Keep the main thing the main thing

May 26th, 2020
This article is featured in the Growing Spiritually issue of Ministry During The Pandemic

Crises generate both chaos and miracles. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused breakdowns of every sort, it has also created breakthroughs. The pandemic has revealed to us what’s most important, most essential, to us. Especially in the areas of worship, spirituality and community.

As churches begin to reopen their buildings, and the life of the church takes on a more familiar feel, you or your people might be tempted to crank up all the old activities of the church. Let me sound a word of caution here. Before you do so it’s important to ask yourself how you will keep the main thing the main thing.

In this article I want to help you clarify which activities and offerings are central to the church, and which are peripheral. Which activities should you hang on to, and which ones will you want to keep on pause? Just as importantly, I want to share with you a new short course that will help you make the most of the crisis we are in.

What matters most

What constituted success in the life of the church before the coronavirus hit may be quite different from how you think of success now. I invite you to reflect back on the life of the church before the pandemic to compare it with the life of the church during the pandemic to answer the following questions.

Ministry and mission 

Begin with the ministries of the church. Before the coronavirus hit, what ministries did the congregation consider essential? What ministries does the congregation consider essential now?

The answer to the second set of questions likely points to the spiritual heartbeat of your church. It probably has something to do with worship that matters. Prayers that touch the heart and encompass the common good. Peaching that connects with people’s lives. Opportunities for community.

This set of answers also points to the real mission of the church, while the first set of answers may include the shadow mission of the church.

Who is involved?

Next, reflect on who was involved in the life of the church before the coronavirus hit. Who is involved now? Provided that your congregation did not suffer many losses from COVID-19, you may find that you have more people involved than you did before the pandemic. Including new assistance from community members. If so, celebrate. A partnership between congregation and community points to the deep mission of the church: demonstrating love of God and neighbor as dearly as love of oneself.

How to keep the main thing the main thing 

Put together these newly identified essential ministries of the church with the people who are engaged in delivery ministry and you have the makings of the main thing of ministry. Now, how do you keep this all alive?

Never let a good crisis go to waste

Former Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emmanuel said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Likewise, it would be a shame to let the hard-won lessons of this crisis go to waste. That’s why I have created a special three-session short course, Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste, just for leaders like you. This June 10-24 series will empower you to claim all that you have learned during the pandemic, celebrate your newfound capacities, and discover how to build on what you have gained. Even more importantly, you’ll be inspired to envision tomorrow’s miracles today. Learn more here.

How can you make the most of this crisis now? Here are three simple steps to take. First, find out what your people appreciate most about church these days. Second, as you gather their answers, also gather a prayer team to discern with you. Third, as you go forward seek God’s guidance about how to keep the heartbeat of love the main thing.

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