It is a Crisis – So ‘Carpe Diem’

You Should Never Waste a Good Crisis’

Rahm Emanuel

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I am not a Prophet or a Prophet’s son’ as Amos said to the 8th Century BC leaders and people of Israel (Chapter 7:14), nevertheless I am going to venture a tentative ‘Prophecy’ (a prayer anyway).

The ‘Prophecy’ is that the current Corona Virus Crisis (CVC) may well be used by God to force the, now effectively closed down, missionally failing conventional Sunday-centric church, with, or aiming for, sizeable congregations, to make the changes in the way it views and does church and local mission. These are changes that churches should have made 50 – 70 years ago, and which ‘prophets’ of those times said it should. This is something that it is worth expanding upon at a later date but here I would like to focus on the relevance of the above quote to those who already see the need for alternative ways of doing church and local mission particularly in the form of Missional Community Networks.

It is undoubtedly true that this time of ‘Pandemic’ Crisis, while it creates challenges, is also a time to ‘Carpe diem’, to ‘Seize the Day’, a day of opportunity- and we shouldn’t waste it!

A major consequence of the current Crisis is that Missional Communities cannot physically meet in our normal venues in order to implement the Unbounded Church strategy to reach those without Christ, that is to ‘Connect, Gather, Disciple and Multiply’ (CGDM). This is because current restrictions on businesses and social venues that can open and ‘social distancing’ regulations mean that virtually all the places where our Groups normally meet are not available. This of course is a difficulty for us but is much worse for those businesses that have had to close and those who are losing their jobs. We should continue to pray for them and for a speedy end to the Virus Crisis.

A further consequence is that many existing members will not be able to fellowship with other members of their community for what promises to be many months at least (and this includes attendance at a standard church). Such a fellowship ‘Drought’ also carries with it for many a lack of the ‘Spiritual’ food that meeting in community provides. This is not good for anyone’s spiritual health.

However, this Crisis should be seen not just as a problem but as an ’Opportunity’. That is an opportunity to create networks of on-line Cyber Missional Communities via Zoom/Skype Meetings etc. (i.e. Video conferencing). It is not of course the same as face to face meetings, but it still enables the ‘CGDM’ strategy to be implemented.

Connection’ will be by existing group members using their existing cyber networks to invite those they already connect with to join a Cyber community. These may already be Christians who because of the ‘CVC’ have lost their normal fellowship and so the Cyber group can be a replacement ‘spiritual’ home for them which may (or may not) be temporary.

There may also be non-Christians who would never attend a standard church but would be interested in a Cyber opportunity to discuss spiritual things, especially in this climate of great uncertainty, insecurity and even fear for many, and in a way that they can easily ‘escape’ from if they feel uncomfortable. 

‘Gathering’ will occur as those who accept such above invitations join up and become participating members of the Cyber group.

‘Discipling’ will continue to take place as the Community engages in bible study and prayer.

‘Multiplication’. There are already examples of this taking place in some Cyber communities as more people join who are wanting to continue or gain a spiritual dimension to life such that the groups need to expand. It may well be that the current uncertain times will cause more people to sense this need.

The Multiplication of Missional Communities, an essential part of any hope there might be of turning the tide of ‘church’ decline, is actually easier in the case of Cyber groups because there is no need to find another venue for a new group, just maybe another time slot.  

Some UC groups have already ‘Cyberized’ themselves, but more than that are looking to use the opportunity the current restriction on normal activity creates for ongoing mission.

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Another upside of Cyber Communities worth mentioning is that they have no specific geographical location and so can invite participants from anywhere. There will be people who for various reasons have lost and are not able to gain Christian fellowship in the current circumstances who might be happy to join a cyber group.

Then there is the opportunity for Pastoral Care which should not be allowed to lapse because of the current situation. Surveys show that very large numbers of people in western society are lonely. This is only likely to get worse in the current social isolation regime. On-line groups can be set up to provide some sort of fellowship, still with an element of Christian content which even non-Christians might be willing to join. 

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The essence of the Unbounded Church Concept is that Missional Communities are ‘Organic, Mission-Fluid, Flexible and Adaptable’, such that they are not locked into any specific shape and so have an ability to ‘flow’ into any form required for the mission needs of any cultural context, including the current Crisis. These are most definitely not characteristics of standard churches.

The above characteristics are currently well illustrated by the easy facility of existing MCs to morph into Cyber versions of themselves. This is a characteristic we should maximize for missional opportunity in the current circumstances.

We indeed face a Crisis, however it is time to ‘Carpe Diem’, to seize the day of opportunity for-

                    ‘You Should Never Waste a Good Crisis’

3 thoughts on “It is a Crisis – So ‘Carpe Diem’

  1. We have thought this too. Things won’t fully return to the way they were – either in the world or in the church. So the question is how will things change?

    Obviously we are guessing, unless we are true prophets (which you may be). But I feel the church staff and organisations will try to return things to the way they were, and many people will be happy to do so – after all, many christians are consumers of a product the church supplies. They put money in the plate and their derrieres on the seat, and then they get a religious product and a ticket to heaven. It’s a cosy relationship.

    But I believe you are right that there will be some, maybe many, who were already on the edges, whether out of lack of interest, lack of faith and conviction, or dissatisfaction, and many will discover they don’t need to religious product any more. Some will sleep in on Sundays, but some will look for something more.

    Some of what you describe is in the “prophetic” book, Liquid Church by Pete Ward. It is less organised than the Missional communities that you have started, but not so far from the cyber communities you describe here. I think this “liquefying” of the church has been happening already, and this will probably accelerate that trend.

    Out growth group” of about 10-12 mostly young adults met for the third time tonight via video. It’s working OK. We had practice for a year while a member was studying in Japan and skyped in each week, so it isn’t unfamiliar. Tonight one member was in western NSW, but it made no difference. So asa you say, new things are happening.

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    1. Thanks for that comment.

      Yes I agree that church staffs and leaderships will attempt to bring things back to the way they were. This I think will be a tragedy for it will be a failure to use this ‘Kairos time’, this Virus-forced season of opportunity to re-imagine the church to be appropriate for a very uncertain future cultural landscape the chief characteristic of which will be accelerating change.

      There are also I believe some pragmatic factors consequential to the current ‘church’ shutdown that will limit the attempt to return to ‘Church as it used to be’.

      One, as you mentioned, is the loss of fringe consumerist, convenience-store members who will have found other things to do on Sundays. So average attendances will be less and while there is a small possibility that this might mean congregations are more healthy I think it is more likely that it will put another spike in the (until now) ubiquitous ‘grow the Sunday congregation’ model.

      A second factor is the loss of Offertory income. I suspect that this is happening already as, while many today give electronically, quite a number do not particularly in small to medium churches and those with older congregations, who use the plate to give. This may well have implications for church staffing levels and programs.

      I have read ‘Liquid Church’ a long time ago. Yes the same idea. The unpredictable ever-changing nature of our western society demands that ‘Church’ is highly flexible and receptive to re-imagination as the changing cultural context demands.

      It’s good you are trying it out with your group.

      I don’t envisage that Christian fellowships meeting in Cyber space will be the way of the future when the ‘Pandemic’ has gone, except in special circumstances, but many of their ‘Organic’ characteristics- Flexibility, Adaptability, Re-inventabiity need to be retained for effective mission in the ‘Brave’?? New World beyond ‘CoVid 19’.

      Keep up the good work and thanks again for your comment.

      Blessings,

      Martin

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