 “In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.”

          • James Lamborn on May 11, 2021 at 2:40 pm

            Thanks, Mark! I found a tremendously useful explanation of the Anglican service including all of the symbology associated with the design and layout of Anglican churches, the order of service, involvement of the whole body (standing, kneeling, etc…), the connection to the ancient church, connection to the global church, etc… The centrality of the table and the bread is symbolic of the centrality of Christ in the service, vice the pastor and the sermon. I love this. We (evangelicals) have seen the dangers of placing the focus on preachers, and this seems to be a way to draw the focus back to the body and blood of Christ, the community of Saints, the global church, the Kingdom of God, connection to the ancient church….



          • Fleur on May 11, 2021 at 8:48 pm

            Firstly, this was a great article, raising some excellent points! I too have returned to the Anglican Church since the pandemic. For me, the break from attending my regular Pentecostal church (where I rarely had personal contact with anyone), gave me the opportunity to visit many different denominations online. I became a regular of 4 different churches and denominations for several months, and when it was deemed safe to return to physical church, I had no desire to do so. I have joined a Zoom Anglican church, where a priest conducts the service (no communion), and members of the congregation lead prayers, do the readings, choose the music etc. We have a Bible study mid-week, WhatsApp group to communicate, and care groups. Some of the congregants are elderly, some are housebound for other reasons, some travel, some are overseas, and others just enjoy it, like myself. I have other activities with Christians in person, and groups I participate in physically, but I enjoy my Zoom church!



  11. Janice Ramkissoon on May 11, 2021 at 5:40 am

    Hi Carey,
    This article highlights all that I have been seeing and not know how to express. Thank you very much. I would also add, church leaders and not just pastors. A pastor alone cannot bring about the changes so, if the leaders don’t have the same vision as the pastor the divide is already taking place. Our place of fellowship is currently without a pastor. We now find that your point 3 is where our church leaders are currently at. I do believe this article could help to open their eyes to what they may not be able to currently see. Please pray that they will be receptive to the points you raised. Thank you for sharing!

    • Janice Ramkissoon on May 11, 2021 at 8:28 am

      Sorry, meant to say point 2 in my comment above:

      “2. Bringing People Back Versus Moving People Forward
      As the new world opens up, many church leaders seem hyper-focused on getting people back to church.

      On the one hand, I get it. It’s been a long, exhausting season. And we all long for normal. I do too.

      But bringing people back isn’t a vision. Moving people forward is a vision.

      It’s hard to move people forward if you’re obsessed with getting them back.”

  12. Andy Cornell on May 10, 2021 at 9:21 pm

    There are many pastors who are already doing all that. Some saw the light long before the pandemic. What’s missing is a fifth attribute: a core group of congregants who agree with all that. Too many pastors are alone or have only a tiny handful of motivated belivers. The lukewarm Laodiceans can drag us down. Or worse: division over theology — locally and denominationally. Many congregations need to close and allow the fervant folks to gather. Size won’t matter. Follow the first century: model: genuine community fueled by Holy Spirit-led prayer and vibrant Bible study. A vital element will be unity in orthodoxy.

  13. Gerrit Francis on May 10, 2021 at 8:01 pm

    Unfortunately we as people can become wrapped up in our own influence. I found your 4th point is the one that locally my church area can work on (Admittedly all points need to be addressed). I certainly agree that pushing your influence sounds great to your “echo chamber”. Though often times it can cause the divide between non-Christians and your church to grow even wider. A return to core doctrine and applying it in a meaningful way goes so much further than an opinion piece that would be more suited for a newspaper.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 11, 2021 at 4:43 am

      Thanks Gerrit. And yes, a return to what the church is really all about would help us reach far more people.

  14. S.C. on May 10, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    I have attended church in person for as long as I can remember. Although my church has opened back up. I have not gone back and not because of reasons related to Covid or anything. I just got comfortable being in my home, with my coffee, not waking up to an alarm, and logging on when it is an oppourtune time for me. Ouch! That sounds bad just typing it out. I haven’t met with anyone is my church for fellowship, and I do feel disconnected, but that is on me since I am choosing to be home and attend virtually. I am thinking….What are the benefits of doing church virtually for a healthy adult like me who chooses not to attend because of the conveniences being at home affords me? I know I need to go back, but I just have gotten comfortable at home.

    • Nate on May 10, 2021 at 2:45 pm

      I think this is why I’ve been largely uncomfortable with the high demand for going online.

      When making decisions, one thing I’ve always had to consider is not, “what are my goals and intentions behind this decision?” but rather, “how will people respond to this decision?”

      While it may be cynical, what you confess is probably the reality far more than most pastors care to admit. That’s the response.

      When your buddy asks you to go golfing or fishing on Sunday morning, “ahh, I’ll just watch the service later.” Or if you wake up late, “No need to change my morning routine, I’ll turn on YouTube for the service!”

      Again, that may sound cynical, but I ask: are our efforts building people up to spiritual maturity? Or are they allowing people to be given over to the dangerous spirit of convenience and laziness that we see far too frequently in our society?

      I think if we’re honest with ourselves as we consider the people coming into our doors on Sundays, we’ll see that the response is not healthy. So if you have time to correct and train up others to Godly living as it comes to online church engagement, go for it! Most pastors simply do not have that kind of time.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on May 10, 2021 at 6:18 pm

        I hear you Nate. I think the real option is ‘do you compete with it” (the drift has been happening for decades) or cooperate with it—moving from just a gathering mindset to being equippers, coming alongside people where they are.

        • Nate on May 10, 2021 at 9:55 pm

          I don’t think God’s design for the Church was ever to be for us to simply “equip people” and “come alongside them”. It was to be in community. It was for fellowship. It was for building each other up.

          Ministry wasn’t designed to be done from afar. Go read Paul’s words to several of the churches he wrote to… he spoke very forthright about his desire to see them in person. He spent time among the churches he wrote to. He wanted to be with them more.

          Everything we read in the New Testament about churches reveals that God’s purpose is for us to be together, building up a Godly union among the saints. I don’t think that can be, or should be, done from afar.

          I’m nervous that our efforts to “go online” is seeking to replace what God designed for us.

          • Carey Nieuwhof on May 11, 2021 at 4:42 am

            Nate…thanks. I hear you. I think the key question is that coming alongside people doesn’t have to be as individuals alone on their devices.

            Equipping people who gather outside the church-owned facility is a viable option many pastors could explore. Gatherings could happen in homes, in community spaces, or sometimes over lunch at work. All of that could be powered by online ministry.

            Our model of gathering in a church-owned facility for an hour or two a week is fine but partial. If we restrict it to that we actually miss the power of the New Testament model of church which gathered daily. And there were no church owned facilities until centuries after the Apostle Paul.



          • Nate on May 12, 2021 at 9:22 am

            None of this, mind you, is to say that online engagement is wrong. I think it has tremendous benefit to the local church and to the worldwide Church.

            My nervousness has more to do with the attitude and intent behind these recent efforts. Are we using online ministry to supplement, support, and enhance our outreach, or are we using them as a means to change what God is calling us to?

            While cynical, I would doubt many of the members utilizing online resources, groups, or options are doing so in the way church leadership intend for it to happen. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong. I don’t believe I’m wrong.

            In short, I would caution leaders who want to dive head-first in the “online church” attitude and ask, “am I hindering proper, Biblically-ordained spiritual growth by allowing my members options to not meet physically, in person?

            Am I allowing the pandemic to be an excuse for people to no longer attend church, life groups, and other spiritual growth options in person, even though 99% of those people have no issues doing other things in person?

            Are my well-intentioned efforts allowing Satan to corrupt it with laziness, apathy, and flippancy?

            Sadly, I think the answer to these, with regards to our online efforts is “YES”.



    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 10, 2021 at 6:17 pm

      S.C. Thanks for articulating the reality so clearly and well. Your comment is like a journal entry into hundreds of thousands of people’s lives. This is exactly what people are wrestling with right now. It’s like a mind-read into the missing 20%-40% of people who have not returned to church facilities since COVID.

      I hope a lot of leaders re-read your comment as they consider next steps, not just to get you back into a building but so we can figure out how to better resource you as a follower of Jesus in your community…gathering with others even outside the church facility in mission and ministry.

      You really hit the nail on the head. Thanks S.C. And just remember to keep pushing hard into the Kingdom.

    • Melissa on May 10, 2021 at 9:25 pm

      I think the better question is – why shouldn’t I be going in person? The Bible commands us to “not forsake the assembly with one another”
      But less important reasons would be:
      – the church needs you, specifically to help encourage others, snd to volunteer. Church services require tremendous amount of volunteers. You’re always consuming and never giving then you are a parasitic part of the body.
      – you need to have conversations with other Christian believers that can know your life and hold you accountable
      You need to offer conversation to other Christian believers to help them grow in their faith
      – you can’t meet anybody new (for real) while you’re online
      -you can’t hold the door from mom with three kids
      -You can’t hold the door for a widow in her 90’s
      – you can’t teach a class while you just watch online (obviously you could teach virtually, but you see where I am going)
      -You can’t notice a child who needs a smile
      – For all the reasons we need community as a human we need Christian community, and so much more

      • Nate on May 12, 2021 at 9:35 am

        Extremely well said, Melissa. The Bible mandates Biblical community for the saints. Every Epistle is written with the understanding of Christians living in community with and among one another.

        We were also created for community. When God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, we tend to forget: that was life in the garden. And it was one of, if not the only thing in creation that God finally looked at and saw a flaw in it.

        Our Christian communities cannot survive behind computer screens and smart phones. They can’t because they weren’t intended to be that way. We should proceed with a tremendous amount of caution.

        • Karen on May 12, 2021 at 1:47 pm

          I so heartily agree. Having been a member of a church where folks seem a bit “detached” and more importantly to me, having been a member of a church where we worked hard to get to know each other as people….we played together, which allowed us to have some amazing experiences praying for and with each other! When folks are hurting, whether it is a broken marriage, ill parents, a “wild child”, problems with employment, personal morality or what have you, the odds of you putting that out for meaningful, deeply caring prayer with folks you don’t really know, or folks you only know by some real or ‘pretend’ screen name are slim and none. The joy of being a member of that particular church was caring for each other in such a personal, faith-filled way….but, it came from going to Bible studies together, Couples’ Club, watching the church baseball team, and seeing each other socially. Too many of us fall easily into a compartmented life: our “friends” are not the same as our “church friends”, and we are the poorer for it. Even at this late stage in my life, friends that I made 50 years ago when I joined that church are still friends today – – – and that is profoundly important, because we know enough about the depth of faithful caring each of us embraces, so when a call comes at 2:00 a.m., saying “I need you to pray with me for……..”, we both know the foundation of that request. I love my computer, am on it WAYYYYY to much, but there is no way I can or will ever develop the depth of Christian caring and love for my fellow travelers that I was able to do sitting in the pews of a church, joined in prayer with folks who we’d recently had dinner with, and others with whom we’d recently played a hot game of tennis.

  15. Brenda on May 10, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    Good article. I see further how the split will rise between those who walk in the power of Holy Spirit to fulfill the Commission with signs and wonders and the pharisees and saducees of our day.

    The thought thinking that we are functioning as a church in a communistic country and going underground with full knowledge and understanding is apples and oranges to functioning in the same manner in a country with a constitution and charter of rights that upholds the rule of law of freedoms being removed. So reflective of the anology of the frog scenario either a pre, mid, or post state depending on where one is situated and the level currently operating in your area and church.

    All tools and resources can be embraced to fulfill the great Commission, always recognizing that there was a price that was paid for salvation, therefore there are no safe battles–but there are no safe compromises either!

  16. Derrick Taylopr on May 10, 2021 at 12:34 pm

    I think this article is good. I believe that part of my job as a Pastor is to help people learn how to have passionate disagreements about politics but to do it in a respectful way. It’s ok to disagree with someone politically and still love them. My political views have changed over time, so it is ok to give others time to change theirs. And since mine changed, does that mean I was a person who didn’t deserve respect and love before? The higher conversation of giving people the love that God has given us has to be the foundation. We need to know that perfect Governmental solutions don’t happen until Jesus Christ returns, so until then our focus has to be on making His disciples. Keeping in mind that if God’s perfect laws couldn’t change man’s heart from the outside in, then our man made laws won’t be able to either. But as we actually love people and the Holy Spirit changes hearts from the inside out, then it doesn’t matter what laws are on the books because the laws of the Holy Spirit will be how people live.

    • Paul Onder on May 10, 2021 at 5:22 pm

      I find the relationship of the Holy Spirit, working inside of our lives and the rebuilding of the third temple parallel to what is going on in the inside/outside of church. ( us being the temple of the Holy Spirit). God is on the move and the return of Christ is near.

  17. Bob Wiseman on May 10, 2021 at 12:22 pm

    “Forward-thinking pastors realize that the best answer to the question “Should ministry be digital or physical?” is “Yes”.”

    LOL at the notion that pastors who realize that spending a lot of energy and time (as well as money) on an online presence is possibly a gigantic waste of time aren’t “forward thinking.” What a lousy, manipulative attempt at gaslighting.

    There are a lot of churches–churches who deeply care about their community and their congregation (contrary to what you probably think of them) who pay very little attention to their website, or their social media. Churches who simply put up a camera in the back and do a shoddy livestream for those who may desire to log onto YouTube or Facebook and view it.

    And the suggestion that those churches are somehow failing, are going to fail, or are regressive in their unawakened minds when it comes to technology is not only harmful…

    YOU are the one causing the divide. Think about that, Carey (if you’re able… I’m not convinced you’re capable of thinking beyond your own nose)… by calling them regressive, you’re actually adding fuel to the fire that is a stark division, based nothing out of sheer stupidity by a bunch of attention-seeking dweebs who are overcompensating for their inability to effectively pastor a church.

    Seriously, this whole “if you’re not going online, you’ll fail” mindset is not just old. It’s an anti-biblical way to sow division into the church and suggests that perhaps, you’re rooting for a lot of churches to fail, all to stroke your own ego.

    This is pathetic.

    • David on May 10, 2021 at 1:38 pm

      Name calling and hateful comments have no place in this post. Carey pointed out in the article that Christians judging others can keep non believers from entering a faith relationship. The post by Jim Wiseman should be deleted.

      • Kimberly on May 11, 2021 at 9:05 am

        It’s not necessarily a massive online presence that we should be striving for but it’s about meeting people where they are on their journey. For many churches that would mean providing meaningful online spaces for their members to grow and connect. Because not all members are coming to physical buildings. I just can’t see how any church would not have an online presence and feel comfortable in spreading the gospel without it in 2021.

    • Nate on May 10, 2021 at 1:55 pm

      I think I see where you’re coming from, Bob. In some ways, I’ve grown uncomfortable knowing that the church is abandoning the push for in-person church.

      But there are better, kinder ways of saying what you wish to say.

    • AJ MacDonald on May 11, 2021 at 8:19 am

      Dude, just ask yourself, where’s the love in what you said? Didn’t Jesus say that people would know his followers because of their love? Your words seem so harsh and and judgy. But that’s exactly what people think of churches too. If I go there people will judge me and look down on me, so why bother. Who needs that? Consider that church on YouTube is a safe way for people to see what it’s all about, and whether that church loves and accepts people, or is not that kind of place at all. If you don’t want to do that, then that’s ok. I wonder if you’re under some pressure here and maybe the article touched a nerve. I don’t think the author was calling anyone out about it, he just seems passionate about the future and what he sees in it. Some people are like that. They get excited about ideas and possibilities. Personally, I think the world needs more positive thoughts about the future and we should encourage those who can dream big and see afar.

  18. Antonio Gonçalves do Nascimento on May 10, 2021 at 11:40 am

    Excellent text, wonderful teaching, we are tired of judgments, partisanship, the observation of the I am right, I am right, I have authority, as the church empties like a leaky pool. Something I also realize is that we have the liberal discourse, of love, of come as we are, the more we become the key to judge.

  19. Jen Ervig on May 10, 2021 at 11:33 am

    I am SO thankful for this and in love with my church! http://www.grove.church

  20. Timothy A Harden on May 10, 2021 at 11:14 am

    Hi Carey:
    The square root of discipleship in the pattern of Jesus is: “Love.” It is spelled out in the “Great Commandment,” Matt.22:37-40, and the “Great Co-Mission,” Matt. 28:19-20 We take what we have first received (Grace, forgiveness, and loving adoption) and then we give exactly that to others in the pattern of Jesus. I love your article and fully agree. “All things to all people,” while maintaining fidelity to God and His word is the challenge of our times, but we have both the example and the help of the HELPER when we decide to live for others so others can live in HIM. Thanks for sharing,
    Tim Harden (remember our Life 100.3 days!)

  21. Antonio Gonçalves do Nascimento on May 10, 2021 at 11:12 am

    Excelente o texto, maravilhoso ensino, estamos cansados de julgamentos, partidarismo, a obserção do eu estou certo, tenho razão, tenho autoridade, enquanto a igreja vai esvaziando como piscina furada.
    Algo que também percebo é que temos o discurso liberal, do amor, do venha como estar, mais viramos a chave para julgar.

  22. Tom H on May 10, 2021 at 11:04 am

    Thanks for the article. I always appreciate your insights. I administer a small camp in Eastern North Carolina. We are currently struggling with the issue of serving transgendered children. As a body, we believe that we should welcome all children to our ministry. The challenge comes in policy. We have group living, communal bathhouses… How do we welcome those children when we have so many children of different faith traditions and backgrounds? We serve a relatively rural area and we are already getting negative feedback about having biological boys in girls cabins.

    As I said, Board and Staff alike want to welcome all children to our programs. I think the that challenge becomes how do we be welcoming without affirming a lifestyle that many believe to be non-biblical? How do we deal with those things with the young people we hire to work with the children we serve?

    Historically we were started as a program of a Presbytery in the Presbyterian Church USA. While we were spun off almost 15 years ago, there is still representation on our Board. They have taken a welcoming and affirming stance on this issue. With all due respect, it is much easier to be welcoming and affirming for an hour on Sunday than to be in a communal living situation.

    I think that is the challenge for organizations and for our churches. Do we affirm what we believe to be outside of God’s desire/plan for our lives? I know I will catch grief for this analogy, but isn’t it like finding out that someone at your church is a bank robber? You love and welcome them, but you don’t encourage them to continue to rob banks. “Go and sin no more….

    Jesus left us with commands to love God, love our neighbors and make disciples. Without loving our neighbors, we have no opportunity to make disciples so I know we are called to love and not judge, but are we called to ignore sin? We will likely lose families if we have a welcoming and affirming stance toward LGBTQ people. If we exclude those families, how is that different from excluding transgender people. In both cases, if we believe that their stance is wrong, don’t we want them here to show them God’s love?

    Sorry, processing out loud. This is hard stuff.

    • Nate on May 10, 2021 at 2:31 pm

      I’ve always led with “We do what the Bible says, and if people don’t like it, then we keep doing what the Bible says.”

      The Church was never called to ignore, justify, condone, or be passive toward sin. Much of Paul’s letters involve exhortations to live a life against our sinful nature. There are calls for leaders to confront sin, speak against it, and live holy lives.

      But in the midst of his call to reject sin, Paul never shied away from his call to be kind and compassionate towards one another.

      So be unwavering in your commitment to the Word of God. Don’t affirm falsehoods such as allowing boys to “identify” as girls (and vise versa).

      But be unwavering in your love for one another. You can address this issue while being compassionate, kind, and keeping the child’s dignity at the forefront.

      Don’t let people’s response to your obedience keep you from being obedient.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 10, 2021 at 6:44 pm

      Tom…thanks for processing out loud. You’re welcome here any time. This is exceedingly hard and I’m going to guess parents and others involved at the camp with sense the empathy and compassion you’re approaching this with. That goes a long way.

  23. Jeff Herbert on May 10, 2021 at 9:51 am

    All good advice. But most people don’t seem to want to move forward. I’m all for digital church. Have been before the plague. I’m just concerned because digital might cut into the in person ministry. We do a lot of personal ministry after service that you just can’t do digitally. But we go forward with both because we believe in preach the Kingdom. Blessings Pastor Jeff

    • Lisa on May 10, 2021 at 12:09 pm

      Digital is wonderful for those of us that aren’t able to get out. BUT (yes, there always seems to be a BUT), there are many Bible verses that speak of the fellowship of people. We need to be around others, to compare with, and share our thoughts and ideas of what the Bible is trying to tell us.

      Hebrews 10:25 – Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

      1 John 1:3 – That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

      1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous

      Ephesians 5:30 – For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

      Acts 2:42 – And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

      And one of the most important scriptures is:
      Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on May 10, 2021 at 6:45 pm

        Thanks Lisa! You’re so right…and the point I’ve made in numerous articles (not this one, but many others) is that the meeting doesn’t have to happen in a facility owned by the church.

        I look forward to the day when churches equip people in their homes, their communities and workplaces to be the church and to gather as such, as well as in a building owned by the church. That’s what hybrid ministry is.

    • Bob Wiseman on May 10, 2021 at 12:51 pm

      Digital presence flies in the face of decades worth of sociological and psychological research, as well as Biblical doctrine about social isolation: it’s not good for us.

      There are very few social benefits to social media. Few people describe feeling “less isolated” because they spend more time on the internet. We weren’t made to be alone in our homes watching the preacher on our TV screens or through our phone/tablet.

      Students and co-workers have held, collectively, very negative views regarding programs like Zoom/Microsoft Teams/Google Hangouts. They report missing the “togetherness” of school and the office.

      So why on earth are churches who go against what our God-designed longing for personal, intimate human interaction being praised for their “innovation”? It’s literally the opposite of innovative. It’s regressive.

      The effects of the pandemic were notably clear: kids and adults who isolated themselves felt way, way, way worse when it came to their own mental health. The ONLY group who saw an increase? People who attended church REGULARLY. IN PERSON. That was the only group.

      So why are we pushing so strongly for more digital? We should be pushing for innovation by getting people together (safely) again. Not online. Not putting small groups on Zoom. But in person.

      When the church does things that actively destroy the mental health of it’s church-goers, it’s beyond time to play nice. Let’s call them out, take names, and push them toward repentance. And if they refuse, we cast them off.

      This should be a divisive issue. Because the people trying to continue to jeopardize the mental health of those God has put under their care do nothing to care for them, but only care for their own egos. It’s simple as that.

      • Gregg Doyle on May 11, 2021 at 11:31 am

        I have grown closer to my friends this year than all the last five years of doing church. We spend more time together talking and studying the bible than years of moderated, church small groups. The bible is more real than ever before. Even when I was in a worship band it was all about getting ready for Sunday. I have more friends now than two years ago. I for one do not want to go back. Call me out, call me a heretic, that’s fine by me.

        • Nate on May 12, 2021 at 9:46 am

          By transitioning to online only membership, how are you contributing and giving back to the Christian community you care about?

          Are you serving, or are you merely consuming?

          We’ve all but removed the actual community of Church in the past 15 months. Ask any church leader, especially those of smaller churches, and they’ll tell you that finding invested church members who wish to serve is harder than ever.

          We’ve turned our church-goers into consumers and converted our churches to spiritual convenience stores. “Hey, want a pick-me-up? Join one of our Zoom Life Groups! No commitment!” “Here’s an instagram quote to get you thinking today! God Bless!”

          We’ve lost the push to have actual community… where people have to exist, love, and show grace to one another. That’s easy to do when we sit behind a computer and can fake it for a half-hour. It’s much harder to do when you have to sit 25 feet from that person you dislike, distrust, or have disdain for.

          For all the push for “racial reconciliation”, we decided to, instead, let everyone sit in their favorite recliner to talk about it instead of LIVE it, in person.

          Online church, in many ways, is actually dismantling God’s intent for His Church. And the flippancy of people who simply don’t care to ever return should both scare church leaders and cause us to work harder than ever before.

          Moral of the story: Shut down the laptop and get back into church, Gregg.

  24. 'Debo Onabanjo on May 10, 2021 at 9:42 am

    Hi Carey, thanks for another insightful post. Regarding the issue of “embracing” versus “judging” non-Christians or “Christians on self-imposed Sabbaticals”, perhaps there is need to really identify what it means to “judge”. While many often quote what Jesus teaches in Matthew 7 (mostly out of context by the way), we often miss the point that the very fact of refusing to accept Christian ethics and values by unbelievers is a form of subtle judgement on its own – they choose not to accept biblical teaching. We should always be careful not to ignore the message because of the flaws of the messenger. The Greek word “krino” translated as “judge” means to distinguish or come to a choice. Why should the refusal of Christians to affirm culturally acceptable norms be deemed judgmental? How do we relate to Jesus denouncing the hypocritical approach of the Pharisees and religious elites during His earthly ministry? I believe it is not acceptable to hold non-Christians to values and Christian ethics and values they have chosen not to subscribe to. In the same vein, it is intolerance to vilify those who hold views that do not affirm what society promotes. Believers are called to hold one-another accountable and take care of the log/beam in their own eyes so they can better see the speck in the eyes of others. We are to lovingly call out the speck in the eyes of our brothers and sisters. We should always be careful to extend grace to those with whom we disagree just as we are recipients of God’s grace. Extending grace however does not mean overlooking what is biblically untenable. I have had useful discussions with unbelievers without necessarily agreeing with their position. It is always about mutual respect for everyone we engage with regularly. Thanks!

    • Jamison Horton on May 10, 2021 at 11:12 am

      Often times “Christians” and others judge to make themselves stand and feel higher, versus judging to call people higher. There is a difference and most often we judge to make ourselves feel better. Paul outlines this in Romans 2 where he references Matt 7.

      • 'Debo Onabanjo on May 10, 2021 at 12:26 pm

        Thanks for your response. Paul in Romans 2 called out the Jews for thinking they were better than the Gentiles. Your comments subtly alludes to what psychologists define as “projection”. We should not call out sin in others only to make ourselves feel better (again the beam/log and speck analogy by Jesus when it comes to sin). God is the ultimate judge and He has all the perspective that mortals lack. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to exercise church discipline to ensure a positive witness to those outside the Church (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-13). Peter also wrote that judgment must begin with the family of believers (1 Peter 4:17). The Church needs to clean house before calling others to repentance.

    • Frank D on May 10, 2021 at 12:01 pm

      I was thinking along the same lines when it comes to defining what it means to love versus judging. In my church we’ve long had a non-judgmental attitude that could easily become a culture of not being overly involved in each other’s lives and maintaining a superficial, polite relationship. Real love means not just hugs but correction and rebuke, something we’re really bad at as a church but is necessary if the family is to mature. It wasn’t judging when Jesus called out His disciples on bad behaviour, love was always behind it. Anyway, appreciated Carey’s articles, always thought-provoking.

      • 'Debo Onabanjo on May 10, 2021 at 12:34 pm

        Hi Frank good point. I guess that is why Paul tells us to help one another by dealing decisively with sin in another believer for the collective good – Galatians 6:1. Holding one another accountable to doing what we agreed to do as followers of Jesus is the Christlike thing to do. Jesus always spoke the truth in love and we must follow HIs example. We should love folks enough to tell them about things they need to address – how we do so matters a lot. Not doing so is a worse sin. Paul called out Peter for being hypocritical on the issue of circumcision. Peter did not get mad at Paul. May God give us all a teachable spirit. Blessings!

      • Gertrude on May 10, 2021 at 3:21 pm

        Just want to throw this out there we put in a hole live stream system when ask to do so by our dicey and it was not cheap at all and we are back to church now and guess how many people we have had one the live 1 person this past Sunday I think we need to be in person to get the real meaning of god’s presence it says in the Bible were to or more come together he will be there well when you are at home your with your self so ya I see the divide

  25. steve dixon cates on May 10, 2021 at 9:28 am

    Interesting reading! I am proud of the way my church ( where I have attended since 1945) has handled so many things over the last 40 years as manifold changes have occurred. The care given our congregants during the pandemic has been especially perfecto and now, as we carefully begin to reopen and yet continue the excellent online live streaming, I don’t see how our leaders, both hired staff and volunteers, could be doing any better. (I do refuse the label, “evangelical”, now, however, as it has become a term associated with so much that is WRONG pr associated with “christians” today. It’s no wonder that the fastest-growing faith group in the U.S. is “none”!!)

  26. Brian on May 10, 2021 at 9:28 am

    So I have a question. My wife and I are millenial pastors. We were livestreaming long before covid. We’re back meeting and streaming and our attendance in person is about 80% of where it was pre-pandemic. Our online attendance seems to be larger. Our finances are up. We can do this forever, but my concern is this:

    Discipleship. There is something about having to take the time out of your week to come to church that is an act of worship. I’m admittedly charismatic, but there is something about a corporate annointing and taking the time to come worship…not just put on a service in the background while you do something else.

    My concern is are we going to be a mile wide and an inch deep. And yes I’ve read “Deep and Wide” by Andy Stanley and loved it. I think I”m just looking to lead Christians who are all in and not looking to add Jesus to one of their many gods.

    I have no problem for the seeker who is the online attender, but I can’t help but see what I’m seeing. Online church and community for those who are already believers, doesn’t seem to be good for discipleship. It seems like its turning Christianity into idolatry.

    Do you see any of that?

    • steve dixon cates on May 10, 2021 at 9:32 am

      No, I do not. If it’s one thing that covid has taught me as a Christian, it is that, truly, the church is NOT just a building and the possibilities for worship are “deep and wide”!!! I am especially aggravated and disgusted at these ( few, of course) churches who have clamored and caterwauled and carried on (usually led by a pastor who is probably off-kilter in the first place) about “the government “taking away their “right to worship” or some other such inanity!! If my faith depends upon a building or some form of in-person “corporate worship” demand, it ain’t much!

    • Mark on May 10, 2021 at 9:40 am

      If you listened to Anglican Morning Prayer today, the reading was St. Matthew ch. 7 which talks about good trees producing good fruit. Bad trees do not produce good fruit. You will know false prophets by their fruit. There were many people who sat in church every Sunday but who will still scoundrels.

    • Justin Klatt on May 10, 2021 at 11:03 am

      Hello Pastor Brian, It can happen. If you and your team are intentional true and deep discipleship can happen online. The church my wife and I planted has been 100% online since 13 months before covid and and in 2 years i know and my Community Builders know the people in my church just as good or better then regular in person traditional church. All week long we have services (with discussion questions, we call this Community Discipleship, built Into the middle of all our teachings) that people from all over the globe go to church together face to face.

      No chat boxes, just worship, fellowship, teaching and community discipleship face to face with the same people week in and work out.

      It is glorious. Discipleship is so deep when asked deep questions to process through together in the middle of a sermon.

      To much to say in a comment and I don’t want Pastor Carey to feel like I am hi-jacking his post. If you want more info on what and how we do this. Please checkout our Pastors resources page of our website…. imagine.church/resources

      After experiences community and discipleship in this format of church for 2 years, i will never pastor or lead in a traditional church again. It is so fun. Last thing…. after 19 years of pastoring in a traditional church i never experience this deep of discipleship and community. Some people in the Imagine Thursday Community I lead i have never met in person but I feel like I have known them and been close to them for years and years. So fun!

      • Carey Nieuwhof on May 10, 2021 at 6:39 pm

        Thanks for sharing Justin. That’s so encouraging.

      • Janice Ramkissoon on May 11, 2021 at 7:20 am

        Thank you for sharing that, Justin!

        I prayed that my church would do something like that so that I could still have communion/fellowship with the various groups I was part of in the building. I know others have wanted that to happen also but it never did. Right throughout the lockdown, I had to simply use the phone to text or call those few I had contact details for and even then, it wasn’t the same as meeting together to see and hear from each other.

        I do believe it would have helped our mental wellness to engage with each other, be able to pray for and with each other, know where the needs lie and how to support one another. That would have been a great opportunity to get to know each other better throughout 2020 while the building was closed and people weren’t so busy with all the church activities but it didn’t happen and it left me feeling so disconnected from the body.

        Carey’s articles have actually helped to point me in the right direction about some of the issues we, as a family, were facing and through our quest to mature in the Word, wanting to honour God in what we do and how we do it; what we say and how we say it, especially in speaking truth to power and doing so with grace. Through advice received through his articles, we’ve educated ourselves on ‘Conflict management’. We cared enough to share with our leaders but we had no wisdom on how to share our ideas without causing conflict, since we don’t have an official way of feeding back. We also sought advice from friends who are pastors of other churches and have been able to get direction. We were then able to address the matter again with the diaconate and though a very painful year of waiting and heartache, a Zoom meeting took place last week for one of the groups with the promise of another in three weeks’ time. That’s a step in the right direction, I believe.

        Our adult son (who just stepped into adulthood) is part of the group that met on zoom and we were able to see the effect it had on him immediately. God told us in His Word to ‘Go!’ – Go make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20):

        “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

        Jesus told us what to do and we get to choose the method. So, by all means, we should be communicating with each other and sharing ideas like this that can help each other to flourish in our ministries whether we are discipling our children or we are discipling new or maturing believers. The goal is for lives to be transformed so that we can come into a relationship with Christ and live a fulfilled life (John 10:10). It’s a recurring cycle: we come into relationship with Christ. We are discipled. We go on to disciple others and the gift goes on. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:38).

        Thanks again for sharing and thank you Carey for your obedience in sharing articles like this that gets the body of Christ to think about how we represent Christ in our serving.

        Keep serving!

        Your sister in Christ,
        Janice

  27. Gregg Doyle on May 10, 2021 at 9:21 am

    Thanks for all the great articles, interviews and thoughts. They have given me hope for the western church. I would be willing to pay $200 for access to a tool that helps me find a pastor or leader in a particular area that does at least 1/2 these things. An added bonus would be an algorithim that will filter out leaders who contort the latest buzz words to cover their unchanged thinking.

  28. DONNA M CASSITY on May 10, 2021 at 8:50 am

    This is exactly what I feel. I am in a church with only 15 active members all over 60ish. They want things back like they were yet they want new families. I have insisted on a hybrid model with a focus on the gospel. Trying to stay away from all the other stuff except when necessary. It’s a true challenge to see how the ministry will be embraced as young families are virtually non-existent. Could be the outdated music and liturgy. Could be covid. Just not sure yet. thank you, Carey!

  29. Stephen Kliewer on May 10, 2021 at 8:48 am

    I think what has been said here rings true
    I am an older (70) pastor who is a temporary supply in a remote rural church
    our capacity for “growth” is limited in the old model
    not very many people around, and they are scattered

    but we have discovered new vitality during the pandemic as we have seen our reach
    move far more widely. We are 100% virtual and 100% in-person. We are using social medium platforms to connect people to meaningful work and meaningful organizations in our community. This makes a lot of sense. Yes, there are still those who want a “full room”, but I don’t think we will ever go back to where we were before.

    • Nate on May 10, 2021 at 1:42 pm

      I am curious. How are you tracking your “reach” from online? How do you know who is, or isn’t viewing?

      If it’s just view counts, those can be manipulated. One could watch your service in the background (or assign a bot to do so) over and over again and inflate your view count. Not to mention, at least 2-3 views are probably just of the person who manages your social media account.

      Are you asking people to fill out an online form (through Google forms or otherwise) letting you know they watched it? Even then, that can be tough, because some simply won’t fill it out.

      How are you (or anyone else claiming this) able to verify that your online reach exists beyond your existing church members?

      Anyone got some strategies they’ve implemented.

    • Janice Ramkissoon on May 11, 2021 at 7:34 am

      Well done to you Pastor Stephen! Keep moving forward, one step at a time. Continue to be obedient to your Master’s will and He will make your path straight. One sows, the other waters, God does the increase. Keep serving!

  30. Mark on May 10, 2021 at 8:36 am

    For a long time, a butt (bum) in a pew who donated constituted a good Church member. Church growth in small towns was hard to achieve aside from moves. In larger cities or where there were a good number of churches in the same denomination which may themselves have been formed by a split, growth was sometimes accomplished by “sheep stealing.” I do not take credit for the term but credit whoever coined it. This is not conversion nor Kingdom growth. This is fiefdom growth. Today, on the way to a post-pandemic world, Carey is correct that the churches that have online equal to in-person will do better and will be distinguished from churches for whom online is an afterthought. Podcasts and daily meditations are a great way to teach the faith and many faithful Christians and Jews have found themselves becoming more religious over the past year with daily service webcasts from all over the world. Anglican churches started working together to lead and webcast the Daily Office and allowing congregational participation. My recommendation is to gather names and emails of the online attendees and reach out to them personally and continue the online outreach. You don’t know who you will reach and convert.

  31. Paul on May 10, 2021 at 8:26 am

    Good morning,

    Thank-you for this post. I would love to have you comment further on point 3 in relation to point 4. Since you identify as evangelical I assume you hold to a traditional sexual ethic and so would love to hear, ,n regards to the LGBTQ community, how are you embracing not judging, and being driven by the gospel of love not by ideology. We need much wisdom on this topic as it affects people (our friends, our children) in such a deeply personal way. A follow up question is what leaders do you look to for guidance on this?

    • Carrie Lohr on May 10, 2021 at 9:35 am

      I am not a pastor or have any theological training, but I think they should be loved, respected and treated just as you treat everyone else in the congregation. If they are seeking Jesus, that’s truly all that matters. You don’t point out the liars, thieves, those addicted to pornography, those having an affair, etc…., We honestly don’t probably know who they are, but they are in the church.
      Jesus came loved the people, right where they were. Not to say your sin is worse than mine. We are all sinners snd all fall short of the glory of God.
      I think this goes back to the no judgement point and to just accept people for who and where they are today.
      I am a strong Christian, go to church, but struggle with the judgement of Christians.

  32. unblocked games on May 10, 2021 at 4:38 am

    No one charges the Dream … !!!

  33. Robert Carter on May 9, 2021 at 9:45 pm

    WOW! What you said is precisely what I have been observing and saying for many years. You almost took the words out of my mouth. Way back in 1968 when I meet the Lord (like Paul did), I came out of an Anglican environment into a Pentecostal one, became a pastor, was able to minister across differing denominations and loved it.
    When I was studying for my doctorate, the Lord started to change my focus, eventually telling me to get out of the church (as I understood it then)! That was a hard thing to do, but I now see His wisdom in it.
    He kept saying that change was coming and that He was going to shut down many churches. I did not fully understand it or how at the time. He told me to close my own church, but also told me many times, “I want you to build Me a church”. It sounded as if He was contradicting Himself. That church is HIS CHURCH!
    I kept seeing the seven churches in Revelation and how He was knocking on the door seeking admission in one. This means He was not there!
    Over several years, He spoke about the key ministries He used and most of them were unknown. John the baptizer and Elijah are two. John who was the greatest prophet to live never had a church, wrote a book or sold ministry resources, ushered in a new era.
    I believe that we are now in a new era, or fast approaching it. If I am correct, then change must come.
    The precedents are in scripture and we cannot ignore them. One illustration is the brass serpent Moses built. It was a temporary measure as a tool God used once only for a specific task in a specific place, but God’s people turned it into an idol and started to worship it. The prophet called it Nehushtan. I sometimes wonder if we have not done similarly?
    I could continue at length, but wanted to share some of what is on my heart, saying that I really like your comments and believe that they are absolutely correct.

    • Francisco Beu on May 10, 2021 at 11:11 am

      Hi Carey, following your post since 2018 when pandemic came we where prepared for this new way of doing church, since March each Sunday we streaming the msg to all members from different cities and countries from a member home ( we have visited around most of the families ) and also get together for a pastoral care.

      Thanks for helping us to keep going and embrace innovation.
      Francisco Beu
      Iglesia.casa
      Mexico

      • Antonio Gonçalves do Nascimento on May 10, 2021 at 11:40 am

        Excellent text, wonderful teaching, we are tired of judgments, partisanship, the observation of the I am right, I am right, I have authority, as the church empties like a leaky pool. Something I also realize is that we have the liberal discourse, of love, of come as we are, the more we become the key to judge.

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