I hesitate to use a football analogy for our current situation, given its difficulty. My fear is that it will stir up emotions in you regarding athletes kneeling for the National Anthem or the loss of the normal college football schedules due to COVID19. Could any of us ever imagine a time when rivalry games wouldn’t happen? But football, even in this offseason, can still provide a good illustration of where we can go as the Church.
As a football fan, I’m glad the offseason is almost over. It’s the worst. There’s nothing to watch! Sure, the NFL draft is mildly entertaining. I’m partially interested in training camps, but basically, until games are played again, it’s kind of depressing. That’s my experience as a fan. But for the players, there really isn’t an “off” season. The offseason is really a season of preparation for the next regular season of games.
I’m a Jacksonville Jaguars fan. (I know…pray for me, but I’m loyal!) As a fan, I’ve observed our running back, Leonard Fournette, have a good rookie season. It was promising. Then his second season was marked by injuries and was not good. News reports came out later that he didn’t take care of his body and training during the off-season. After that second season, the reports came out that he was doing much better preparing for his third season. He stayed healthy and produced much better results. I wish I could say the team did as well as he did, but as a fan, there’s always next year!
The point is that how one takes care of their body and prepares in the “off” season has a significant impact on how effective one is when the “regular” season comes around. It is also true for us in the local church as the “body” of Christ.
2020 feels like an “off” season to me. Things are certainly off! We’ve not been able to do the work of the church as we regularly would. But there will come a time when this off-season will end, and a new “regular” season will begin. The question is, how can we prepare our church body, the local church you help to lead, to be ready for that season when it comes? What might the Lord want you to focus on in terms of building up and strengthening the body to prepare it to be as effective for God’s Kingdom when that season comes?
To prompt your thinking on this, let me suggest sticking to fundamentals as the best athletes do. For us, those are the five vital areas that make the local church body healthy:
- Vision for Mission/Evangelism: Your mission to the lost surrounding your church. What specific unreached people group right around your church is God calling you to “Go and make disciples”? If you don’t know the answer to that question, this would be a good season to figure it out. If you do know, how can you prepare and train to better reach them when the more regular season comes? What strategies do you have to reach them? How can you tweak and improve them? There’s a free training on personal evangelism you could share with your people called “Rediscovering Evangelism” should they need some training in this vital area. You can find session one with session one’s discussion questions here if you want to check it out: https://americananglican.org/rediscovering-evangelism-session-1/
- Intentional Worship: Your worship service’s hospitality. No doubt you’ve already figured out a way to do a hybrid approach of both in-person and virtual church. That’s good. How can you strengthen and improve your Sunday worship services to make the best first impression when people come to check you out when the regular season comes? I have spoken to many Anglican believers who are sensing from the Lord and praying for some sort of a revival to come in the next season. How can you be ready to receive and assimilate people into your church family if/when that time comes?
- Transformation to Christlikeness: Your discipleship processes. From data gained from our Church Health Assessment, we’ve discovered that one of the unhealthiest areas in Anglican Churches across the ACNA is in the area of discipleship. Many churches have no plan whatsoever to move someone from the point of being a new believer into a mature missional follower of Jesus. In other words, there is no plan on how to make someone a disciple which is the main mission of the church! If your church doesn’t have a process of discipleship developed, this would be a great season to develop one and put it in place. If you do have a process, how can you use this off season to tweak and improve it?
- Authentic Community: Your fellowship and pastoral care. I spoke with a rector that I’m coaching this month who shared with me that they’ve been using this time to reorganize and bring focus to their Pastoral Care strategy. They had several different care and fellowship ministries; however, they weren’t coordinated in any meaningful way. They were just doing things the way they always had. It wasn’t unified or particularly effective. How might you be able to build up and strengthen your congregation’s strategy for having authentic community during this off season?
- Lay Mobilization: Your ministry involvement plan. Every church I know always has the need to have more lay ministry occurring so the 20% isn’t doing 80% of the work all the time. How can you use this season to rethink how to train up and deploy more of your laity into ministry? How can you better help your people discover who God made them to be so they can do what he made them to do? Remember, a person’s make-up determines their ministry. How can you help them better discover how God created them?
These are just some quick thoughts to prime your thinking in these vital areas of church health. If these five areas of your church’s life are healthy and thriving, your body will be fit now in this off-season and ready for the “regular” season coming just around the corner. What other areas might the Lord be wanting you to build up and strengthen in this off-season?
As always, let us know if we can be of any help to you. To learn more about our Church Revitalization resources, visit the American Anglican Council website at https://americananglican.org/.