How the Church might restart within the close to future … | The change

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Today we are in the midst of a crisis that is forcing the Church to learn a new song and dance.

Already on March 19, Tomas Pueyo published an article entitled "Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance". In this article, he advocated taking strong measures (hammer) at an early stage to smooth the curve of the virus affect. During this period of rigorous action, Pueyo found that health systems and scientists – along with the federal and state governments – would have time to fight the virus better.

After the hammer time, Pueyo said it was dance time until there was a vaccine. He explained,

We call the months of time between the hammer and a vaccine the dance because it will not be a time when the measures are always the same. Outbreaks occur again in some regions, but not over a longer period in others. Depending on how the cases develop, we may have to tighten social distance measures, or we may release them.

We believe that we are moving towards dance time – let's call it the "COVID-19 dance".

Without becoming too technical – because none of us are dance experts – there is the rhythm of the dance, the rules (techniques) of the dance and the movements of the dance.

It will be up to the church leaders to learn this new dance as we prepare to revive the church.

The rhythm: the proposed "gating criteria"

Last Friday, President Trump published guidelines for "Opening Up America Again". This was welcome news. It was welcomed because many at least wanted to know what the COVID-19 task force was thinking about when this crisis would recur (although the federal government is leaving the reopening of America to the governors).

According to President Trump and his team, the task force has created a "gating criteria", followed by three phases. Your proposed criteria are as follows:


Downward trend from influential diseases reported within 14 days


Downward trend in cases of covid syndrome reported within 14 days


Downward trend in documented cases within a period of 14 days


Downward trend of positive tests as a percentage of total tests over a period of 14 days (flat or increasing test volume)


Treat all patients without crisis care


Robust testing program for vulnerable healthcare workers, including emerging antibody tests

If an area meets the gating criteria, they enter phase 1. According to the proposed plan, people in phase 1 should continue to seek protection and maximize physical distance from others – including avoiding social attitudes of more than 10 people (unless precautions are taken). Certain types of employers, including churches, can work in phase 1 “under strict Physical distance protocols. "

To go from phase 1 to phase 2, the gating criteria would have to be applied again. If areas meet symptoms, cases, and hospital criteria, they can move on to phase 2, where people maximize physical distance from others and avoid social attitudes of more than 50 people (unless precautions are taken).

In phase 2, non-essential trips can be resumed. However, employers are still encouraged to enable their workers to work remotely. In addition, certain types of employers – seating, cinemas, sports venues and places of worship – can operate under moderate Physical distance protocols.

Phase 3 takes place when states and regions meet the gating criteria a third time. At this point, vulnerable individuals can resume public interactions while practicing physical distance and minimizing exposure to settings where distance may not be practical. For certain types of employers, which in turn include places of worship, they can meet at limited Physical distance protocols.

Even if everything goes according to plan and all gating criteria are met three times to move a state or region to phase 3, this area still looks a month and a half (6 weeks) before life returns to normal.

This means that some parts of the United States will open earlier than others. One area may be in phase 3, while another area may not even be in phase 1. This may mean that an area may move from phase 1 to phase 2, only to see an increase in cases and death and return to zero. As you can see, the situation remains volatile – at least until there are no cases or a vaccine is created.

The rules: Define strict, moderate, and limited physical distance protocols

Within the three phases you will find the "strict", "moderate" and "limited" physical distance protocols. But what do these mean? At least for now, it will be difficult for you to find the definition of each of these terms – especially with regard to the physical distance protocols.

According to the CDC website, social distancing (or physical distancing) means:

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people
  • Don't gather in groups
  • Stay away from crowded places and avoid mass gatherings

Given the CDC's stance on physical distancing, this seems to be the case strict Logs would be pretty much what we have now. Therefore, in Phase 1, not so much would change with regard to church meetings.

In states and regions going into phase 2 where it would moderate It seems that there is a way to slowly (gradually) introduce physical assemblies.

So what would moderate Include protocols? Given what was shared at the beginning of the crisis regarding group meetings, information from the CDC website and the language describing what companies can do with the Reopening America plan, we would assume that moderate protocols would include:

  • Hygiene measures
  • Safety precautions
  • Size of precautions when collecting

Hygiene measures. This includes cleaning surfaces that are touched frequently – doors, rails, countertops, bathrooms (with schedules for the last cleaning), etc. In addition, the hand sanitizer (disinfectant wipes) must be available throughout the building. The CDC also gives guidelines for cleaning and disinfection.

Safety precautions. This may include the provision of masks or gloves for people coming to the service. This can mean that greeters with masks and gloves open doors for people. This can mean putting up signs that limit the closeness to other people – which basically prevents contacts from being made in small groups during the meeting. In addition, this can mean that you have no child service for a while – only allow family worship. In addition, this can include tuning seats in the church auditorium and adding multiple services. For example, you can block every other row or bank and ensure that there is a distance of two meters between the families or participants in the rows.

Size of precautions when collecting. Under a moderate Protocol, it would be advisable to think about meetings of around 50.

Regarding phase 3 below limited We do not believe that much will change between the hygiene and security precautions that churches should take. However, we believe that the size of the precautions for collecting will continue to increase. In other words, it can move from 50 to 250… to 500… etc.

One of the things we do is monitor professional sport and how it gradually develops during the crisis. For example, the current PGA tour (April 20) is about returning to the tournament game in June without spectators. In July it will be interesting to see how their plan to re-enter the audience evolves.

There is currently no definition of "strict", "moderate" or "limited" protocols. We anticipate that state governments will eventually define their own gating criteria along with their protocols.

The key for churches is to learn the dance rules so that they can move in the rhythm of COVID-19. And although there are currently no specific rules, there are guidelines to help churches prepare for meetings now moderate and limited Logs.

The Movements: How Churches Can Move to the Rules and Rhythm of COVID-19

As things gradually open up, our churches will go through a series of relaunch steps over the next few months (see image below).

(The schedules are not set, but an example based on the suggestions of some experts.)

It is important to note that this is a volatile situation. Things can change in a day. As mentioned earlier, a state or region in phase 3 can immediately return to phase 1. Whether we like it or not, it seems like we're on a roller coaster ride.

As the church learns to dance according to the rules and rhythm of COVID-19, it is important that we understand that the virus is affected:

  • How people gather
  • How people live
  • How people give

If we understand these three things well, we can move from learning the dance to dancing the new dance, perfecting the dance and finally thriving after the new dance.

What are the dance movements that churches need to learn? There are at least four.

FirstChurches need to learn about the practical procedures and guidelines they will apply in the future. This takes into account the previous point regarding the protocols that churches must adopt for personal meetings. This will definitely include communication plans for the church, but it could also include creating contingency plans to stay flexible in a volatile environment.

SecondChurches need to think through their finances. For the most part, the financial impact has not been fully felt in many churches – and we pray that they will not feel it. However, churches in such a volatile environment may want to re-evaluate their budgets. Here are four axioms that provide a framework for how church leaders can think about their budget:

  • Mission is the mandate of the church
  • People reach people
  • Facilities make service easier (including technology)
  • Benevolence is beautiful

These axioms are designed to help you prioritize your budget when allocating and managing your resources.

thirdThe churches have to think through their service models. The ministry's models include corporate worship, small groups, next-generation ministries, and volunteering. At least in the short term, all of these faults occurred.

And even though we are sure that most churches have found a new "online" standard, what is the plan for these ministries once they get the "green light" to hold some form of personal gathering?

What is the plan for creating smaller groups? What is the plan for child and student ministries? Would they be different from what you've been doing in the past five weeks or so?

FourthThe churches need to think through their mission strategy further. People are still hurt, grieve, in need and ask deep questions. Given that sin is comprehensive and affects all areas of life, we believe that the salvation that Jesus offers through his life, death, and resurrection is comprehensive.

That is why we like to think of mission in terms of areas – spiritual (reconciliation with God), social (reconciliation with others) and cultural (reconciliation with what we do in the world and how we do it).

Spiritually, churches can be on a mission like this:

  • Use online as the new Mars Hill
  • Start virtual small groups for seekers and mourners (grief release, alpha, explore God, QPlace)
  • Use series of sermons strategically to help people in this crisis
  • Conduct a service for the vulnerable (older, homeless) population
  • Look for ways to found a church, revitalize a church with a plateau or decline, or adopt and promote a church that needs revival

Socially, churches can be on a mission if they:

  • Start group counseling or support groups
  • Help the needy
  • Take care of the vulnerable
  • Become a resource center
  • Partner with sister churches

Culturally, churches can be on a mission like:

  • Use facilities for missions
  • Organize a job fair
  • Support local businesses (and possibly start your own business)
  • Partner of the local school system (for the further nutrition of the children and the preparation for an autumn relaunch of the schools)
  • Bless local governments by finding ways to work with them for the common good

The Church now understands the challenges and obstacles it faces. However, with every obstacle and every challenge there is an opportunity and a solution. As Ed noted at the beginning of this crisis, this is the moment of the church. This is truly our missionary moment when we have the opportunity to shift our churches' attitudes from monuments, managers and disseminators of religious goods to a missionary movement that donates and demonstrates the hope of the gospel.

This will also pass away: take the time to learn something new

We are certain that many – especially Church leaders – can identify with the psalmist's words, "How long, Lord?" How long will it take? How long do we have to do online church? How long will we descend in group sizes under 10?

The reality is that this crisis will end sometime. A country preacher recently said, "It may go like a kidney stone, but it will go away." And over time, there are those who believe that this crisis will change the face of the church forever – and that this will be the end of the great (and mega) church. We honestly don't believe that.

In fact, we do not necessarily believe that this is the death of consumer Christianity (although we would pray that it would subside). However, we believe that churches should use this time to learn a new dance.

There were those – especially the 3s in the Enneagram – who encouraged people at the beginning of this crisis to take the time to read a book, write a book, learn a new game or learn a new language. In other words, they encouraged people to be steward this time instead of wasting this time.

Church leaders, to manage this time well, you need to learn the COVID-19 dance. You need to learn the rhythm and the rules – the music and the guidelines – as well as the church and missionary movements that will help you move in the rhythm of the beat.

And if you learn this new dance, you will be better equipped to thrive when God's people advance their kingdom by sharing and showing the good news of King Jesus.

We hope that the churches have learned through this crisis:

  • Be a small group church rather than a small group church
  • Use technology as the new Mars Hill
  • Use facilities in a missionary way
  • Take care of those outside the church rather than those inside the church
  • Restructure your finances for Christ's mission and not for church management

In conclusion, this should also pass. But after it's over, have you wasted the time waiting for things to return to normal? Or have you managed the time to learn something new that will help you thrive in the 21st century for the glory of God and the good of the world? We recommend that you learn a new dance.

Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, dean at Wheaton College, and publishes resources for church leadership through the Mission Group. The Exchange team contributed to this article.

Josh Laxton is currently the deputy director of the Billy Graham Center, North American coordinator from Lausanne at Wheaton College and co-host of the podcast Living in the Land of Oz. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Ed Stetzer on Vimeo

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