The happenings of 2020 have had a drastic impact on local churches around the world. Some have closed their doors because of the lack of finances and other circumstances. Some have stayed open, but are wondering how they will recover. However, some have done well, finding a new level of strength as their congregations have persisted throughout the challenges.
Personally, I’ve never witnessed a season that has challenged the local church to this degree. But I have read about time periods where the church had to overcome severe obstacles in order to continue the mission.
That’s where we are now. Our assignment now is to find the best way forward to continue the work of God in our communities.
I believe it starts with our Mindset. Seasons of severe challenges can have a traumatic effect on our mindset, where we can easily go into survival mode, small thinking, and panic. But I’m challenging you to allow God to revive the dreamer inside you. He STILL has great plans in mind for you and your church.
As we enter into this new year, it’s understandable that there’s still some uncertainty about how things will play out. But it’s NOT OK to lead small and just wait to see how things play out. Right now, it’s more important than ever that we lead our churches with passion AND intentionality. They’re looking to you for guidance and faith. They’re watching your actions, and listening to your words.
With this in mind, we wanted to encourage you and give you some ammunition to move forward. So we reached out to some of our friends and compiled their thoughts for you.
Here are some insights and wisdom from some incredible Church Leaders about Leading your Church into 2021:
1. Think “Better than Normal”
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times, “When are things getting back to Normal?” It’s a reasonable question, but what is “normal” to God when it pertains to His Church?
Friend, I’m not sure “normal” (meaning: ordinary, routine, run of the mill) is even in God’s vocabulary for His Church.
There’s a principle we find in Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior & customs of this world, but let God transform us into a new person by changing the way we think. Then we will learn to know God’s will for us, which is good & pleasing & perfect.”
What we see is that God isn’t interested in us returning to the status-quo, but that there is a mindset He wants us to have that is “Better than Normal.” We see it again in Romans 8:37 where the scripture tells us God wants us to be “MORE than just conquerors”.
God’s will for us as church leaders is not just to get back to “normal” in 2021. He’s not interested in us repeating our repetitions of successful years that we’ve experienced in the past. God is wanting us to follow His lead and experience a “Better than Normal” year this year and in the years to come.
So let your faith be high. Let your expectations be strong. God wants your church to grow into new heights and new territory this year.
Nelson Hight, Church of the Crossroads
2. Be the Church
Although 2020 has brought many challenges to the local church, the mission of the church has remained the same. We need to keep the main thing – the main thing – making disciples. The methods may look different, but the mission remains the same. Pastors and church leadership, I recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and try something new. View everything as an experiment, then make tweaks. If the “experiment” doesn’t work out, no harm – no foul, after all it was just a test.
This is a time for unity within the body of Christ. The reality is that many of the churches within North America were plateaued or in decline pre-Covid. There is no silver bullet to get back to better days. My prayer is that pastors and church leaders would take some time and gain some self-awareness of their current reality.
Is the trajectory up or down? If it’s up, praise God! Reach out and help the churches in your town and region who need some help with no strings attached. If you find the church trajectory headed downward, find an experienced trusted friend, a denominational leader or a church consultant to help. These people should have the wisdom and knowledge to help you navigate your current reality and set your church on the path to revitalization.
Jeff Hoglen, ChurchPlanting.com
3. Continue Leading
Coming out of the challenges of 2020 and into 2021 with many of the same struggles still in place can shake all of us as leaders. The piece of advice I am trying to remind myself of and share with other leaders is simply this: Don’t ignore everything you know and have learned about leadership because it feels like everything in your world has changed.
Simply put, as much as things are changing, some things need to stay the same.
The principles of good leadership apply more, not less, when the world is rapidly changing around us. Things like listening to others, continually learning, collaborating with people and empowering others – those are keepers. We need to do them more.
Also, we need to take time to rest, celebrate wins, and remember our life purposes and callings. All the things we would have always encouraged others to do in leadership; the good leadership principles we know and try to live by should still be in our arsenal of leadership this year and in the years to come.
Ron Edmondson, RonEdmondson.com
4. See the OPPORTUNITY
As we look back at 2020, we can all agree it is been a jarring and overwhelming year for churches of every size. Change has never been easy for most of us, yet last year forced us all to change, not once but continually, as the pandemic continued, and as racial and political unrest rocked our country. Our church staff and teams found ourselves re-thinking almost every aspect of ministry. Just as soon as we figured out a new “normal”, we were challenged to adapt again.
With almost a month into the new year, it looks like we will continue to live with uncertainty when it comes to gatherings. But the church has faced these types of challenges throughout history. What have we learned throughout the church’s history, is that in times of great trials and suffering the church has thrived, adapted, and ministered in ways that we could not have imagined.
The Apostle Paul in Romans shared these words of encouragement to the early church and also to us,
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[a]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. -Romans 8
Be encouraged today as a church leader and follower of Jesus. Yes, these times are hard, challenging, and requires us to rethink all our assumptions about “doing” church. However, if we are honest, there are things that “needed” to change in the church, or even stop.
This season gives a good reason to evaluate everything. Give yourself freedom to dream about what would make your church more effective in ministry. I am convinced that no matter what may challenge us today, that God is already at work and is creating opportunities to minister to people who may have may now be ready to respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but weren’t ready to respond before the pandemic. We can have courage that we can face the changes knowing that God is with us. The future of ministry and the church has arrived. Instead of considering what we might have lost, consider what doors God is opening up for you and your church?
Many people choose a word to help them focus on a new year, I think the word I would choose is opportunity. Realizing that nothing can separate us from Christ’s assurances of love and hope, what new opportunities does your church have before you? Take a moment to pause and pray, see where God is moving and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and your church to the new opportunities that He is creating for you and your team.
Todd Bishop, Brentwood Baptist Church