Since the beginning of 2020, the whole world has experienced an epochal challenge that has tried our souls. It has revealed character, motivation and maturity levels in the church and the world. Consequently, this should be a time of reflection and correction for us all.
Since I am an ecclesial shepherd, In the following 10 points, I will narrow my focus on the church.
1. Many people in the prophetic lack biblical alignment. The inaccurate prophecies regarding both the outcome of the presidential election and post-election predictions have greatly troubled many of us in the charismatic church. It has caused a massive crisis of confidence related to the charismatic movement. For this reason, Michael Brown, several dozen leaders and I have crafted the prophetic standards statement. Biblically aligned prophetic ministry always allows others in the church to judge its words (1 Cor. 14:29, 1Thess. 5:19-22. )
2. The leaven of Herod has infiltrated the church.
See my recent article on this here.
3. Much prayer won't necessarily change election outcomes. I am a great proponent of fasting and prayer for revival and national awakening. On the other hand, I also know that God judges the hearts and motivations of people when they pray (James 4:3). Alas, despite multiple thousands of conservative evangelicals rallying for days of fasting and prayer, they did not get the result they were looking for. My only conclusion is that much of the prayer was probably not in line with the will and heart of God. This is a prerequisite for Him to hear and answer (1 John 5:14). Perhaps our motives in prayer were related to avoiding persecution and retaining religious liberty (things the church in China, Iran, India and so forth) do not believe are essential for the church to thrive. Perhaps the prayers would have been better spent seeking the face of God to heal our land rather than striving for a particular candidate to be elected (2 Chron. 7:14).
4. The church must continually pivot for forward motion. The effective church must always be willing to adapt according to the times in which its people live. At the beginning of the pandemic, many of us had to work day and night for weeks to reinvent how we did church.
5. Only the remnant will persevere. The pandemic has caused most church attendance to drop between 25-50%. Consequently, those half-heartedly committed to Christ used the virus as an excuse to disconnect from church even after the lockdown was over. However, immediately after the lockdown, the faithful remnant church began to assemble again. Regarding those with COVID concerns for missing church, the test is whether they are still participating in the life of their church through Zoom, online services, and giving tithes and offerings.
6. The church is more than a building. The lockdown proved that a biblical congregation could not be defined merely by an edifice utilized for church services. The true church will always find a way to connect, shepherd the flock, conduct outreach to the community and love one another despite the lack of a central meeting place.
7. Technology is essential for gospel expansion and church cohesion. With the advent of television in the early 20th century, the church missed a huge opportunity in owning and operating TV stations. (Many Christian fundamentalists believed TV was of the devil.) We have also missed the ship regarding other advances. The pandemic has proved to the church that we need to utilize the latest technologies to advance the gospel and relate the timeless message through changing methods.
Unfortunately, many churches had to close because they did not provide online services starting in 2020.
8. The church is still divided along the lines of ethnic identity. The death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests revealed that many Black, brown and white believers had different perspectives even though they read the same Bible. (Although to be fair, a large percentage of people walking in solidarity with Blacks in the demonstrations were white.) In some cases, differences of opinion even divided churches and caused great polarity. This crisis revealed that the church still has a long way to go to fulfill our ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-20). For more regarding this point, see my article here.
9. Many believers and churches are not biblically grounded. The tumultuous elections, the pandemic and civil unrest the past two years have revealed how biblically ignorant many in the church are. This ignorance was exacerbated by preachers that merely attempted to appease secular culture rather than preach biblical principles. A major indicator of vast biblical illiteracy in the church were the un-Christlike, vitriolic, political social media posts that believers wrote.
10. Most churches are not making disciples.
Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not merely new converts (Matt. 28:19). Churches that have focused only on gathering crowds instead of establishing Christians in the faith have been decimated during this lockdown season because they are now left with very few committed members.
What can be the way forward? Here are some suggestions:
— Church leaders should regularly engage in dialogical communities with leaders of different perspectives, ethnicity, and demographics that can help expand their ability to relate the gospel to contemporary culture.
— Churches should focus on disciple-making, not just evangelism and drawing crowds.
— Pastors should consider utilizing expository teaching to educate congregations, not just preaching meant to excite, motivate and inspire the masses.
— A high-level discussion should ensue regarding how the church can preach biblical principles without adorning the gospel with a political party.
— The church should utilize entrepreneurial leaders with apostolic, prophetic and evangelistic grace upon their lives so that the gospel will adopt and advance despite the many societal challenges. Entrepreneurial leaders, such as those with the ministry gift of apostle, view every challenge as an opportunity.
— Above all, the church should always strive to be Christocentric in her character, behavior and message.
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