By Rev. Martin Garcia
Director of Cyclical Los Ranchos
The world will not return to what used to be, therefore church culture will be something new in the future. Perhaps what Henry Grabar wrote in an article for Slate is instructive, “People might stick with the disruptions to their lives, too: More deliveries taking the place of personal trips. More cooking, and less eating out. More driving in solitude—or, optimistically, biking—and less reliance on Uber, Lyft, and transit. Therapy, yoga, and medical advice online. More video games; less live entertainment. The social fabric that breaks might not be repaired.”
The way we experience church has been interrupted and “might not be repaired” and we have begun exploring new models and new ways to do church in this new age. We have been challenged to explore a theology of technology, an ecclesiology focused on bringing hope and providing tools to congregants so they may stay connected to their church families. Our message remains the same and life giving; we are merely learning to speak it through Facebook Live, YouTube, Zoom, Instagram, even TikTok.
Yet, a question remains: “What is going to be the future of church planting?” Will it even be possible to start new churches? Or, will leaders today be more focused on keeping their churches alive than thinking about starting new congregations.
Just thinking about the idea of starting new churches can get church leaders upset. Some will say, “Please, this is not the time to think about ‘new churches’ when many congregations potentially will close in the next 12 months.
But, “What if?” What if exactly for that reason, church leaders and pastors should start thinking about starting new worshipping communities that are able to replace those whose journeys are ending? These new worshipping communities will show the world the power of resurrection, that Christ resurrects the Church too!
I believe congregations will gather in person again as soon as it is safe to do so, but these new worshiping communities will be hybrid with live stream services and live audience services.
The ability to appreciate the virtual congregations that have formed the past five months is the ability to envision the future.
Churches have a new audience. There are people watching your services and loving what they are discovering about God. If you are considering that live streaming is something temporal for your congregations only, you are missing a great opportunity to start new worshiping communities to minister to the many who are religiously watching you every week.
Perhaps these new worshiping communities do not start churches in buildings the way we have traditionally done, yet they have people that meet every week in virtual formats to meditate and study the biblical text.
My point is that this is already happening and there are multiple examples of churches already starting small groups, children’s programs, recovery groups — you name it — in a purely online format. You just have to Google “online churches” and you will find ideas that can enrich your ministries or you new worshiping communities. You do not have to rediscover the wheel, just have eyes to see what God is leading you to.
Josh Laxton in Christianity Today said something that would be helpful to think about in this new reality: “As we engage in the holistic mission whereby Jesus is in the process of making all things new—through his death and resurrection—we give the hungry, thirsty, and dark world a holistic vision of a God who cares about their soul, their personhood, and their vocation. People still need Jesus more than ever.”
We need to envision that this might be the end of the church as we knew it, but the beginning of the church as it will be in the future. Nothing can prevail against the growth of God’s Church. That’s just scripture. That’s just what Jesus taught.
1) Grabar, Henry. “We’re Not Going Back to the Way Life Was Before.” Slate Magazine, 12 Mar. 2020, slate.com/business/2020/03/coronavirus-goodbye-to-the-before-times.html.
2) Laxton, Josh. “Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 on the Church in America.” The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer, 5 May 2020, www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/short-term-and-long-term-effects-of-covid-19-on-church-in-a.html. Accessed 30 July 2020.