Let me step back a second from COVID-19 and shine some light on what was already going on in our community's homes just prior to the current isolation. Consider the brutal facts:
Feb. 2020: Meth seizures in the Cincinnati Area are up 1,600% 2015-2019 (Cin. Enq.)
Nov. 2019: Suicide rates are up 45% in Ohio from 2007-2018 (Cin. Enq.)
Apr. 2019: 3 in 10 people in Cincinnati struggle to find food mainly due to closing grocery stores (Cin. Enq.)
Apr. 2019: 60 million pounds of food is wasted a year in Hamilton Co. (Cin. Enq)
Jun. 2017: 7 in 10 adults (68%) are overweight in the Cincinnati Area (NKY Tribune)
Mar. 2020: Consumer debt among all Americans increased $2.3 trillion since 2009 (up 19%) in this order--mortgages, auto loans, student debt, and credit cards. (Experian)
Undated: People with mental health problems are likely increasing to have new and worsening symptoms (CDC)
And just today's news: 187,784 people made unemployment claims in the last week (Cin. Enq.)
If we thought church attendance was dropping before March 2020, consider that new habits may nail that coffin closed. And it’s not just about what we’re doing, it’s that those who were former members, the disenfranchised, and the lost world can no longer participate. Their health may be too bad. They’ve taken on second or third jobs that keeps them away. They now are experiencing a reality that seals them off from church.
In a blog and podcast, Andy Crouch, Kurk Keilhacker, and Dave Blanchard said, "From today onward, most leaders must recognize that the business they were in no longer exists. This applies not just to for-profit businesses, but to nonprofits, and even in certain important respects to churches."
If every church is now a start-up organization, in SBC parlance, we're all now very much like a church plant. If it takes a plant two to five years to get established, then every pastor and church leader needs to re-establish itself with that reality in mind.
When Ed Stetzer interviewed church leaders in Spain and Italy for his blog on Christianity Today, he came away saying, "Prayer calms our panic and also directs our preparation."
There are seven essential things churches must pray through to prepare for a reality beyond this event:
1. Assemble a team to lead the cause. Who’s with you?
2. Address lostness by understanding your community’s felt needs and perspectives. What’s changed? Why are they lost?
3. Develop a plan that is realistic given your church’s resources, realizing that resources are in the harvest. What is the path to reconciliation?
4. Convey the Gospel in all you do. How will you evangelize? What messages communicate today? What Scriptures convey relevant truth?
5. How will small groups meet and what will they do? Will it be business as usual or fierce disciple-making that is relational, supportive, transparent, and accountable?
6. Develop leaders non-stop. Become a leadership factory. Insist that everyone lead someone else and let it grow from there. Practice. Coach through transitions. Empower and give authority.
7. Mobilize more teams and disciple-makers.
(Source: Workers in the Harvest book and Bible study is available from SnowdenMinistries@gmail.com
These seven tasks were developed when I was in NAMB's Church Planting Group. I pulled together these seven from my work at the IMB and also as a consultant for Saddleback Church's P.E.A.C.E. Plan. This outline can provide a strategic game plan for such as time as this. Today is a time to plan and train so that when doors of opportunity open in the aftermath, we’re ready to re-enter as workers into God’s harvest fields.