Notes from FIEC Leadership in Lockdown webinar on ‘Being the Bad Guys’ with John Stevens and Stephen McAlpine.
1. As church leaders we have authority, but we need to exercise care in how we use it. We don’t shape our leadership by giving people what they want but what they need. There are times we need to exercise authority, other times we need to set it aside, but this will be determined by what best serves the cause of the gospel.
2. COVID Update (England)
– Known knowns: A final decision on Step 4 to be made on 12 July with it likely to implemented on 19 July. All legal restrictions to be removed meaning there will be no legal requirements to wear face coverings in church; no legal restrictions on gathering, mixing, or mingling; no restrictions on singing or communal worship. This removal of legal restrictions is causing division. Not universally welcome. Some venues/businesses will continue to require face coverings and social distancing, and they have the legal right to insist on this.
– Known unknowns: The revised government guidance for places of worship regarding face coverings, social distancing, baptism, communion, and safe singing is not known. We also do not know what health and safety responsibilities will mean for churches or how insurance companies will treat any government guidance.
– Unknown unknowns: Likely that some things might take us by surprise. We don’t know how members of our congregations will react to the new approach; how individuals will view the meaning of ‘personal responsibility’ (is about self or towards others); whether new more dangerous variants of the virus will emerge; or whether restrictions will be reimposed in the autumn.
3. How to prepare with this uncertainty.
– Don’t ‘think it’s all over’ on 19 July.
– Don’t rush to decisions when key information is not available.
– Recognise that it will take time for many people to return to normality with confidence.
– Expect divisions and disagreements about the best way forwards.
– Teach the difference between ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘individualism’.
– Navigate between the enthusiasm of the ‘libertarians’ and the veto of the ‘fearful’. Both positions are an exercise of power. Make reasonable accommodations that make for unity and allow as many as possible to gather together.
– Shepherd the sheep gently as we regather as a scattered flock. There will be sheep with different experiences (fearful, stubborn, wounded). So be careful what we say to the flock collectively.
4. We don’t need more culturally relevant churches but gospel resilient congregations. We need to help equip people for Babylon.
5. In society, Christians have moved from being seen as part of the solution to a hostile part of the problem. A Christian framework has gone from being centre in the culture to not worthy of a place in democracy.
6. Our age is a sexular age. The defining feature of our secular culture is around sexuality.
7. The gospel is seen not just as being redundant but hostile, stopping people be the most authentic person we are.
8. Today, Christians are not being asked about dinosaurs or the rapture, but what they think about gay, trans people.
9. There is a chink in the secular and sexular armour at the moment. It is not delivering even though it has a lot of resources being thrown at it.
10. The gospel of our secular age is ultimately found in your expressing yourself authentically through your sex. The ambition is to replicate the kingdom vision of the good life (a future world of human rights, dignity, freedom, love and equality) but all without Jesus at the centre. It’s the kingdom without the King – they don’t want the Jesus bit of it. Can the church engage with the culture and say you don’t have those things without Jesus at the centre? When we say the church is those things, we better show this.
11. If churches were to become affirming of LGBTQ, all the tension in the world will go away. For churches that stand against that, it is going to get harder in the coming decades.
12. We need to ask how we may have unwittingly bought into the framework that self-fulfilment leads to flourishing, even while we reject its more startling conclusion.
13. There is a danger of that we adopt the life of self-fulfilment with a Christian veneer. How do you deal with sex, money, forgiveness, community? Is it different from the culture.
14. Double down on deep discipleship of our people. They are experiencing a glitzy secular discipleship 6 days a week.
15. A cohesive group without the Holy Spirit looks non-cohesive eventually.
16. Check out Chapters 6 and 7 of Being the Bad Guys.