Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Prepared

God is exposing the churches lack of preparedness for operating through a crisis. The 8-week shutdown for the coronavirus has been a fairly trivial crisis, but the church has become ineffective because its people are so scattered that they can only relate to their neighbours one-on-one.

The lockdown was a time of opportunity when many people were shaken and fearful, and some were feeling the pain of losing their jobs, but most Christians did not know their neighbours well enough to share openly with them. And their neighbours could not see the body of Jesus functioning, because that only happens when the church meets on Sunday.

Our problem in the West is that we have lived through seventy years of relative peace and prosperity. The modern church operating model functions quite well in that situation.

Many church leaders assume that we will soon go back to peace and prosperity, so their way of doing church will continue to be viable. Unfortunately, that might be a false hope.

Over the last fifty years, there has been a massive decline of faith in the western world. Things still seem to be OK on the surface, but as God has been squeezed out, the spiritual powers of evil have been inadvertently allowed in. They are getting greater freedom and ability to work evil in this part of the world, so they are unlikely to stop.

I believe that they were behind the GFC and the coronavirus, and have noticed how effective these were for hurting people and disrupting society. These were not by any means their best efforts, so I expect that if there is a return to “peace and security”, it will not last long, because the spiritual powers of evil will have another crack at destruction and harm. So, assuming that when we are through this crisis, everything will go back to normal is probably a mistake.

Persisting with a church model that is only viable during “peace and plenty” seems to be rather na├»ve. No serious business would develop a product that can only function under perfect conditions. Rather they develop products that can continue to operate under a variety of adverse conditions.

Christian leaders should be thinking in the same way. Many years ago, when I was the leader of a church, someone asked me what would happen to the church I led if the pastor was arrested and the church doors were locked by the political powers. That did not seem very likely then, but it has happened in many places around the world. That set me thinking. Was I serving the people that I was paid to lead well, if I was not preparing the church to operate effectively through all possible eventualities?

All pastors and church leaders should be asking the following questions:

  • Could my church function through a serious epidemic (we have not had one yet)?
  • Could my church function through a serious economic depression (we have not had one since the 1930s)?
  • Could my church continue to operate effectively through serious state persecution with being arrested and church buildings being locked?
  • Could my church function effectively through a period of social and civil breakdown, or a serious collapse of law and order?
If they cannot answer these questions honestly with a “yes,” they should think seriously about what they are doing and if they are preparing their people for the future.

The first disciples who were trained by Jesus were able to operate effectively through periods of persecution and social disruption. Maybe we should look more carefully at the church model that worked so effectively for them (More here Church and Ministry).

The latest crisis has demonstrated that our way of doing church can be disrupted by something as simple as having to stay at home. I presume that a really serious crisis would cause terrible difficulties. I suspect that the future will bring economic, political and social disruption. Therefore, it is more sensible to prepare for the worst, and be pleasantly surprised, than to “hope for the best” and be caught short.

God’s people should prepare for disaster, but be equipped for victory.

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