Some churches are uniquely situated to thrive during COVID-19, and they all share a few common traits. It has little to do with how good their technology is, their video-editing skills, or the strength of their worship team, and everything to do with how they are organized. Internally-focused churches are hurting, while Externally-focused churches are thriving. Let’s take a look:
The Internally-Focused Church
This church was dying already, prior to the pandemic. Its death may have been slow, but it was almost certainly dying. And its death is being expedited now, and met with a sense of hopelessness or an attitude of defiance.
In an internally-focused church, everything revolves around gathering in a building, and usually around Sunday mornings and possibly Wednesday nights. The internally-focused church has focused itself solely on the quality of its gatherings. And once those gatherings were taken away, one of two things happened. Either the church became defiant, meeting in defiance of wisdom and even state guidance and ordinances, or the church became hopeless, unable to continue doing the only thing that made church “church” – gathering.
This is a trying time for everyone, but most of all for the internally-focused church. If the whole purpose of church is tied to something they can no longer do (gather), all seems hopelessly lost.
The Externally-Focused Church
There is no doubt about it: this type of church is struggling, too. But they’re struggling differently, and they’re processing their struggles differently. And despite those struggles, they’re finding new, creative ways to minister and thrive.
The Externally-Focused church likely complied with state guidance and ordinances, and was probably among the first churches in its community to move online. Why? Because the externally-focused church loves its neighbors, and made its decisions based on the well-being of the people who it loves and serves.
The externally-focused church would love to gather for worship, but they’re also excited to find new places of ministry. Volunteering at the food pantry, which is experiencing a new surge of need, or assisting community service needs, or volunteering to help with contact-tracing, or beginning new, creative ministries to meet the new, urgent needs of the community keeps this church excited and motivated.
The externally-focused church isn’t asking, “What about our church?! What will we do now?!” They’re asking, “What about our community? What new ways will we serve the community in service of Jesus now?” This church is rising to meet needs, and as it does so, it is thriving.
When the externally-focused church thinks about what it means to be the church, it thinks about others. Its imagination is uniquely shaped by a love for its neighbors. And our neighbors are in more need than ever.
How is Your Church Doing?
Are you struggling? Are you thriving? Are you finding ways to reach out and minister in the name of Jesus? How will this time change your church?