Saturday, July 18, 2020

Stress Test

When the Covid19 lockdowns began, some prophetic Christians declared that this was a season of reset and the church would be transformed. At the time, I wrote in an article called Church Reset that I doubted this would happen.

I sense that despite the call for a reset, most Christian leaders are only interested in tweaking the existing church model. I do not detect an appetite for serious change, even amongst followers who “like” prophetic posts.
Recently my fears were confirmed. The lockdown finished in New Zealand about a month ago. On a wet cold Sunday, two weeks ago, I watched five different televised church services in a row to see what had happened. The pastors were delighted to be back at the front of their church preaching, but nothing had really changed. They said that were glad that things were getting back to normal (not a new normal).

One pastor announced a message on radical community, but then preached that people who had left the church should return. He said this would be hard and implied that the people who had left were the ones who had fallen out with people in the church. This did not seem like radical community to me.

What has been evident from the shutdown is that the modern church operating model is not viable in a quite mild crisis. The modern approach to discipling by watching a concert-style service worship service and listening to a weekly sermon by a pastor proved to be unsustainable during the Covid19 lockdown. Pastors quite quickly got their messages on to social media to fill the gap, but many of their people did not bother listening to them. No wonder they were glad to be back in their pulpits, despite this being an inadequate method of discipling.

Banks do stress tests to establish if they have enough capital to get them through different types of crises. I see the shutdown as a stress test for churches. Unfortunately, this stress test showed that many churches could not cope with a crisis that brought really serious pressure.

The government of New Zealand probably has less Christian influence now than at any time in the nation’s history. This gives the spiritual powers of evil more sway in here than they have ever had before. The Covid19 crisis is not their best efforts. They are flexing their muscles and have worse evil in mind for the nation. One of their next tricks might be persecution of churches that take a strong stand on the big four social issues during the next election campaign.

The political and spiritual situation in New Zealand has changed significantly for the worst, and there is no obvious path back. However, the church is totally unprepared for this new situation. The pastor-centric, building-dependent operating model adopted by the modern church is incredibly vulnerable to either an economic crisis or state persecution. The lockdown has been a wake-up call that put the church to sleep at a time when it should be preparing for what lies ahead.

Having lost the battle for the heart of the nation, the church should be preparing to be effective during the crises that will inevitably follow. An operating model that lost the battle during the best times ever is not adequate for a season of darkness. Hankering for the good times to return again, so we can do better next time is not a solution. The church should be equipped for victory, but prepared for distress.

I explain how to get ready at Prepare and at Church Reset.

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