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Why Going Back To “Normal” Church Seems So Compelling And Can Be So Dangerous

So you would love for everything to go back to normal.

Especially at church.

I get it.

There’s so much about the current disruption that’s unsettling, exhausting, frustrating and challenging that it would be great to throw open the doors of your church, not worry about a virus, and have everyone come back.

Just like it used to be. Maybe even better.

But of course, as you know, that’s not exactly happening, and with return-to-church attendance well below running between 20-60% of pre-COVID levels (even among mega-churches) any sense of normal might not be happening for a while to come (if ever).

That said, many pastors and church leaders are rushing back to normal…trying to restore what was lost as quickly and effectively as possible. Which again, I get and in many respects empathize with.

The challenge is that it’s not working particularly well, with reopening attendance generally being a fraction of what it was pre-COVID and disengagement (online and in-person) being higher than ever.

Even with any health risks removed (which currently, sadly, is not the case), going back to normal only works if:

Normal was working before

Normal still exists

It’s hard to go back to normal when normal no longer exists.

Which brings us to some deeper questions. Two to be exact.

First, why is it most church leaders seem to want to re-open, go back to normal and resume where they left off?

This appears to be the dominant mood and action taken by many leaders of small and large churches, some even publicly stretching or defying government guidelines and directives.

I wrote about why stepping back into the past when you step into your building is a mistake in this post, but having had a little more time pass, I want to probe deeper and ask why that seems to be happening so widely.

The second question is this: What are the downsides of returning back to “normal”? Is it possibly dangerous to the future of your mission?

Understanding the answers to these questions for yourself can help you probe the real reasons for your behaviour and longings (which in my experience, are often hidden from me until I take the time to probe more deeply). And, once you see the reasons, you can adjust your approach accordingly, hopefully toward a stronger future.

Why Is Going Back to Normal So Compelling?

So question one: why is going back to normal and resuming where you left off so compelling?

Here are three possible reasons your instinct to go back to normal runs deep.

1. Your Skillset Was Designed for the Old Normal

If you look back on your training, life-experience and skillset, they all prepared you for the world that existed prior to March 2020.

Your seminary and/or schooling, years of experience and all the training you took prepared you to lead in a world that, without notice, disappeared with the disruption of 2020.

And now, your skillset has you perfectly prepared for a world that no longer exists.

Whether it’s online preaching, an enhanced social media presence, connecting with a congregational you can’t see or gather in person, or hosting services with all kinds of restrictions and the anxiety that surrounds the moment has got you feeling like no one prepared you for this. Which is true.

And which also explains why you just wish it would all go back to normal.

If you take a moment to reflect though, you’ll also realize that the world you were trained to serve in was already disappearing pre-COVID thanks to massive cultural, generational and technological shifts.

Crisis, being the accelerator that it is, poured steroids into that.

The real question then becomes, do you hope that conditions return to normal where you can thrive again, or do you prepare yourself and your team for what’s ahead in the future?

The choice, of course, is yours.

In many ways, leadership is change. And as hard as this set of changes is, it provides great promise for those who are ready to embrace it.

The world has never seemed more disinterested in the Gospel, yet has never needed it more. Leaders see that as opportunity.

2. The Past Doesn’t Make You Panic Like the Future Does

Most of us as leaders tend to romanticize the past, or at least remember it as less arduous than it was.

The past has a nostalgia the future never does.

Some researchers call this ‘rosy retrospection’—the phenomenon where we tend to minimize the negative moments of a particular experience and accentuate the positive.  As Chip and Dan Heath explain, your family trip to Disney might have been expensive, hot, full of long lines (in the old days), irritable kids and ended with blisters on your feet, but you remember it as a family highlight because you tend to remember the peak moments.

The same is probably true for your leadership so far. Yes, there have been struggles. And yes, you almost quit. But, you didn’t. You made it.

And that can make going back to the past very attractive. The past doesn’t make you panic like the future does.

The future, on the other hand, is unknown. If you can get the same set of circumstances ‘back’, then you can control it.

The future? Completely unknown and completely out of your control.

The best thing you can do as a leader is to learn from the past, not live in it.

After all, you can’t go back. You can only lead in the present and prepare for the future.

And your job as a leader is to take people from what was and move them to what will be. Returning to the past won’t get you there.

3. Your Success In the Past Makes You The Most Motivated to Preserve It

This is just an observation about human nature, but one worth thinking about.

Those who succeeded most in the past are most motivated to preserve the past or recreate it.

History is replete with well-meaning people who opposed change.

From analysts who thought the horse and carriage would always be around, to taxi drivers who sued their city over allowing Uber and Lyft to operate, to people who thought streaming would never eclipse the CD and the desire to ‘own’ music, history is filled with people who got the future wrong.

In 1903, Horace Rackam, President of the Michigan Savings Bank famously told Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company. His argument:  “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.”

His wasn’t an unreasonable position.

Horses and carriages had transported people for thousands of years—literally since Old Testament times. It was rational to believe that this mode of transportation wouldn’t disappear overnight.

Until, of course, it did.

The more successful you’ve been in the past, the more motivated you are to believe that the future will be exactly like it.

Which is a perfect strategy until it’s not.

Why Is Going Back to Normal Dangerous?

So, in light of all the uncertainty, why is pushing for everything to go back to normal dangerous?

1. Things Aren’t Normal and May Not Be For a Long Time

A normal strategy in an abnormal world is a recipe for frustration and potential ineffectiveness.

Which leads to a deeper question: should you diagnose the current low reopening attendance numbers as a medical issue?

Polls suggest some people won’t return to church as long as social distancing and masks are required, or until there’s a vaccine. After all, even Disney appears to be struggling with low attendance after reopening.

And, you think, well that could turn around in weeks on months or as soon as there’s a vaccine. The challenge is that’s what everyone has been thinking for months.

As I shared in this post, consider the pre-COVID weekly church attendance findings below from Barna.

In every age category, weekly church attendance has dropped over the last 20 years.

What if the current church attendance crisis isn’t medical, but cultural?

Crisis is an accelerator. Trends that might have taken years to materialize arrive almost overnight during times of crisis (like, for example, the widespread adoption of working from home or the much deeper adoption of online shopping).

You can make a strong argument that the current low return-to-church attendance numbers reflect where the church might have ended up a decade from now. We just got there a lot faster.

As much as you may wish that weren’t true, ignoring it, arguing against it, pretending it’s not happening and arguing it shouldn’t be the case will not reverse it.

Stubbornly clinging to the past makes thriving in the future a lot harder.

2. Focusing Most of Your Resources on Facility-Based Gatherings May Leave You Doing Nothing Well

I’m guessing you don’t have unlimited resources.

If that’s the case, one of the key jobs you have as a leader is to allocate those wisely and strategically.

If it’s actually the case that in-person attendance numbers will continue to be lower even after COVID is completely a non-issue (which could be months or years from now), then that creates a challenge.

Namely, that many churches have the highest level of staff and budgets invested where they’re seeing the lowest returns.

Sure, in-person worship and gathering isn’t going away. As long as there are people, people will want to gather in person.

But in the same way, almost every CEO is rethinking how much office space they really need in light of how well their teams are working from home, church leaders may want to rethink why they’re spending the vast majority of their time, budget and human resources at in-person services that very few people attend.

If your mission is to fill buildings, then keep going with your current strategy.

But if your mission is to reach people, it might be time to rethink things.

The trap you want to avoid is spending your time, energy and money on something that’s producing low results.

Which, depending on your situation, means you may want to even think about closing your church after reopening it to focus on online or other strategies.

All the people who aren’t in your building are online.

3. Not Gathering In A Facility Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Gather

For the record, I am 100% in favor of honoring the restrictions on public gatherings.  I’m not a conspiracy theorist and don’t think we shine best when we complain the loudest.

The challenge with a lot of the dialogue around worship gatherings is the assumption that gatherings have to happen in the central church facility.

That’s binary thinking: all or nothing. A zero-sum game.

Just because the church can’t gather in a central facility doesn’t mean the church can’t gather, legally or appropriately.

It’s important to think more broadly than that.

I love the direction J.D. Greear recently announced for his (large) church. He’s pivoted the entire church strategy for people to gather in homes.

Says Greear:

“We are going to gather, it’s just not going to be in large groups of 500 to 1000 on the weekend in our facilities.” Instead of The Summit Church being 12,000 people meeting in 12 different locations on the weekend, now we are going to be about 15,000 people meeting in about 2,400 locations.”

Greer’s approach is smart because rather than just hoping people are watching, he’s mobilizing his church for a mission.

His approach goes way further than “hey catch us if you can from lakehouse if you have a moment” that online church can so easily default to.

Similarly, many jurisdictions allow gatherings of 10, 25 or 50. While that’s not enough for church as we know it, it’s more than enough for distributed gatherings in backyards, homes, restaurants or other venues, compliant with any and all health guidelines. It actually feels very first and second century. Apostolic even.

And in an approach like this (when large gatherings aren’t legal or optimal), the gathering strategy dovetails nicely with your online strategy. You’ll gain some helpful focus.

Rather than seeing COVID as an intermission, rethink your strategy to get back on mission. Instead of going back, move forward.

Thrive Amidst the Uncertainty

 

Yes, there’s a ton of change happening right now. And it’s exhausting.

As complex as things are, having a simple framework to navigate the change will make the task ahead much easier, including everything we’ve covered in this post.

The challenge for most churches is they have a hard time making decisions, and even when they make a decision, they find it even harder to implement it.

Change that.

My brand new online training, the 30-Day Pivot, will show you how to make and implement decisions quickly and accurately as an organization.

The 30-Day Pivot is a simple 3-step process you and your team can utilize every as often as every 30 days to respond to the change around you and capitalize on it.

In the 30-Day Pivot, you’ll learn:
  • A simple 3-step process your team can use to arrive at your next pivot in 90 minutes or less.
  • An approach that fosters team-generated innovation.
  • An implementation and evaluation framework that will help your team move quickly and accurately.
I’ve led teams through multiple pivots, and in the 30 Day Pivot, I show you the strategy and framework you need to make quick, accurate and responsive moves that can position your organization for growth, even in the midst of deep uncertainty and change.

Some organizations and churches will thrive in the new normal.

Others won’t.

While the future is uncertain, yours doesn’t have to be.

What Do You See?

Any idea why you long for normal, or why you think it’s dangerous to spend too much time there?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

Why Going Back To “Normal” Church Seems So Compelling And Can Be So Dangerous

28 Comments

  1. Tim Scarborough on July 30, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Can I speak from a longtime Jesus-following, church-ambivalent, non-clergy perspective?
    The time has come for “alternative” approaches to church, because the dominant model’s inability to serve its own purpose has now been thrown into sharp relief. Church Leaders would do well to start including the “creative, “fringe” people in their planning because
    a) the fringe is where those on the inside and those on the outside interact with each other
    b) creative people have already sought, conceived and designed solutions to today’s challenges.
    The decade-long decline in attendance is down to a failure to recognise, adapt and rethink.
    “Alternative” is for such a time as this.

  2. John Hansen on July 28, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Carey – I love your heart to resource leaders with wise perspective! I ALWAYS look forward to your posts, stories on Insta (cue Green Egg imagery here!), and emails…
    As a pastor in California struggling through all of these new realities – I find myself appropriately challenged to discover the new things God is wanting to do through His Church at this moment. I embrace the need for greater digital ministry, and we continue to develop new ways to engage people through various means of online presence.

    However – I think part of the reason many of us as pastors seem to be looking for opportunities to gather again in whatever ways may be possible has to do with our biblical sense of ecclesiology. We follow Jesus – and Jesus was at home bringing his teaching while he walked the fields and hillsides – but he also modeled, fairly consistently, a regular, in person gathering of people; first with the twelve in homes, then with the hundred or so in synagogues, and then with the many hundreds or thousands in the Temple Courts, and then with the many thousands on hillsides.

    So – it may in fact be true that e are stepping into the past with our inclination to gather people. But – it just may in fact be the past that we always understood to be appropriate, true revelation of a Jesus way of ministering effectively.
    I could be reading into things, but I have sensed in your posts a kind of disdain or dare I say condescension of those of us who are wanting to resume in-person gatherings. I wonder if maybe that is a bit misplaced? It seems to me that the inclination to follow a strongly represented biblical pattern (old and New Testament) is quite a good one. Others have already commented about how difficult it is to foster that sense of the numinous, the transcendent – through a few cameras. I do believe it is possible! But – so many of us have not quite cracked the code on that.

    We attempted an in-person comeback 6 weeks ago – when California had a window for such. It was very rough. 100 people, cumbersome check in process, venue capping, masks (or not!?!), mask wars, ugh. We stopped our ‘comeback’ after two weeks. Right now we are doing our four online services (recorded once – live-streamed once, but re-cast three other times). We also have added an outdoor service; socially distanced, BYOUmbrella… about 200 people are coming in person for that (pre-covid, we’d have 2500 in person on campus on a regular weekend). We are not offering and kids min yet. We will continue to host that outdoor service – as a matter of ministering primarily to those for whom emotional and even mental well being is at stake due to lack of social connection. The outdoor service is very stripped back – and it forces people to be a bit uncomfortable; that isn’t such a bad thing – in terms of discipleship. It isn’t a great thing for regular church growth practices – but yeah – those days are done anyway! At the same time, we are strategizing new ways of reaching out digitally.

    You are absolutely correct in your diagnosis: none of my Fuller Seminary M.Div training prepared me for ANY of this – except perhaps the Bobby Clinton leadership classes. Even then – the development of full scale digital media ministry was not part of my course of study whatsoever. An unfortunate discovery I have made is that there are a large contingent of congregants who actually have strong disdain for digital ministry – and it feels to me as difficult as the worship wars. I had a phone call with a gen-x professional guy in my congregation who was ‘sharing’ with me that he was so angry that the church he had been supporting has become nothing but a broadcasting organization. UGH!

    The other challenge we have in So Cal is a large contingent of people who believe the virus is an overblown inanity – and who then believe that if the church DOESN’T open, we are bowing down to the evil state, and that if we do that, we’ll become socialists by November.

    Am I the only one who is already feeling grave concern for the minefield that is ‘October 2020’ as we – in the US – head toward one of the most volatile elections in our era?

    I so appreciate your strong voice in these times, Carey! I recommend your podcast all the time.

    -John Hansen
    Centerpoint Church in Murrieta CA

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 29, 2020 at 9:36 am

      John,

      Thanks for your leadership and for this thoughtful comment.

      I share your concern for October 2020…and you’re right. I don’t have a disdain for people who realize gathering is an essential part of what we do as Christians (or humans) and who want to bring it back in a logical, prayerful, thoughtful way.

      You’re right, I am a consistent voice trying to push against the extremism, anger and definance I see online from church leaders. I worry we are shooting ourselves not just in the foot, but in the head. When the unchurched world sees the church behaving like crazy people (which we kind of have been in some circles), we bring the name of Christ into disrepute.

      So I keep pushing online because:
      – Most pastors resist it either because they don’t understand it or are designed to do what they know best.
      – It has tremendous long-term potential
      – It can do a lot of good without causing a lot of harm or divided attention and dimished results.

      I guess I see this as a moment to push the other way. I also don’t see a lot of other voices saying what I’m saying, so I keep going, as unpopular as that is.

      We will gather again and we will do so safely, but in many places that’s not either legal or wise yet.

      Sounds like you and the team are making great decisions and I applaud you for that.

      Thanks for the thoughtful dialogue and solid ministry John. People like you make the internet a great place to hang out. And the church.

      Carey

  3. stefan youngblood on July 27, 2020 at 4:49 pm

    Pajama.church and Pocket.church will for some be the new normal.

  4. Brent Watts on July 27, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Carey – I think the heart of it is something you have written about extensively. If all your church offers is a downloadable experience then there is no need for a gathering. But people are longing for a transcendent experience with the presence of the Lord that comes from the gathered experience. Our people have been incredible to adjust to the many forms we have adapted over the past few months – online only, parking lot services, in person worship, back to online only, etc. I had a member express to me this weekend, “Pastor, we are doing our best with the online experience, but it is just not the same as the gathered experience. I need some time together with other believers in the presence of the Lord.” I never want to go back to “normal” but I do want to get back to what only the gathered experience can provide as soon as it is safely possible.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 27, 2020 at 2:55 pm

      I empathize with you and hear what you’re saying. I do wonder, though, if you’re focusing more on who you’ve reached and the people who value what you’ve offered in the past, not those you’re called to reach and will impact in the future.

      You can always find confirmation in the people who liked it the way it was, but most churches haven’t reach 99% of their city.

      And I’m not talking about only doing online ministry…but about doing both well, realizing that online will almost always be our larger presence moving forward.

      Just a bit of further comment….hope it helps.

      • Brent Watts on July 27, 2020 at 7:04 pm

        Carey – love all you have and are producing during this time. I listen to your podcasts weekly as well as Church Pulse Weekly. We were doing Livestream before COVID, we’ve gotten much better at it during the pandemic, and we will be doing it in a greater way even after we are back “in the building.” I was just explaining why the push from some to get back to a “gathered experience.” Appreciate all you do!

    • Joy on July 28, 2020 at 10:58 pm

      God said, do not forsake the gathering of His people. Also when His people gather together He command the blessing. The devil knows what God wants for His people and how He created His people for fellowship. So he’s doing everything to stop it. So gather up wherever, whenever always. Under a tree, cafe park home 5 10 or more people just gather and pray worship fellowship eating cakes etc.. Don’t stop for no one. Stay Blessed 🙏

  5. Steve Creel on July 27, 2020 at 11:48 am

    I appreciate your writing and your willingness to envision new ways to bring the gospel to people. One of the issues I would like to see addressed, if possible, is how to keep “at risk” people safe in home meetings. Children, the elderly and teens all attract predators and in a situation where the church gathers in homes with no oversight that the church can guarantee, we will have many problems of molestation, emotional abuse, manipulation etc.

    Is there anyone writing about “Best Practices” in these areas? Thanks for all that you do to make ministry hopeful.

    • Cyndi Bloise on July 28, 2020 at 8:26 am

      Steve Kreel – great question! I will be watching for responses and ideas on this.

  6. steve edlin on July 27, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Carey,
    I live in NY and we were one of the first states to shut down. We certainly realized the the virus was real but so was the collateral damage that took place. The mental health issues alone are off the charts, not to mention all of the other issues that have surfaced. While staying completely online sounds like a smart plan, I am concerned about it for many reasons.
    1. Not only are we dealing with COVID fear, we are dealing with racial injustice issues and fears. Our church is 55% African American, 25% Caucasian, 15% Latino, 5% other. My people not only need my voice, they need my “touch” – they need to know that I am with them in these issues.
    2. Governor Cuomo has also made statements that COVID is racially disproportionate, so many of our older African Americans are also now afraid of COVID, even though the death counts are well below 1%. Fear is everywhere and I have to stand up and give them hope. I “had” to reopen the church so they could see that they were not going to die if they returned. Thankfully no one from our church (700 people) has died because of COVID-19.
    3. I agree with your article on Three Ways the Attractional Church needs to change. We believe the presence of God is vitally important. If His genuine presence isn’t here why bother? God’s presence brings healing, hope, deliverance, salvation, restoration, etc. – While the online church can try to capture that, it can’t capture it as well as an in-person service does.
    4. The online church is a partial connection at best with the people at home. Kids running around, half awake people. Being onsite gives people a greater opportunity to focus and connect with God.
    5. There is something about a corporate anointing/ gathering that is completely different from the online individual experience. Many times it’s passionate people who are worshipping, dancing, praying fervently that engages other people to engage with God. That corporate presence can cause the presence of God to be so strong that the hardest of hearts to melt, receive healing, or be saved.
    6. High Praise and Deep Worship is not the same online as it is in person. At least not the way we do it!
    7. My congregation shouts back at me while I preach, they pray for me, they encourage and push me. I am stronger and frankly preach better with a live and a “alive” congregation.
    8. We do not have the online quality of Mike Todd, Rich Wilkerson Jr, Steve Furtick, and others. We cannot compete them on so many levels – financially, youthfulness, charisma, national momentum. If people like online they will probably watch them. I know I would!
    9. My congregation has returned 60% and growing. They are coming back. We have been open for 7 weeks and it has taken about that long to get people to “relax” – a lot of fear still being perpetuated in NY even though our death numbers are basically at zero.
    10. The online experience can have many internet and computer issues at either end. Those issues will cause people to shut us off quickly. There is much more grace for mistakes when people are in-person. Also some older people don’t even have internet or a computer.
    11. Childrens ministry has dropped significantly online. Parents and kids are not participating like they did in the beginning. Kids want to be with their friends, and parents want to enjoy the service without their children making noise or crawling over them.
    12. The mental health issues and stress has really impacted people significantly. Being around other people really does lift people’s spirit and encourages them in so many ways. Online doesn’t do that.
    13. Zoom is dead! That is all!
    14. If all I had to do was preach content, then online would be fine. But preaching isn’t only about solid biblical information to the head, it is application to the heart. Our live environment is set up to do that more effectively. The music, the preaching all go hand in hand.
    15. We will continue to improve our online experience to make sure it’s not a second class experience, but we still have a long ways to go. I have invested in equipment and staffing but the quality level is not there yet. But it will be soon. I understand the online church is here to stay and will continue to invest into it like it’s a new church.
    16. The Barna report is also concerning. While online started strong it has also seen less people in recent weeks. So I don’t think it’s solving the problem either. https://www.barna.com/research/new-sunday-morning-part-2/

    Carey, obviously these are just my thoughts and can be greatly argued or disputed, but choosing to re-open was not easy. I was going to be criticized regardless of what I did. If I re-open then I’m accused of being reckless and not loving my neighbor. If I stay online only then I’m accused of being full of fear and lacking faith. At some point every pastor has to do what is best for his or her congregation with wisdom from the Lord. I’m not saying I’ve done everything right, but we are trying to be led by God.

    Thanks for your leadership and thought provoking articles. They’ve helped me greatly over the years!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 27, 2020 at 12:33 pm

      Steve,

      Can I just say thanks for a remarkably thoughtful, helpful and nuanced comment/reply?

      I see you know your church well and I appreciate the balanced view. I hope you know that while we may see some things differently, we agree this isn’t a question of what’s fearful/faithful and I appreciate your candour.

      Every ministry is different. Years ago, for us, we outgrew my ability to be ‘high touch’ as we moved to multiple locations and larger numbers, but I do think there is online potential for churches of every size as you’ll even see in the comments.

      I think the future will be a hybrid of online and in person, and I look forward to the church growing and reaching more people as a result.

      Thanks again for the detailed ‘field’ report. 🙂

      Carey

      • steve edlin on July 27, 2020 at 1:58 pm

        Carey,
        I agree there is tremendous potential for online ministry and we will continue to pursue those as well.

        Blessings
        Steve

  7. Paul Robie on July 27, 2020 at 9:31 am

    The hard cold reality is this… If you’re church is focused on reaching lost people the longer we don’t meet in person the less likely these people are to stay connected. Online church is not enough to keep all those with one foot in and one foot out to keep tuning in. This is our most compelling reason to start in person services as soon as possible. BTW, holding on site church after 5 months off is not the same as “rushing back.”

    • Eddie Thornton on July 27, 2020 at 2:25 pm

      In response to the post, you did a great job. I would like to further add this bit myself. Where the church was pre covid19,God has moved on . If the church and ministries try to operate where they were prior to covid they won’t be relevant. God has shifted to a new move/dispensation. God is trying get the church to see who she really is. The church is not the building and a lot of what took place in the building has been idolatry. God desires true worship and not our flesh. Remember those that worship God must worship in spirit and truth.

  8. Peter on July 27, 2020 at 9:21 am

    While I like the idea of more home or backyard gatherings, social distancing isn’t always an option in a home. Our church insurance company recommends we do not encourage this. And weather in Canada isn’t conducive to backyard gatherings. It can be too hot, too cold, too wet, too snowy. We still need to meet in person, that is the way we’re made, but how do we do that under these conditions?

    • Zach W. Lorton on July 27, 2020 at 10:34 am

      Check with the church’s lawyers. They can look through the insurance policy and see if you have any legal exposure to meeting in homes or backyards. The bottom line is what the law allows.

      Our church went through the same thing when our county’s board of health approved churches reopening up to 50% capacity. We checked with our lawyer, who pored over our insurance policy, and they gave us their recommendation.

  9. Rob Worthington on July 27, 2020 at 8:55 am

    As a relatively new pastor, even though I am not young at 64, I found I had an advantage over those that were so firmly entrenched in “we always did it that way.” As a tech person, my major thrust was to produce a quality video on Sunday and Wednesday and share to as many social platforms and websites as possible. Our little church of 35-50, pre-virus, now has views of 500-600 for every service. We have returned to a modified service with social distancing and masks, and messages are recorded at that time.

    I feel so blessed that God has provided this opportunity for us to reach beyond our walls and impact people, not just in our community, but nation-wide and world-wide. I realize I may never meet many of the people that come to a saving relationship with Christ, but I will see them when we meet before God himself.

    Friends, small churches can make a difference! Just look beyond the naysayers and negativity and follow what Chirst has commanded, “Go ye therefore and make disciples of ALL nations.” (emphasis added).

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 27, 2020 at 9:17 am

      Rob,

      This is outstanding! I love the way that you’ve approached this season.

      Small churches certainly can make a difference.

      Cheering you on,

  10. Bobby on July 27, 2020 at 8:25 am

    What would be your recommendation(s) for the future of church planting?

  11. Neil Strong on July 27, 2020 at 8:21 am

    As I read the blog “Why Going Back To Normal…” I had these thoughts. I am a pastor who retired from being lead pastor and moved closer to my children and grandchildren. So I read this blog from my perspective of what was. My first impression id that this is a well thought out blueprint to lead a congregation to the uncertain and unknown future. With that said I am now serving as Congregational Care pastor. So I have no decision making anylonger as to what direction this church takes.

    Get to the point. I seems that this blog i directed to clergy lead or staff lead churches. How would I inturpret this to churches that are lay lead by boards and committees?

    Thanks for YOUR prophetic voice in the midst of this change

  12. Chuck on July 27, 2020 at 7:24 am

    This was a really good warning about resisting change in general, not just specific to the pandemic effects. Those three reasons for the old normal being so compelling are tantamount to why we resist change of any kind. Score!

  13. Cathi on July 27, 2020 at 7:05 am

    Meditating over the parable of the vinedresser the other day. I had a really strong sense that this whole period of lockdown has also been a period of heavy pruning for both individuals and churches. Perhaps we should consider if our desire to return to ‘normal’ might unwittingly be a desire to re-attach old dead branches that were pruned by the vinedresser.

    Listening to a few smart secular interviews on YouTube. The theme of a world lacking in forgiveness has come up repeatedly. Perhaps this is the opportunity in the midst of risk. Bringing the reality of divine forgiveness through Jesus to a world crashing into the cliffs of destruction because of even the smallest misstep or ‘culturally inappropriate’ phrase. That said; perhaps we also need to work on our willingness to forgive sinners and walk arm in arm together in the kingdom.

  14. Patrick Steven Mateketa on July 26, 2020 at 8:52 pm

    The post has aligned my thinking. As a Malawian church leader who is just beginning to establish a ministry, I have no problem now looking into the future with a positive expectation and I believe it is easier for ministers like myself to adopt this transformation.

  15. Tim on July 26, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    I didn’t have time to read through the entire blog post, but I, for one, am not missing church. My church used to be cutting edge, and then a lot of hidden sin was discovered. To make matters worse, they are now doing defensive church so that they are doing all they can to play it safe. Now instead of a trail victimized bodies, there is a trail of abused bodies. I am one of the abused. I went to my church for help and support, and instead of caring for me, they abused me. I hear this story all the time from other people. A guy I know spent nine years seeking an accountability partner to get help for a habitual sin. When the sin became public my friend nearly lost his family, did lose his job and all his friends as well as his church. He was forced into counseling, and the counselor was only after the money. He was subjected to gossip in the church and the humiliation of people ignoring him in public and some even ran away from him when they saw him. He made several efforts to put his life together but each time was forced to play a demeaning game of ”guess the sins we have against you in the manilla folder” and of course he didn’t ”win” the game. This game was something the administrative pastor at his church thought was appropriate.

    So no, I don’t miss church. Both myself and my friend would love to find a group of men that simply want to serve God and learn more about him and well as deepen our relationship with God.

    I still believe that caring for people, understanding their needs and supporting them in their faith journey eliminates 90% of books, conferences and events. Be about people not protecting an organization and perhaps them I will start missing church.

    One last comment. I have been home since March 13th. Care to guess how many times my church has reached out to me?

    • Michael Gray on July 27, 2020 at 8:42 am

      Tim,
      My heart goes out to you. I have been hurt many times by the church. I understand your pain and disappointment. But I know there is hope. I’m living in it.
      I would like to help.
      Contact me by my email below.

    • Tim Azevedo on July 27, 2020 at 8:56 am

      So sorry you went through that experience! It truly makes me sad. I’m the pastor of a small church (about 25 people) and hate to see the stories of hurt sheep looking for another church. I don’t know if you’re in the area (we’re in the Lehigh Valley in PA) but if so, we’d love for you to check us out! Our church website is http://www.purewordchurch.org. God bless! Hang in there! There are many great churches out there! Just have to find them!

    • Cyndi Bloise on July 28, 2020 at 8:39 am

      Hi Tim. So sorry for what happened to you and your friend. I am a pastor, but I can still say almost across the board, churches play a bait and switch game. Before you come to the church, “Everyone is welcome. Jesus forgives all of your sins.” Once you get there, if your sins are discovered, you are humiliated and practically crucified – often even expelled from the church.
      Why are churches playing “I’m a better Christian than you” all the time? It is so pharisaic in nature.
      Many Christians who are more progressive are condemned in the same way. So, many will pretend to be “better” than they truly are. Most often, I have experienced that most of the people shouting the loudest about other people’s sins are hiding a great heap of their own. I feel your pain.

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