How can a frontline-friendly church respond to the massive changes over recent months?
What does whole-life discipleship look like in these covid times and beyond?
We asked some seriously big questions on 9 February in the first two instalments of our event series looking at the post-covid landscape we now face.
Thankfully, we weren’t standing alone. We explored these tough issues with a whole host of church leaders and individuals – and we were helped by research and writing from non-Christian and Christian writers.
Here are three of the key insights we shared as a group. Why not join us on 16 March for the second two events to dive into these themes and think about how we can apply them as individuals and in our churches?
The church of the future
The current frontline landscape is an extremely varied one. There are those who are burned out and even at breakdown. But there are others who are more bored than ever before, alongside some who find themselves in a peculiar period of blessing (with greater net income, less commuting and more family time).
As a result, this is a season with ‘wider doors’ (more people have found their way into church thanks to online services) and ‘deeper wells’ (many are asking more profound questions amid the stress of the pandemic). For churches, that reality should be heard as a call to create wiser programmes and smarter structures so as to support the church of the future rather than the church of the past.
Purpose beyond the building
This has been a time for the whole-life message to come to the fore. Churches who’ve historically overemphasised the gathered community at the expense of the scattered have struggled through lockdown. On the other hand, churches that were focused on equipping God’s people for their whole lives, wherever they found themselves, tell us they’ve fared better.
The reason is simple but profound. When the gathered church has focused on preparing people to see their daily lives through God’s eyes – ‘come what may’ –individuals have been able to face a range of new frontline situations with a sense of purpose and resolve.
The right perspective
We also considered how powerful it can be to ask the right frontline questions as we continue through lockdown (and begin to transition out of it). When church leaders or small groups ask for specific insights about our frontline issues, we feel valued and supported. Even more importantly, the right questions can help us see our daily lives afresh, bringing God’s perspective to the tasks and challenges we’re facing.
With than in mind, it can be helpful to ask each other the ‘three P’ questions:
- Where are we sensing the presence of God on our frontlines?
- What pressure points are we experiencing?
- Have we lost or gained a sense of purpose at this time?
As we use these questions to think through what’s happening on our frontlines and how we might join God at work there, it can be helpful to have a framework to guide our answers. In that vein, the 6Ms outlined in our Fruitfulness on the Frontline resources are a great resource for these times and beyond. They’re a powerful way to help God’s people rediscover what it means – in their changing contexts – to model godly character, make good work, minister grace and love, mould culture, be a mouthpiece for truth and justice, and act as a messenger of the gospel.
The way forward
During these first meetings, we asked participants to help us select which areas to focus on during the second part of the series on 16 March.
There was a clear need to further consider the opportunities and challenges brought by ‘wider doors’ and ‘deeper wells’ (and the implications for wiser programmes and smarter structures). For example, many churches are considering ‘no turning back’ changes, including the implementation of hybrid meetings to serve people both in person and online. We will again bring insights and lessons from other writers and researchers to help us explore these issues.
There was also a strong demand to give practical examples from which both churches and individuals could draw inspiration. Having mapped out some of the possible contours in the post-covid landscape, what might our response actually look like? What new thing might one church start (and what old things might they stop) in order to help equip their people for their future frontlines? What lessons might one individual carry forward for their future whole-life discipleship?
The events on 9 February were always intended to be the first of two halves. Like most of the covid vaccines, you get some benefit from the first dose – but for the full benefit, you need to get part two as well!
We look forward to getting more specific and practical with you on 16 March.