Nothing will ever be the same again.
That’s true every single day of our lives. Even in relatively stable times, we awake each morning to a world that is slightly different than it was the day before.
The advantage of the incremental changes we usually face is that we have the chance to adapt to them with only minor disruptions. The disadvantage is that the disruptions are often so minor as to be unnoticeable, so we don’t make the necessary adaptations until it’s too late.
(This article is adapted from the introduction to my book, The Church Recovery Guide: How Your Congregation Can Adapt and Thrive after a Crisis.)
Leadership Through Disruption
With the massive disruptions we faced during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, the problems could not be more disruptive or obvious.
From the lockdowns, to the unspeakable pain of the illness and death of loved ones, to the colossal financial upheavals, we’ve never faced such a long-term disruption in our lifetimes, possibly even surpassing those that resulted from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The size and scope of these current disruptions also mean that we can’t ignore the need for immediate and permanent changes any longer. We must act and adapt. We can’t do business, or church, as usual anymore.
While the foundational truths of the Bible are as important and reliable as they’ve always been, the means by which we communicate them are changing more quickly and obviously than ever.
Churches that swore they’d never go online, are. Programs we thought we needed, we don’t. Congregations that thought they were strong and healthy, aren’t.
Meanwhile, some churches, ministries, and individual Christians are not just stepping up to this need, they’re thriving as they find new ways to communicate the eternal truths of the gospel through new methods, both digital and analog.
But how are they doing this? Let’s take a look at why people engage with church in the first place.
Transformation and Stability
People go to church for two reasons.
Reason 1: To radically change their life.
Reason 2: To connect with someone who never changes.
Transformation and stability. Two contrasting goals that people expect to get from the same place—no wonder pastoring is so hard.
So who’s right? The church as change agent? Or the church as a stable foundation?
The church needs to be a transformative community. And the church needs to stand for eternal truths.
Any church that sacrifices eternal truths for current trends is making a big mistake. And any church that refuses to change their methods to reach a new generation with eternal truths is just as wrong.
One is too trendy to last. The other is too outdated to be helpful.
The Necessary Pastoral Pivot
Most churches emphasize one or the other. We need churches that push us forward in innovative ways, and we need congregations that provide stable, traditional reminders of what we’ve always been about.
But the healthiest churches provide a mix of both. And the wisest pastors and leaders know how to toggle back-and-forth between the two, emphasizing each when they’re needed the most.
When times are normal, leaders inspire change.
When times are disruptive, leaders provide stability.
Right now, times are disruptive. Change is inevitable. The church needs the consistency of strong, steady leaders who can help us negotiate through rough, uncertain waters with biblical truths, passionate hearts, and moral integrity.
Now is not the time for church leaders to cause further disruption, but to help us see a stable path through it. That’s where we’ll find not just the ability to recover, but the ability to adapt and thrive, no matter what comes next.
(Photo by Richard Masoner | Flickr)