At the end of each March Madness NCAA Basketball tourney, there is a powerful tradition called “One Shining Moment” where the unbelievable plays, dramatic storylines, and tournament surprises are combined into a video recap to the delight of college basketball fans everywhere. The video montage captures the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, the elation of victorious teams and other players who are experiencing shock and disbelief. In 2020, “One Shining Moment” never took place, as the NCAA tourney was canceled as the reality of the pandemic set in.
Imagine if we made “One Shining Moment” videos at the end of every year regarding real life stories. Would 2020 be composed of mostly lowlights and memories we would rather forget? If you church made a highlight video, would you say that it would be full of “Shining Moments” or “sour remembrances?”
While most of us hope for a better 2021, how should churches learn from last year? What lessons should those in church leadership learn about the way we “do church” over the past year? There are two distinct lessons about healthy churches and ministry leadership that we can learn from the difficulty of 2020.
Lesson #1 – Healthy Churches must prioritize the personal ministry of the word, not just the public preaching of the word.
Churches whose main teaching venues were from the platform often struggled to connect with and impact their people in 2020. While online services and zoom calls served as a replacement to some degree, many churches lost track of their congregations because they had always relied on church attendance to weekend services as their connecting point.
Many pastors were just plain worn out by the end of the year. Between learning a new way to minister, weighing safety issues week after week, and calming those seemingly angry at a changing culture around them, many pastors began considering their future calling as a pastor. Adding more personal meetings to their calendar to disciple those who were struggling seemed like an impossible task.
Unless churches had already been equipping their leaders to serve one another in personal ways, the needs quickly outpaced the ability to care for them. Sadly, many churches have no intentional equipping strategy to develop disciple-makers, and too many churches rely upon church staff to handle the bulk of the congregational needs.
Choosing to the prioritize the personal ministry of the Word will require churches to equip disciple-makers. As a counseling center, it is one of our greatest privileges to help churches develop a disciple-making strategy that equips more leaders to effectively carry more burdens.
Lesson #2 – Healthy Churches must prioritize the personal equipping of their flock, not just rely on staff to do the work of the ministry.
Many church leaders don’t know how to walk with the dying, address ongoing political division, talk about racial divides, or comfort the brokenhearted. Many churches have spent little to no time equipping their leaders to provide care and conversational discipleship. When addictions flared and marriages soured, churches should have been able to bring support and correction. Many churches weren’t ready and gathering large groups for teaching was no longer an option.
Jesus modeled for us a sacrificial and personal care for the hurting. He also modeled for us an intentional equipping strategy that shared his ministry with his disciples. In sharing the ministry, he grew his disciple’s faith and helped a hurting world receive the good news that was found in Christ alone.
While recent decades of church growth sought to impress their local communities with grand facilities and large gatherings, the decades ahead may prefer smaller, more intimate gatherings. More than ever, people are taking up roots in smaller communities looking for real connections, and the allure of bigger and better doesn’t seem so great after all. Churches that are going to be effective will know how to have personal conversations that give insightful answers to increasingly complex questions.
We often define the success of a biblical counselor as “having the conversation that Jesus would want us to have.” Our desire is that the methods, message, and motives of Jesus would be faithfully delivered to a hurting world to give them hope and help to follow Jesus more joyfully and faithfully.
Don’t miss this moment – God uses the difficult to make us uncomfortable, both individually and as local church families. We are surrounded by a world of opportunity, and a world of hurting individuals who crave normalcy.
Is your church equipping people for the ministry opportunities ahead? Let’s not get back to normal and miss the mark for effective ministry moving forward.