As PHCC looks toward the day when the COVID-19 pandemic will be over along with the day a new pastor will be called, I want to urge you to consider some advice: Don’t go back to the way things were before COVID-19. I know that sounds strange, even crazy, but hear me out. Several times, I’ve experienced being called to a new church that expects me to do the near impossible task of leading them back to their former glory. Each time the church held off on dreaming new dreams, rethinking church and starting anything new “until the new pastor gets here.’ Each time I showed up at a church that hadn’t done much lately and had no idea of what it wanted to do in the future. Not only did I not arrive with a bagful of tricks, but when I tried to offer new ideas they were either shot down or they quickly failed, because the church wasn’t ready for them. Your next pastor will not be the Messiah, she or he will not have all the answers, nor will she or he be able to lead you back in time to a church that existed generations ago. If you aren’t already thinking and working now towards a new reason for being a church in the 21st century, before the new pastor comes, you will saddle him or her with an impossible task that is sure to fail. Trust me, I’ve been that pastor and I have the wounds to show for it.
To get you thinking about what I mean, I want you to read a piece by Mark Tidsworth, who works with churches across the country. I’m pretty cynical about church consultants—generally I think they don’t have any more answers than the rest of us—but Tidsworth has won me over. Read what he says and pray about what God may be saying to you through his words:
Rev. Chase Peeples
Don’t Go Back, Please! By Mark Tidsworth, Pinnacle Leadership Associates
When this is over, or over enough, please don’t go back to pre-COVID church.
It was dying. The average church in this USA was either plateaued or declining, with discouraging future prospects.
Remember what it was like?
Nearly every church was asking how it could revitalize, reach younger people, increase its budget, take care of its aging facilities, and generally survive into the future. Anxiety and concern were rampant. Many were rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic (shuffling things around while not addressing core issues), while others were engaged in deep, spiritually driven, hopeful, adaptive reshaping. Every church, regardless of its adaptability and vitality, was dealing with a radically changed environment which did not much appreciate popular expressions of church.
Let’s take a good, long, clear-eyed look at what was, way back in early 2020.
Remember those misguided statements we used to hear from sincere Christ-followers sincerely trying to help?
“If we just called a more gifted pastor, or younger pastor with kids, or more outgoing pastor who could reach our community, or a better preaching pastor, or (insert something about savior pastors and church staff), then our church would grow again.”
“If we could just reach teenagers with an excellent youth program, then their parents would come too and give and our budget would grow.”
“If we added a service in a different style that’s more attractive to younger people, then we would flourish.”
“If we could get more of our people to volunteer and carry the load, the rest of us wouldn’t be so worn out all the time.”
“If we built new buildings, or were in a different location, or did better marketing, then our church would grow again.”
These activities may help when your church is located in an environment where many people are actively looking for a church to join. Except in small cultural enclaves in this USA, that environment no longer exists. Only the largest churches will grow numerically with these outdated growth strategies, collecting up Christian refugees from smaller churches.
So rather than return to what was broken, perhaps it’s time to follow our spiritual imaginations, prompted by the Holy Spirit.
Reflecting on those days long ago in early 2020, we can imagine sincere Christ-followers, gathered in a fellowship hall, sipping coffee and talking church. “Maybe we need a wake-up call; something so monumental and so disruptive to our lives that we have to change. Maybe we need something so big to come along that our concerns about the small stuff are stripped away and we are forced to get clear about the purpose of church. Maybe we need some external push, making us adapt in our changing context.”
Lo and behold, the Coronavirus.
Don’t go back, please. For God’s sake, for our sake, for the sake of this world, may we love enough to push ahead, transforming our churches into more robust expressions of this body of Christ. Let’s receive this transformation opportunity gift, compliments of the Coronavirus.
We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.
6601 Northwest 72nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64151 | 816-741-1851