Church In The Digital Age

Hello Peoples Church family! I would just like to take this time to encourage you with a few thoughts that have been encouraging me lately. Perhaps this will start a fruitful conversation. It is true that we are living in trying times, but I want you just for the next couple of minutes to shift your mind. To start thinking about all the opportunities that are right before us, in the midst of the times that we are living in.

I want to talk in the context of church, because that is what I know. But I believe that these principles will apply to all the other contexts. Maybe you are leading a business right now, or you are trying to raise your kids, or you are a teacher in a primary school. I believe these principles will apply just the same there. But, obviously I will speak in the context that I know about, and you are welcome to contextualize it to your own context.

There was a time when, if you wanted to reach people, you would have to go to a marketplace, because that is where the people were. Right now, people are not in marketplaces. People are not out and about. People are not where we used to find them. People are now online. If one wants to reach people today, they would have to go to where the people are. That is online. So, one of the things that have happened right now, I believe is, financial, physical and even geographical limitations have all been radically reduced by the pandemic that we are facing.

That gives us opportunities that we simply have never had before. Right now, it doesn't matter too much how big a budget a church has. It doesn't matter how big their physical infrastructure is. Right now, having a 3,000 seater or a 100 seater auditorium means absolutely nothing, since we are not having any physical meetings. We all have an opportunity of reaching the people that God has placed around us, for us to reach with the message of the gospel.

What matters is whether we have the ability to adapt to the changing situation that is around us. Whether we are willing to think innovatively about our mission and are prepared to do the hard work. There are churches and organization that will barely survive this crisis. Others will go to maintenance mode, just taking care of their members, just making sure that we all make it through this and hopefully go back to normal. Other churches will actually grow in the midst of this crisis. There's a difference between these three groups of people. I believe we can know what these differences are and we can capitalize on them, even in our context.

If I can be so bold, I believe that God wants us to grow, even in the midst of this crisis. I don't believe God has it in his heart for any church, any organization, any family, any individual to barely make it. To barely survive through this crisis or through this time that we find ourselves in. I believe God's heart, even right now, is for us to grow, is for us to thrive. It's not for us to regress and to go back, but it is for us to advance. Not merely or even barely surviving, but for us to thrive.

Then the question is, what can we do right now, in the situation that we find ourselves in? I said recently in a sermon that the quicker you adapt to the changing situation around you, the better off you will be in the long run. I think that's true both individually and also in terms of organizations. I believe that applies across the board.

There's three things I think we can do and we need to do right now, in the situation that we find ourselves in. The first think is to adapt. Basically what that means is we need to learn to leverage the digital tools that God has been so gracious to give to us, in order for us to further the mission. It doesn't matter what your mission is, as I have already mentioned, we all have different missions. Each and every mission is important. Each and every mission that we have in our lives cannot stop, even in the midst of crisis. We need to advance. The first thing is that we need to learn how to leverage digital tools, in order for us to be able to further the mission that God has given us in our lives.

This is not the time to say, "I am just not a social media person", or, "I don't believe in it." We need to all have an attitude that wants to learn, that is eager to try new things. Andy Stanley said this in a book that he wrote titled "Deep & Wide": We need to marry our mission but we need to date our method. Basically what he is talking about is we need to be absolutely committed, regardless to what is happening around us, we need to be absolutely committed to our mission. That is fundamental. That is important. That is of paramount importance.

Regardless of what happens in our lives, we need to be committed to our mission but we need to date our methods, the ways that we do things. The ways that we do church. The ways that you run your own business. The ways that you teach your kids in the classroom. We need to be able to not be 100%, fully committed to a method, but we need to be 100%, fully committed to the mission.

Times change, as we have already seen. Time have changed the dynamics around us have change and have forced us to change our method, but the mission stays the same. For us as the church, the mission is to reach the dying world. The mission is to make disciples of all nations. That never changes, regardless of what happens. But our methods, that is what needs to change. That is the first thing, we need to adapt, we need to change our methods.

The second thing, which is linked to the first one, is to innovate. I believe that organizations that are going to grow through this crisis are those that are able to innovate. What that means, I actually checked out the definition of the word innovate. If you do just a Google search, or a Bing search, this is what you'll find:

Make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.

If you go to the Mirriam Webster dictionary, it puts it so concicely. This is what it says:

To do something in a new way.
I like that. To do the same thing that you have been doing, to engaged in the same mission that you’ve been engaged in, but to now engage in it in a new way. To use new means. To use new ideas, new methods and new tools. This is what we have to do right now.

How we successfully did something six months ago may not yield the same results today. We've all learned that by now. So, we need new ideas, we need new methods, for us to continue carrying out our mission and continue making the disciples of all nations. That is the second thing.

The last thing, and quickly: do the hard work. Thomas Edison once said this, "There is no substitute for hard work."I couldn't agree more. As much as we can adapt, as much as we can have innovative ideas. New thinking, new plans, new strategies, new methods; nothing will ever substitute for hard work. Here's what you and I can do right now, and this is what I think is the minimum, we can do much more than this: I want all of us as the Peoples Church family to share our Church At Home service, all our mini-videos, our YouTube channel, our social media posts.

Everything that we produce as the church. Everything that we put out there as the church. I want each and everyone of us to share it on all of our platforms that we are in. To share it with as many people as we can. Even if you don't personally think that that particular message was powerful for you, even if you think I've heard it before, someone preached it better. That doesn't matter, I want you to still share them because I believe God can use even the worst sermon to turn a person's life around. History is full of stories that prove this to be true.

If you are not excited about your own church, why should your family, your friends, your loved ones, your colleagues be interested in attending it. Think about that for a minute. If you are not excited, if you are not cheering up the banner of the church that you go to and that you are a part of, why would anyone else want to be a part of it? I would like to encourage and to challenge each and everyone of us, myself included. This is also uncomfortable for me. Posting online, being on social media, all of those things also don't come naturally for me. So, I am also challenging myself to go out there, to be excited, to spread the message, to share everything that we produce as the church with all the people that are in my life.

Think about this, if you and I are not enthusiastic about our relationship with God, we cannot expect a non-believer to be interested in hearing anything we have to say about God. Why would they be interested to hear about a relationship with God that we also are not excited and enthusiastic and pumped up about? This is what I think is the basic and minimum that we can all do right now.

To change our minds, to change how we think about certain things, digital tools, social media, the Internet and all of those kind of things because right now that is where people are. Right now, that is where we have to go if we want to reach people. That is where we have to go if we want to grow, if we don't just want to barely make it, to just survive this time. If we want to thrive and to grow and to further the mission of the kingdom of God, that is where we have to go and that is what we now have to do.

We need to learn, we need to open our minds, we need to do things that are maybe uncomfortable for us but are going to help us for the greater good of the mission that God has given to us.

You will never know, I also will never know, how God chooses to use whatever we post or share online for his glory. Finally, I believe those individuals, those organizations, those churches that are able to do these things, these minimal things that I have mentioned, will be at a much better change of thriving through this crisis. There's absolutely nothing stopping us from being one of them.

I believe we can do this. I believe that we can grow. I believe we can reach the people that are around us. We might have to change things around. We might have to do things differently, but we can grow. God is with us and he will help us to be able to fulfil the mission and the mandate that he has given us.

Thank you so much for your support. Thank you so much for all the hard work and the dedication that you have been putting into the mission of the church. Making sure that we grow. Making sure that people find hope in the message of the gospel. God bless you. God be with you. God help you as we all come together to further the mission of the church.
Thank you very much. Have a great evening and a great week ahead.