Church Shift #6: A More Excellent Way
by Kevin Freeman
This is the final installment in a six-part series that explores how God may be calling the church to shift her practices and focus as a result of the pandemic. What feels like a shift may be more of a realignment toward her calling. Previous topics have argued that God is using the pandemic to refine His church and is calling believers to embrace peculiarity as people committed to authentic faith above all else. This also requires church ministries to realign toward making disciples.
Let’s review what we have covered so far regarding the “shift” which God may be calling churches to undertake as a result of the pandemic. Each of the prior articles can be restated in the form of a question.
- Are we willing to pursue a shift toward biblical church and Christianity rather than simply trying to “return to normal”?
- To what extent is the faith we hold more a simulation than the real thing?
- How ready are we to embrace the inherent peculiarity of our faith instead of attempting to blend in with the world and show our normalcy?
- Have our churches developed programmatic clutter that inhibits our ability to pursue God’s call?
- How can we trim and realign our ministries to effectively accomplish the church’s mission?
If we were to stop at this point, one might think all the church needed was a business success course. Companies consistently face the challenge of adjusting their strategies to reach more customers and increase their bottom line, and they shift all the time. The popular video game creator Nintendo, for example, began not in 1989 but in 1889, the same year the Eiffel Tower opened to the public! Its initial revenue stream was from hand-painted playing cards. Churches, however, are not seeking new revenue streams but rather the streams of living water promised by Jesus (John 7:38).
While the pandemic has spurred many churches to undergo a Nintendo-like transition from paper to digital, the real shift comes when we ask “what spiritual practices has God given his people to flourish during any crisis?” God can do more with a disorganized church whose people humbly seek Him than He can do with a well-organized church whose members are self-sufficient.
How can you adopt some of these spiritual practices? They are not new, but they are ready to be embraced.
Fervent prayer. Prayer is the primary means God has given His people to communicate with Him, enjoy Him, and express our needs. The extent to which God’s people pray reflects their dependence on the power of God in their lives.
Fasting. Is it possible that we have forgotten to fast? The culture that seems most able to skip a few meals is also the most hesitant to do so. There are many effective ways to fast. The traditional meal fast reminds a person that Christ rather than food is the ultimate need. Fasting often focuses attention on a specific prayer issue.
Meditation. Christian meditation is always on the truths of Scripture. This is not that brief glance-at-the-lesson-passage twenty minutes before your small group’s Zoom meeting. Instead, it is the focused consideration of God’s truth, allowing it to transform our thinking and seep into our daily lives.
Service. As one who is in a busy household, it is easy for me to consider that Christian service is simply not the season of life we are in, but every Christian is called to full time ministry. Giving ourselves to service is itself an expression that God will meet the needs we neglect. In God’s economy, our ministry always nourishes our own faith as much as those we serve.
Rest. In a similar way, rest is an expression of faith. Instead of believing we have too much on our plates to take a break, we rest and enjoy one another and God’s creation. This resets our thinking and reminds us of this good life God has given us. It allows God’s people to be content and to notice others. Rest puts God’s agenda ahead of ours.
Evangelism. Proclaiming the Gospel fertilizes our faith, bringing to it a vibrancy that cannot be obtained elsewhere. This does not have to be on a street corner; it can happen over coffee with a neighbor or coworker.
Giving. Believers give not out of obligation, but out of a joy from all that God has given us. Obedience is the starting block, and joy is the finish line. Prioritizing the tithe off of the top of our earnings is our first-fruits offering to the God who has brought us an abundant harvest.
So, power is found only in Christ and the living water He brings to those who live according to Spirit-filled practices prescribed in God’s Word. Redirecting our ministry practices to more faithfully accomplish the Great Commission is necessary, but restructuring our lives to live as we are called is essential. Isaiah prophesied God’s promises to the people who do:
“The LORD will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose water never runs dry” (Isaiah 58:11).