By: Scott Armstrong
Recently our Regional Director asked all the regional coordinators a very interesting question: What challenges do you foresee the Church facing after the pandemic? He needed us to answer a bit quickly, so I took a few moments to reflect, and then wrote the following response:
- Find a hybrid balance between virtual and face-to-face. There are times when virtual can achieve goals and save thousands of dollars. But there is still a need to meet in person in certain instances. A missiological principle is the need to incarnate ourselves, that is, to transmit an eternal message through flesh and blood in temporary contexts. In every culture it will be necessary to continue relating face to face, but especially in our Mesoamerican cultures.
- Don’t assume everyone has become a “digital native” or tech savvy. As regional or global coordinators and leaders we have adapted methods and learned new ways to minister during the pandemic. Some of our district and local leaders as well. But not all. It will be a great fallacy to believe that what we produce and offer to the multitudes through webinars and digital books is reaching every Nazarene member of our countries. Not everyone has experienced the pandemic like a regional or national missionary or leader has lived it.
- Invest much more in future generations. Recent statistics say that we as a Church are losing thousands of young people every year in this region and around the world. A new strategy to impress them will not suffice. Young people want to be involved in meaningful things. The call is no longer just to minister to them but to ALLOW THEM TO LEAD US.
- Convert all our resources to a digital format, make it economically accessible and easily available on a well-known site. As regional coordinators we travel a lot (not so much in a pandemic), and we are in contact with a large number of leaders in different countries and contexts. Everyone’s cry is the same: we do not have access to the resources and materials of the Church of the Nazarene. The ironic (or sad) thing is that as the Church of the Nazarene we are one of the denominations that produces the most and best materials! It is absurd that the local church does not know about, or does not have easy access to, our great resources.
- Move our systems from spider to starfish. I have been reading The Starfish and the Spirit by Lance Ford, Rob Wegner, and Alan Hirsch. I consider it essential reading for any church leader today. It speaks to the concept of moving the church from a mindset and structure where everything depends on the head (spider) to an organic one that regenerates if it is cut or damaged (starfish). The pandemic has surely hit many parts of our church hard, and the flexibility or lack of malleability of our structure will prove to be a fatal blow or an opportunity to express ourselves creatively and multiply. This has implications for the global church as well as the local church.
Of course, that initial answer did not cover everything. For example, my wife wrote her answers to the same question, and they were totally different! I have asked her to write some more and will be posting her article in the coming days.
However, part of my purpose in putting everything here is to start a conversation with you, the reader. How would you answer that same question? What challenges do you see the Church facing as we emerge from a world mired in a pandemic for so long?