Notes from FIEC Leadership in Lockdown webinar on Missional Lessons from the COVID Crisis with Ed Stetzer and John Stevens.
1. This is a time when we might be experiencing emotional feelings of loneliness and powerlessness. Jesus encourages us at the end of Matthew’s Gospel that we are not on our own and we are not powerless, especially in the mission we have been given as His disciples. We might feel that the task of discipling the nations is too big a task, but it is possible because Jesus promised (surely) personal (I), powerful (I am), permanent (to the very end of the age) presence (with you). So let us not lose heart and keep focused on the mission He has given us.
2. No significant change in the regulations to do with COVID in the last week.
3. We are not in a post-COVID world yet, but it is worth thinking through now about the post-COVID church.
4. In terms of ecclesiology, we must not let COVID create our ecclesiology, rather let our ecclesiology guide us through COVID.
5. At present we have had to adopt a “temporarily deficient ecclesiology in the emergency for the sake of the mission.” Be careful not to articulate that moving church online is the same as it was. Don’t normalise that which you don’t want to normalise. It is not how it is supposed to be. It is temporarily deficient. We want to get back to what it was, while acknowledging that this is not how it is going to be in the long-term.
6. If we can’t meet there is something wrong and we should be bothered by it. We are not in an Acts 4 moment at present, still following Romans 13, but not meeting as a whole church is not the way it is meant to be. Let’s not be satisfied with this. Church is meant to be an embodied lived together experience.
7. Whatever adaptions we have had to make in the midst of the pandemic must not undermine our long-term faithfulness.
8. A church is to be certain things: Biblically faithful, culturally relevant (or appropriate), counter culture, community of the kingdom.
9. Currently we are being stretched. Like a body builder who is all upper body but skips leg days, so reformed evangelical churches tend to be strong on the upper body (theologically, focused on the gathering) but weaker on the lower body skipping leg days (mission driven). But since March we’ve been on legs days, caring for people, being on mission, but this can’t be forever. We need balance.
10. What should we doing in this period where it is not the way it is supposed to be? 1) Elevate ecclesiology by teaching on it; 2) Emphasise the emergency that it won’t be forever; 3) Engage the mission; 4) Encourage toward the right ordering of the church.
11. We are looking forward to time when we probably won’t relaunch the church, but slowly regather the church, making sure that nobody gets left behind. Re-engaging back into church life is going to be a new experience for all of us.
12. Reality is that the margins of the church (those who attend once every couple of months) are likely to be disconnected. They have changed their lives during COVID without the Sunday gathered experience. They have been de-churched.
13. During this time of lockdown and restrictions there has been a shuffling in society. Issues of transgender, race, tolerance have speeded up with cultural realities up for grabs. Check out Ross Douthat’s article in New York Times, Waking up in 2030. We are going to have to be faithful in the midst of this.
14. Don’t expect to go back to normal when it comes to technology. The hybrid model is likely to remain with us. Online is the new Mars Hill. Expect for church to have an online presence going forward. This will be necessary for a part of the church that won’t regather for a while (at least 6 months).
15. Pastoring has been remarkably difficult. The number of people leaving ministry after COVID will be substantive. Don’t give up. For this reason Resilient Church Leadership was set up.
16. Churches that haven’t adhered to restrictions and have bound consciences, have made it difficult for local churches elsewhere. Gathering without mitigations might energise Christians who think this is both right and courageous, but also has harmed witness in their community who may view them as putting them in danger.
17. The middle of a crisis is not the time to decide how to relate to other churches or to compromise convictions about who you can partner with.