One gift Sir Isaac Newton gave the world was his Law of Inertia (sometimes called Newton's First Law or Law of Motion) - namely that objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion (unless acted upon by an unbalanced force).
When it comes to church attendance, it was challenging to get people to come to church before the Coronavirus disease. Our church would have 63% of its "active members" in public worship any given week; but it was a different 63% every week. We found that the national trend of people attending 1-2 times per month was true in our church. That was before the virus. Now that we have been unable to gather for two consecutive Sundays, anticipating at least a third, what will that mean for us coming back together?
As church leaders, we need to be prepared to lead from the expectation that Newton's Law of Inertia applies here. If we do not initiate an outside force acting upon our people, then those who are no longer in motion (i.e. they no longer attend) will continue not being in motion, even after we are cleared to resume public gatherings.
What should that "outside force" be? Here are some ideas.
I will pray for you and your church as you put together intentional plans for coming back together. If you come across an idea for keeping everyone together that seems helpful, please put it in the comments below.
I was privileged to grow up under the ministry of probably the greatest visionary I have ever personally known. His name was Dr. Bradley Price, and he came to Northside Baptist in Charlotte in 1990. The Charlotte Observer reported on our big days at Northside, where 8,000 people would gather for the Spirit of Christmas service and receive a hot-cooked free meal. Through my experiences with Dr. Price as a child, a youth, one called to ministry, and then a ministry intern, glory to God, I caught from him the passion for and ability to dream, to crystallize a vision, and to inspire others to see the dream also.
I just sort of thought everyone had that same passion and ability. One day, I was sitting in a circle of pastors, and we were picking each other's brains for ideas and supporting one another in prayer. One of my pastoral brothers asked, "Can anyone help me develop a vision for my church? I've never been taught how to do that." If a pink elephant had jumped up on the desk, I may not have been more surprised. I just thought everyone knew this.
Over the years, I have come to learn that the ability to "see" a vision for an organization, for a church, for a people, for a community and region, is something that is caught. Sure, you can go out and buy Andy Stanley's book and others, but translating principles into practice is easier said than done. Therefore, when it comes to recruiting and identifying leaders, and also hiring staff, look for those who demonstrate the ability to dream, to cast vision, and to build consensus around the dream. I'm blessed that my Assistant Pastor has this ability, and, Lord willing, the successful candidate for the next pastoral position we fill will have it also.
Not long ago, I was speaking with a minister whose organization is thinking about buying our church property which is for sale. As we talked together, it struck me. This man has the ability to develop a vision. It had been a long while since I had talked with someone in ministry with that ability, and it was so refreshing. Such people are cut out of a little bit different cloth, it seems. And if you have this ability, mentor others, so that they can catch it also.
As we continue to lead God's people in an increasingly post-Christian environment, common misunderstandings about our faith can create unhelpful distance between ourselves and the people we are trying to reach. It is my hope that the insights in this series of posts help bridge that gap in a way that promotes fulfillment of the Lord's Great Commission.
When researchers test their hypotheses in view of establishing theories, they will set forth various predictions that should come to pass if their hypotheses are correct. If their predictions do not come to pass, the theory may need adjusting or the assumptions that led to these predictions may be faulty. For the present discussion, here's what this means.
Non-Christians will sometimes point to the moral failure of a Christian leader as evidence that Christianity itself is a sham. As Christians, we would immediately recognize the disastrous effects of moral failures among our leaders, and one of these certainly is the impact these failures have on the unbelieving community. The idea, though, betrays a myth about Christianity - a faulty prediction.
The faulty prediction would be: If Christianity is true, Christian leaders will never fall. This is a non sequitur. This opens up the issue of theory versus practice. In theory, Christ always provides a way to escape temptation, so we should be able to live our lives without sinning (1 Cor. 10:13). In practice, though, there are many times that the spirit is willing, yet the flesh is weak.. In such times, we do not take the path of escape that God has provided. The Bible is very clear that believers retain a sin nature up until such time as we receive our glorified bodies (Phil. 3:21, e.g.). Until then, we will face a war in our members (Rom. 7:23 ff.). We have choices. We can put on the new man or the old man (Eph. 4:22-24). The reality is that the truth of Christianity does not hinge on the morality of Christian leaders. The fact that we retain this sin nature almost means that all of us are hypocrites to some degree. Even though we are not always true to our own profession of faith, the weakness of our sinful flesh does not mean that the Christian faith is hogwash. Christian doctrine does not pretend to teach that Christians, once saved, will never again sin (John 13:10). Therefore, to dismiss Christianity on the grounds that some of its proponents fail is logically unsound.
That said, let us provoke one another to good works (Heb. 10:24). Let us give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time, we should let them slip (Heb. 2:1). And let our light so shine that men may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in Heaven (Matt. 5:16). The more our walk matches our talk the less explaining of our failures we will have to do before unbelievers and the more Gospel-sharing we will be able to pursue (1 Cor. 9:27).
There is a definite time to stand up for what is right - especially when the Gospel itself is at stake. There are other times that God calls us to be peacemakers and to diffuse volatile situations. Thankfully, there is biblical help for approaching these situations. We certainly need God's wisdom and discernment to recognize the best response in each case. In the New Testament, few churches had faced such bitter division as did the Corinthians. Here are a few tips from 1 Corinthians Chapter 1 - Paul's prescription for restoring unity in Corinth that give valuable insight for conflicts we face today.
One of the main categories of blog posts I intend to create here is a “week in the life of a pastor.” Ministry rides that strange line between the necessity of planning ahead and days that can be full of surprises. For those who sense a call into ministry, a helpful way to give you a taste of things is for you to experience it as I experience it. It’s as close to shadowing as we can get via Internet. I had hoped to do this through video, but I came down with some head congestion, which would make it difficult for you to understand me. And I had to save my voice for the weekend. So, here is my Week in Review for last week. Stay tuned for video content
Pastor Billy Shaw is a full-time pastor, husband, and father with a passion for helping other pastors.