‘You Should Never Waste a Good Crisis’
‘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.
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.
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’