Post Coronavirus Church Trends

There will be many who predict how church will change post coronavirus, and the script is not yet fully written yet. There are a few safe bets when it comes to the future of church after the pandemic is over.

1. Essential ministry will flourish and extraneous ministry will flounder. For the first time in our lifetimes the church is not building a vision curve on top of another vision curve. Aubrey Malphurs made famous the successive “S” curve model (see below), and it has been a household staple for churches and pastors for 30 years.

Aubrey Malphurs made this model famous and can be found in Advanced Strategic Planning.

While the model has been helpful as pastors tried to learn to cast vision, this classic model from the church growth era never allowed the church to flush out its out dated models and ministries. The approach compounded ministries creating redundancies resulting in complex churches. There have been many efforts to create a Simple Church but in the end the models were just regurgitated church growth ideas. The result was essential ministry was clouded and churches have become confused about what its ministry really is and how ministry should be performed.

The coronavirus has force the church to experience the Kubler-Ross model. This model holds the potential to flush “ineffectiveness” and “unproductiveness” (think 2 Peter 1.8) out of the church system.

Moving into the recession/depression portion of the curve holds the potential to flush out programming, ministries, and activities that do not help the church make disciples. The many churches going through the motions of religious activities because of programing traditions or leader preferences will accelerate their decline, decay and ultimate demise post-coronavirus. During the crisis donors have been able to see and feel what is mission critical and what is non-essential. They are funding mission and ministry whereas programing and traditions are being defunded.

If you can’t clearly articulate the mission critical ministries, then you will loose your resource base.

2. The church will stop fighting over models and we will start fighting for the mission. Paul in 2 Tim 2 tells Timothy to “flee from . . . and fight for.” In the next statement he says there are many who have gotten involved in “foolish arguments” and our foolish arguments have distracted the church from the primary mission. We learned this outside of the Bible belt living in a community which was less then 1% evangelical Christian. The things that seemed important when we moved there became much less important after we had lived there for a few years. The things that seemed important pre-coronavirus will not be nearly as important post coronavirus.

3. Church meetings with have a higher participation rate. Most pastors lament not being able to get all their team members in the room at the same time to discuss issues and make decisions. Even finding the right time on the calendar when most members of team are in town has been difficult in the past. After the meeting is over the efforts at communicating the decisions made and executing decisions have been impaired. But now participating via zoom, teams, etc. is a new norm. Pastors and participants will have to learn on-line meeting etiquette, but a giant leap forward into the electronic age will help the church fulfill its mission more effectively. Execution will also improve due the fact that so many have had to become disciplined with their meetings.

4. Evangelistic engagement will increase but it will move on line. Gospel presentation have skyrocketed since coronavirus. However, most of them are taking place as an arms length transaction via the web. Christians have become comfortable with the 90 second testimony, etc. where they are professing their personal faith on line. The web will be the point of declaration and the place for public profession long after the virus subsides.

5. The supply chain of business and medicine will partner with the church as its distribution center. The church has discovered the power and benefit of the grocery worker, pharmacists, and truckers, and the medical and business has seen the power of the church’s mobilization and communication network. The best of all of these entities has emerged and the partnerships will grow strong and intentional post coronavirus.

To learn more about how the church will Re-Emerge from coronavirus vision Corpus website and download the Re-Emerge playbook. You will find perspectives, checklist, and a workbook for your church to use as you Re-Emerge post-covid.

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10 Post Corona Church Norms

Pastors and churches are rightly focused on Easter Sunday and the hopes of the Resurrection. Easter is the apex of all Christian hope and celebration. But pastors and churches are also very aware that post-Easter ministry is looming and it is feeling very different and longer term than anticipated. 

Our team www.corpusvitae.org works with churches, networks, and denominations in 12 states and 7 countries which allows us to observe larger trends in church life. As we work with, interview and survey our partner churches trends are beginning to emerge. Here is what we are hearing, observing and anticipating:

1. People will gather in smaller worship gatherings and smaller small groups (50% full will be the new full and people will walk out of full rooms and worship centers).

2. The church will recover its essential ministry and nonessential ministry will have fewer participants and get less money.

3. The church has given people permission to stay home for worship services and worship attendance will go down another 15%, but online viewing will go up 50%.

4. Pastoral care will focus on psychological issues and the church will finally engage the mental health crisis.

5. Discipleship will occur in groups of 3 during the workday and groups of 12 or less in homes in the evenings.

6. Missions will focus more on the immediate community than traveling abroad.

7. The church will redefine hospitality in the age of social distancing. There will be no potlucks and no greeting time during the worship service.

8. The church will partner with the business and medical community in new and creative ways to solve community challenges.

9. Money will flow to mission(s) and ministry and out of programs and facilities.

10. Preaching will focus on meaning and significance so that the existential questions people are asking can be answered.

Coronavirus is changing the way people think about church. Our team believes that churches that view themselves as a movement instead of an institution can thrive in the new realities they face.

If you need help ReThinking your ministry during the Coronavirus crisis you can view Corpus’ Crisis Management Playbook here. Also, the full ReFocus process can help your team redesign its ministry to thrive in the new realities. Learn more about ReFocus here.

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Happy Reorientation Day

The realities have set in. The grief curve is moving deep towards the bottom. The evidence is everywhere. Personally, I am hearing from pastors, helping churches and dealing with Christians where desperation and frustration have set in.

The macro-social dynamics reveal the evidence. The divorce rate in China is skyrocketing. The cause? To little money, too much screen time, too much conflict, too little communication about expectations, and uneven division of housework and childcare. Remote therapy has surged in America. Early indications are there are not enough counselors to help those who are crying out in pain for help. Domestic abuse calls have surged. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, and relational break downs are all occurring.

The five stages of grief inform us about the difficulty of the situation. Depression is what we can expect to see for the foreseeable future. (The diagram below is from a resource called ReThink provided by the Corpus team. It explains the stages of grief people and organizations are going through during the current crisis).

The 5 Stages of Grief Curve

Is there anywhere we can turn for help? Psalm 121.1-2 says, I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD. . .

The desperation is real. And even unexpected voices are encouraging people to turn to God. The governor of Mississippi led his state in prayer on TV. A CNN news anchor ask a Christian pastor to pray on air. Hollywood entertainers are online telling people to turn to Jesus and read the Bible. A businessman stood in the Rose Garden and preached the Gospel with the President standing beside him. The Prime Minister of Australia, one of the world’s most secular countries, is leading viewers in prayer on television. Things must be really bad, and they are. In times of disorientation we find our Re-orientation in the Lord.

One of the places many are turning for help is to the book of Psalms. I have noticed more pastors preaching from the Psalms, more posts on social media quoting the Psalms, many governmental officials appealing to the Psalms. And many churches are reading from the Psalms during their online services. People are seeking to give comfort, hope, direction, understanding and more to their listeners. I think the Psalms are the perfect place to turn in these disorienting times.

It was Walter Brueggemann in his groundbreaking book, The Message of the Psalms, that provides one of the most meaningful and simplest outlines for understanding the Psalms. Brueggemann identifies 3 types of Psalms in the cyclical nature of the human experience. According to Brueggemann there are Psalms of Orientation, Psalms of Disorientation, and Psalms of Re-Orientation.

While the Psalms of Orientation are a distant memory right now, most people can relate to the Psalms of Disorientation. Let me give my own outline to the Psalms of Disorientation. What we are facing is disorder leading to disruption, leading to disorientation, resulting in discouragement and for some even disillusionment.

It is at this low point of disorientation where the human heart recognizes it is empty and hurting, and it is powerless and helpless. We realize we cannot control the outcome of the crisis. We are not in charge of the circumstances. The thin veneer of human control is shattered, and we are asking existential questions about life’s meaning? what do I truly believe? and where if anywhere can I turn for help? This is life’s most vulnerable moment; however, it is spiritual life’s most valuable moment.

It is here where the Psalms really can help us! As Brueggemann says, “the Psalms of Disorientation teach us how to talk to God in our desperation.” The Psalms reveal it is ok to be angry, frustrated, and hurt. It is ok to vent these feelings and fears to God. It is ok to wrestle with these issues.

You/I are not the first to do this. As a matter of fact, every generation must have this moment, or they are doomed to live a shallow insignificant life. This season of suffering has been called the dark night of the soul, and it is a place where God does some of His very best work. We learn to walk by faith and not by sight. We learn the world is broken and we come face to face with the fact that we are broken too. We like Job sit in our sorry and gain a much better and more realistic view of the world we live in and the life we live.

Thankfully, for the believer, disorientation is not the last word! There is a coming Re-orientation for those who will put their hope in God. Psalm 73 was King David’s ultimate re-orientation. In light of his troubles, he makes his way into the presence of God confessing “his foot had almost slipped.” But when he comes to the Lord and finds spiritual reorientation, his “bitterness melts away and his hope surges.” He confesses his faith and trust in God, “Whom have I in heaven but you? and besides You I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Here are the 4 things David teaches us that come with our spiritual Re:Orientation:

  1. Relationship – Our isolation is overcome by the most meaningful relationship we could ever hope to experience – a relationship with God. As a matter of fact, we discover that we have been living far below what we were designed to enjoy when we were living “ordinary” lives without an extraordinary relationship with the living God.
  2. Relaxation – We discover we can relax recognizing that we are not in control, but God is. He has numbered our days, and He has a purpose for our lives. He is in control and we are not. You can be anxious but, in your anxiety, you will not be able to add a single day to your life. So, relax, God’s got this.
  3. Resilience – One of the things your faith in God will provide you is an unending resilience in the face of difficulty. Resilience will empower you to: A) accept your new Realty. B) Develop new Routines. C) Reinvent your schedule. D) Reflect deeply about what matters. E) and Reframe how you view life.
  4. Renewal – Victor Frankl who wrestled more deeply with meaning and purpose than most of us ever will wrote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” This is the ultimate re-orientation, and this is what God is able to accomplish.

Philippians 2.5-11 was Brueggemann’s inspiration for his three-fold outline of the Psalms. Paul reveals the ultimate gospel orientation when Jesus Himself went through this cycle of orientation, disorientation, and re-orientation and He came out on the other side victorious.

The Psalms:

help us make sense of what we are feeling.

teach us how to talk to God in these times of frustration.

assist us in pouring out in human language all of the thoughts, feelings, and hurts that that flood the heart and mind.

speak to the topics every person faces during their life as they experience celebration, suffering, surprise, and survival.

reveal the hidden thoughts and emotions of the human heart.

and lay our hearts before God so we can understand our feelings in light of the eternal God.

Happy Reorientation Day as you read the Psalms!

Visit: www.drrobpeters.com for more resources.

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What is the Most important trait in a leader: Character, Competence or Charisma?

One of the greatest problems in American Evangelicalism is that we have forsaken the character – competence leadership model and perpetuated a charisma-based leadership model in its place.

Many refer to the charisma-based leadership model as the cult of personality. This charisma-based model is defined as an individual using media, the spectacle, the arts, patriotism, or rallies to create an idealized, heroic, and even worshipful image of themselves in order to gain influence over others.

Unfortunately, the charisma model of leadership is being used and abused far too often among Christian leaders. Many Christians have fallen victim to these charismatic personalities and come under the sway of their tools. I too have fallen victim to this model and even perpetuated it out of naivety and ambition, but I have found freedom from its slavery and insight from a better biblical model.

It is normal and even good for young pastors to have respect for their fathers in the ministry who have gone before them. Young pastors emulate those who have taught them in ministry. In some ways this is how we learn. The Apostle Paul did say, “Follow me as I follow the Lord.” The lesson I learned as I struggled with the charismatic model of leadership was to be careful who you emulate and to be cautious about why you emulate them. I also learned there is a point at which you must be true to yourself and to the calling God has upon you. Most of all your motives must be pure before God, and you must set aside your desire to seek great things for yourself and instead seek glory for God alone. This is much more difficult to do than to write. This requires deep refining and difficult personal examination.

I remember when I began to formulate a Character-Competence based leadership model. I was preaching chapel at “my” seminary, and the president of the seminary was speaking with me in the “green room” prior to the service. He was making excuses for why chapel attendance and enrollment had been so low for some time. During our somewhat awkward conversation, I talked with him about the need for pastors to learn skills that helped them be effective in ministry. He shocked me by stating, “I do not believe leadership can be taught – either the Man of God is ‘anointed’ or he is not.” The more I explored his thoughts on leadership the more clearly, I saw this the “MOG” syndrome being played out in my denomination. The Man of God approach says follow me, and I will use my personality, image, and persona to lead and gain influence. After all I have been “chosen” and “anointed” and that is all I need to lead.

I am not dismissing the calling of God or the anointing of God, but what I am saying is that charisma in comparison to character and competence has become way out of balance in most churches. It took me a while to formulate my thoughts biblically, but here is how I outline them:

1. The greatest leaders in the Bible were not recognized for their charisma. 2. The faithful leaders in the Bible are celebrated for their character and competence. 3. The church desperately needs more Character-Competence based leaders today. Let me speak to each of these briefly:

First, the greatest leaders in the Bible were not recognized for their charisma. As a matter of fact, we are told explicitly their charisma was not what attracted people to them. Consider three leaders from the Bible. It was said of the Apostle Paul in First Corinthians 10.10, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.” Isaiah prophesied about Jesus in Isaiah 53.2, “For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” And poor David embodied such poor leadership possibilities in his father’s mind that he was completely overlooked as being a potential candidate for leadership.

It is very clear that appearance and charisma was not what set Jesus, the Apostle Paul and King David apart. It was something other than their charisma that made them useful in God’s work.

Second, what is it that sets a servant of God apart? Faithful biblical leaders are celebrated for their character and competence. David is probably the most succinct example of this. It is said of him in Psalm 79.72, “He shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart and guided them with his skillful hands.” David is a celebrated leader because of his character and his competence. This is further exemplified in First Timothy and Titus where Paul highlights the “Qualifications” for elders and deacons. In both lists the character – competence continuum is highlighted and what is noticeably absent is charisma. Things like faith, courage, obedience, love, and hope stick out on the character side of the equation. Things like discipline, honesty, trustworthiness, transparency, communication skills, organizational abilities, administrative insights stick out on the competency side of the equation. Again, charisma is noticeable absent.

Finally, what the church desperately needs today is to recover the Character-Competence based leadership model the Bible teaches. Churches need pastors who shepherd with integrity of heart and guide them with skillfulness of hand. This means discipling pastors in spiritual formation that develops Christlikeness and training pastors in the necessary skills sets to lead in the church effectively.

Let me close by sharing the 7 potential impacts if the church were to recover the Character-Competence based leadership model:

  1. The gospel would become the focus of Christianity not the few visible leaders who represent Christianity to the media and to pop culture.
  2. There could be more unity around the essence of our faith and not a loyalty to and a tribalism around those who represent Christianity to the culture.
  3. The church could treasure the gospel again and not the personalities who communicate it.
  4. Movements within Christianity would not be personality based so they can be sustained long-term not just for the life of the charismatic leader.
  5. Unbelievers could base the merits of the Christian faith on the substance of the Christian faith and not judge Christianity by who represents it.
  6. Churches could flourish more because there is a focus upon the outcomes of a pastor’s work and not upon the style or personality of the pastor.
  7. And more pastors could lead effectively in the Character-Competency based model than could lead in the Charisma based model because character and skills can be developed and taught to anyone willing to learn.

To learn more about competency based leadership visit corpusvitae.org

To learn more about the competencies of a skilled overseer, a wise elder and a transformational shepherd you can take the Pastoral Readiness Assessment as a 360 degree assessment to see how you can develop in the Character-Competence based leadership model.

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3 REASONS WHY CHURCHES ARE NOT REVITALIZED

The Corpus Team has worked with over 1,000 churches in the last three years in the area of church revitalization. We have worked with churches from many denominations across 4 continents and with churches from 20 US states. Compiling the meta-data reveals there are 3 reasons why church revitalization does not occur when revitalizations efforts are undertaken: Culture, Competency, and Chemistry, and there are benchmarks in each of these.

Culture – Church culture is by far the primary reason why churches cannot be revitalized. A full 60 percent of the time existing church culture is responsible for the failure of revitalization. A lot is being written about toxic leadership right now. With what has happened to two of the most notable churches in Chicago-land and the high profile nature of their pastors, this is an easy target these days. What is not being talked about or at least is not getting the attention of the Christian media or social media mob is the TOXIC Church Culture.

The reality is that it is a lot easier to point to one person on a stage and identify them as the responsible party than it is to point at all the people in the seats who are holding the pastor hostage and contributing negatively to the overall tone of the church.

What out team sees in toxic church culture are congregations: Going through the motions instead of living life on mission, Living in fear not living with courage, Being inflexible instead of being adaptive, and Being negative and cynical instead of living with joy. Of course there is more but you get the idea. Our team sees a lot of Toxic Shock Culture that pastors have been ask to “turn around, ” but when it comes to giving the pastor permission and support to lead the church to be effective and relevant there is more resistance than support. Our team has developed the above assessment that measures the nine most critical aspects of a church’s culture that reveals the likelihood that it can be revitalized. There are benchmarks that indicate the likelihood of success.

Competency – Thirty percent of revitalization pastors give tangible evidence that they do not have the necessary skills to lead a church revitalization. Lets be honest pastors are ask to perform a broad range of functions and be an expert in many fields. It is a challenging task. Numerous surveys of pastors indicate that pastors overwhelmingly feel like seminary or Bible college did not prepare them for the realities of ministry they face. The joke is “I must have missed the class where they taught us to _________ (you fill in the blank). Honestly this has been a joke for over 30 years, maybe it is time for a seminary to do something about this. Our team at Corpus is trying to help pastors learn, develop, and practice the skills necessary to lead well and to lead in revitalization. Below you will find a figure we use to measure the revitalization skills of a pastor.

Our model is built on the Overseer concept in the Bible. Both Peter and Paul exhort the pastoral teams they were leading to Oversee the church as a faithful steward (See Acts 20 and 1 Peter 5). In 1 Peter 2 Jesus is called the Great Overseer of our soul. Jesus is portrayed as a TYPE OF OVERSEER. The typology holds true in the Old Testament through 3 characters – Joseph, Josiah and Nehemiah all of whom were called overseers or Oversaw those they appointed as overseers. Joseph is the Vision caster. Josiah is the strategist. Nehemiah is the Culture curator. (See related blog post). All three led in a time of revitalization.

Our team has fully developed the nine biblical skillsets a revitalization under the headings: Wise Elder, Skilled Overseer, and Transformational Shepherd. We have also developed an assessment tool as a 360 degree assessment that helps a pastor honestly assess their capacities to lead a revitalization.

Chemistry – The final category for failed revitalization is chemistry. About 10 percent of the time the chemistry between a pastor and a congregation is just not right. The pastor struggles to understand the people and the people struggle to accept the pastor. Our team finds that when chemistry is the issue there are struggles for both the pastor and the people. The words spoken are rarely understood property. Love is given and receive on different terms. Leadership expectations are different. Bed side manner does not resonate, etc. When this occurs it is best for both parties to gain an appreciation for one another, the gifts God has given them and the skills and resources entrusted to them. Our assessment tools help pastors stop pointing the finger at the church and the church to stop pointing their finger at the pastor. When mutual understanding and appreciation are born, the likelihood of revitalization dramatically increases.

What is the secret of a good revitalization effort? A wise elder, a skilled overseer, and a transformational shepherd leading in a church that is self aware of who it is and what it needs to become. If you would like to know more about the Vision Receptivity Assessment (Culture), the Pastoral Readiness Assessment (Competency) or the Merging of the two assessments (Chemistry) visit the Corpus website and click on Assessments or just click here!

www.corpusvitae.org

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