Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
The church has been in a season of change. For most churches, fifty percent of her people had not returned from when the church closed a few months prior. LifeWay reports that 20% of churches will never reopen. School districts are struggling to find the right plan to reopen schools safely. Parents are deciding if it is safe to return to church and school. Businesses have had to laid-off workers, and those workers are running out of unemployment benefits. State and national elections are being questioned, and I could add a mile-long list to those changes. So, what do you do when everything changes?
God has reminded me in my spirit as I have prayed during this changing season that it will be okay. He is still on the throne. If you are like me, I pestered God for a little more revelation than it will be okay. He provided me four elements of reacting to change that have encouraged my soul and calmed my nerves.
- Be excepting of the things you cannot control.
As a leader, God knows I like to have order to my life and affairs. During Covid, the sense of order in my life has hung in the balance with each new local and state declaration. This has thrown my understanding of what I am going to do next into disarray. One night as I lay in bed praying, God reminded me that he is in control and needed to trust him. I thought, “I am a pastor, I do trust you, Lord.” Yet, I was not trusting him with everything. Being so focused on reopening the church, getting people back into service, and collecting the offering to pay bills that were falling behind, I was not excepting that he was in control. It came to me clearly, stop trying to do everything when you do not control anything. What I needed to do was focus on what I could manage. That was my prayer life, devotional time, and alone time with God. Everything else was left to someone else to control, and ultimately God.
- Adapt to the change, and do not be scared by the change.
Change is not easy. In the church world, it seems that change can scare Jesus out of many. The world around the members is changing at a fast rate. What used to be right is now considered wrong in the eyes of the world, and the one thing that church members can count on is the church not changing until now. As a leader, you need to realize that change is necessary if the message will reach the new need in the population. While the message never changes, the methods do. Be flexible in adapting to the change that is needed. Do not overstress when evaluating the needs of the church. If a program or space is no longer working for the needs post-Covid, then shift and adapt to the new condition. For many churches worship spaces are too large. With nearly 20% of the church not returning post-Covid, reducing seating is an option to create a unique atmosphere to worship in, changing a classroom into a pantry closet to feed the community, and using other unused space for families who need internet access for online schooling. Adapting to the community change can force the church to adapt to meet the need.
- Do not allow the change to define the church or your leadership.
When change occurs, many will celebrate the accomplishment, but most will try to impede the progress to hold fast to traditions that they are used to experiencing in the church. As a leader, you must be willing to celebrate the past but progress forward without regard to your legacy. Legacy looking can trap a leader in doing only the safe things and not the God stuff in the church. Throughout scripture, God challenged, equipped, and grace-filled leaders who obeyed and did mighty things for the kingdom. In my spirit, I hear God saying the time is now for leaders to not worry about what others might say and press forward to what God is saying. The change will come one way or another in the church. Doing nothing is a change by turning from a forward position to a retreat position. Be a leader who worries less about what other people think about your leadership ability and worry more about obeying God’s call on your ministry.
- React with a positive view.
As a leader, you can not control how other people feel or react to what is happening around them. You can, however, control how you respond to whatever situation that you are facing. React leader with a positive view. Make sure you are speaking, praying, and projecting a complementary idea of how God uses this troubling time to help create in you and your leadership the ability to build a spiritual and physical life that honors him. Lead your people in positive prayers by turning their negative voice into a positive one realizing that God is still on the throne, and Covid and other related changes are not a surprise to him. Lead your people in a positive worship experience where the Holy Spirit is welcomed into the service, and the service is given over to the Glory of God. As a leader, your reaction to the situations coming against the church will be watched, and leading with a positive and forward-leaning view can encourage others.
The church is not going to go back to the way it has always has been. God is an agent of change. Throughout the centuries, God has used people and situations to transform the church to meet the needs of that day. Today he is working again. Trust him, celebrate him, and know God is working on behalf of the church.
Dr. Desmond Barrett lead pastor at Summit Church of the Nazarene in Ashland Kentucky.