Episode 110: The Church After COVID with Sean Chow

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

We all know what happened in March of 2020. COVID began to shut society down. We canceled the event and in fact we didn’t meet in person for 14 months. When we started worshipping in person again, things were different. People who were part of the community, moved on. Others watched mostly online. There were still things we couldn’t do. Even some of what we used to do became different. COVID changed the church where I served and nothing will ever be the same. But this wasn’t just the case in my case, Churches large and small have all had to deal with a changed world. Theologian Andy Crouch wrote that COVID was more like a blizzard or a mini ice age, meaning that it was an event that would shatter cultural assumptions within American congregations. What is mission and ministry like after COVID? How should the church rise to meet this challenge? Where are we failing?

I spoke to Sean Chow about this. Chow is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA and is an associate in that denomination’s 1001 New Worshipping Communities movement. Sean resources and consults with regional denomination bodies, churches, and church plants as they launch new creative expressions of church. His aim is to prepare, equip, and sustain leaders to do the work to which God calls them. He works with many congregations as they seek to redefine their mission and ministry and if you are like me and trying to figure out what to do post COVID, then you will want to hear this interview.

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O How covid changed the church. This is episode one ten of Church and Maine. Well, hello and welcome to church and Maine. This is the podcast that is at the intersection of faith and modern life. We are a podcast that focuses on religion and public affairs and on Dennis Sanders, your host. Hello, first off, I want to apologize for the long period between in episodes. been busy with life as a pastor. Um, as I've said earlier in the summer I've been moving a church and kind of getting things set up in a new location. Um, I did try to make some Um see about possibilities with potential guests, but a lot of them were busy at this time Um and could probably could do it later, and then other others were busy and had to cancel. Um. And also I'm going to be on vacation next week, so that's actually going to be another period with no new episodes. So this is August. It's that it's that type of the time of the year where things kind of are on hold until September. So, with that out of the way, I want to start this off by sharing experience that happened to me at the church where I served so um in football of there was a group of us and we were trying to figure out how do we open the church up to the community that it's been something we have been trying to do, and we came up with an idea are our music director just knows a ton of people in the community, as she knows lots of different artists, and so we wanted to maybe have a night of what we were going to call music and fellowship and we would gather for a pot luck and then maybe listened to various people perform. And so, Um, a ton of people actually came. They filled up the church. It was a success. I think it was a really great experience. I think I definitely loved it and was looking forward to doing this again. That was the hope that we're going to try to do this on a monthly basis, and so we planned to do it at the same time next month of March. In well, we all know what happened in March. COVID basically shut society down. So we didn't have that event in March. In fact, we never had it ever again and in fact we didn't meet in person really in any form for the most part. For fourteen months and when we started to worship again in May, things were incredibly different. There were people who have been part of the community for a long time. They moved on. Others, for whatever reason, for for a lot of different reasons, some I think very legitimate, ended up watching mostly online. And there were still things we couldn't do. We did not for a long time have refreshments, and even some of the things that we started to do come back up and do again. Well, they became different. Covid changed the church where I served, and what I have learned is that nothing will ever be the same. We can't go back to February, no matter how hard we try. Of course, that wasn't just my case. Churches, large and small, whether they are theological and conservative or liberal, no matter what, have all had to deal with a changed world. Theologian Andy Crouch wrote that Covid in many ways was more like a blizzard or even more succinctly, like a mini ice age, and that what he means. But he meant by that was that it was an event that would just basically shatter cultural assumptions. Everything changed. What was mission and ministry going to be like after covid? What is it like after covid and how should the church rise to meet this challenge and where are we failing? So to answer those questions, I spoke to...

Sean Chow. Chow is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA. He is also an associate in that denomination's one thousand and one new worshiping Communities Movement. He resources and consults with a regional denominational bodies and churches and church plants as they are trying to start new expressions of what it means to be church now. And what he's trying to do with a lot with with these groups is to prepare them, to equip them to do what God is calling them to do. He is working with many congregations as they seek to redefine their mission and ministry and I think that if you're like me, if you're a pastor or for lay leader, is trying to figure out what to do in your congregation post covid and I think you want to hear this interview. So now let's listen to Sean Chow. Well, thanks a lot, Um Sean, for taking the time to chat with me a little bit about the church after covid no, problem. It's great to be here. So I think maybe the best way to kind of set this up is is to kind of think about what the church was like before. I'm gonnae right up to Um, when the pandemic happened. Um, you know, I think we all have our image of how things were going, and I know sometimes in my own mind, how things were going. We're this kind of wonderful little thing and the reality it was it wasn't. Um, there were kind of issues that were there, but Um, you know, we kind of have this, I think, kind of perfect past as opposed to the present that we're finding ourselves in. So I guess the first question is, how would you describe the church before covid Um and what were some signs that there were issues that we're going to be revealed during the pandemic? I think kind of as you as we kind of look back even before Covid is that the church, as you kind of said, the churches. It wasn't denial that hey, they everyone was thinking that, hey, you know what, the youth are gone, that's fine, and believing that, hey, when they when they get married or whatever it is, that they will come back. That whole idea of that as soon as they get married and they go, Oh, we want to have we we want to have our kids back in church again, that they'd come back to the church, and that really wasn't the case. That we kept thinking that this is circular and it's not and dealing with a lot of different things that we that we have. But what was interesting about even going through Covid is that is that crisis accelerates the changes that were already happening. So the changes that we're we've experienced in the last three, three and a half years were already happening in the church, the kind of dividing of of where and where people are and that in that feeling that church was kind of a Relican of a time gone by, while many of us held onto that that sooner or later it will come back to the way it was in the nineteen fifties and nineteen sixties and suddenly everyone is going to kind of come back to the way it was. And that kind of changes were happening whether we were we were really wanting them or really identifying them, because, yeah, we just accelerate the change is really kind of accelerated over these last few years into who we've become and it's it's vastly interesting. Of what what has happened? What do you think that we were in such denial for so long? What what were the things that kind of made it easy for us to not think that things were changing? I think what a lot of churches hold on to is that where they don't have to change. Is that sure? So I come from I'm from the Presbyterian Church. I'm on national staff of the Presbyterian Church and there's endowments in churches where they where they've been saved and putting money aside so they have so they can live basically however they want to live and have the funds to continue on with a full time pastor or a part time pastor, and they hadn't come to the realization to the point where, Hey, this church might not be here for my children or...

...even my grandchildren. And so a lot of my different conversations that I have with with people is saying we are starting to see the end of this church, this Church of where we are is come, might be coming. Then we're running out of funds and now we have to make some of the drastic changes and we're like and they're thinking, but we're not equipped to do this anymore. If we were ten years younger or twenty years younger, when you were in that comfortability spot, some of these changes could have could have been you could you could have been better equipped to make some of these changes. And a lot of it is that they're comfortable. And now the question becomes, what is the legacy of say, first Presbyterian Church, now that most of the congregation is older and the neighborhood in which they administered for for so many generations, it does not resemble them anymore. It is vastly different, as now people travel into their church rather than being in the community that their church is, and so there's so many different things that are going on in the church. Prior to even to the pandemic of saying we don't want to change because because changing would say, Hey, we need to change the way we do things and that would make me uncomfortable and then I'm going to get up and I'm going to go find a church where I feel comfortable, and that might be the church that has the hymns, they might have the Oregon or whatnot, where I feel comfortable. Instead of saying no, this is where God has called us to and we may need to make some of these these some of these drastic moves in order to in order to invite and be welcoming to younger generations or people that are that are in the neighborhood. An interesting kind of story is that my wife grew up assemblies of God and so her her her dad was like it was like a lay pastor and so forth, and so her family grew up in this church. They had they sung hymns, they had an electric Oregan and all this stuff. And then sooner and as her generation got older and her parents were like our parents generation was like, something needs to be done to keep our kids in this church, and so they made the drastic realization that that they needed to the church needed to change in a way that would be welcoming, to hurt my wife's generation and this younger generation of the young families, and they couldn't continue the way they had done before. But they were willing to say we want to hand this church off to you, knowing that it isn't our church. We are just caretakers of this church and we want to hand it off to you, and saying this church is a legacy, and it's not just to make me feel comfortable, but for all of us, and as my mother in law talks about, sometimes she's so sometimes it was. It was the light show as we've all got through the generations, where there's there's flashing lights during worship and so forth. But they realized that that in order to do that, they couldn't keep doing what they had been doing to keep the younger generations, but they were to entrust they were entrusted with the church. Then they needed to come to a point where they passed it off and you see this legacy kind of going on and not many churches are willing to make that move. As they get older, they want to stay the way they've done worship all the different all the whole time and not realizing that church for the younger generations, or even my kids, needs to be different than the way I do it. And when are we willing to hand off the church to them in order that they may take the lead and they may feel that this is their church, where it's a multigenerational church as opposed to just caretake being about one generation? Yeah, I think one of the things that I remember very succinctly from Um the pandemic, and then later on, especially as are the congregation that I lead, was we're making some changes. was how much people, some people didn't like to change and when they kind of described what is it that they wanted really from the church Um, it was fascinating that the answer was comfort, and it was fascinating to me to hear that because it was and and kind of hearing what you're saying is it just kind of seems like a lot of it was the church or the people as consumers that I don't like what I'm I'm having finding out at this church, so I'll go to something that satisfies my needs as opposed to Um, kind of sticking it out and being kind of more of a servant and willing to kind of deal with the change, knowing that this is something different Um. And I've I know, I it sounds like something that you're kind of picking up there. Yeah,...

...it's and I think that's where a lot of us are right now. Is is that this world, especially the United Church in the United States, is very consumer centric, that it's all about me. What can I take? What? What does this church have to film my needs and then I will take and I will take and I will take, and then one day you might go, Oh, this church doesn't fill my needs anymore, I'm going to go to the next church down the street and they consume all their needs, all all their needs, but all of what they have, until it's like, oh, it's all about me being fed. Is what the mentality of those people, about people in Churches? What can I get out of it as opposed to a little bit more of like how do I serve? How do I learn? How do I grow as a deeper disciple, but how do I also really enable myself to become a deeper disciple of Christ? And as as my pastor kind of talked about, I was he was given a servant like a few months ago and I was like. I was like this was deep and profound. He's like, he's like, you know what, I like Tacos. He's like, I can eat tacos and even when I shouldn't. He's like we're like a church that we're just we just like to eat the tacos. He's like, but there comes a time where I just need to walk the tacos off. I just can't sit there and eat the tacos, but I need to walk them off and that, in that essence, it's saying, Hey, I need to go out there and live what I've eaten and live and work off what I've eaten, saying that we have enough. You and I have probably been a church what so long, and I think a lot of us do, and we always think that we don't do enough or we don't know enough to do anything with it. But maybe we need we need as we're growing, it's like, oh, we need to do something with were alert. We don't just shouldn't sit in Bible Studies, prayer meetings, listen to the next grade sermon, but we need to live out what we do. And I think that's the big problem of the church, is that we're so in the American culture also, so we're so consumer focused. How can this church serve me? What can to get out of it, as opposed to, Oh, I'm getting a little from the church, but I also need to walk with that church into living out what the Gospel says. And I think that's sometimes like people are like, Oh, you need that, I'll get right to check for ten bucks, as opposed to say, how do we see the people around us. How do we see the people that are that are in the community and how can we serve them? And I think oftentimes we've just passed by the people that are on the living under the bridge or in Los Angeles there just encampments of homeless people. Or even it might not be those huge issues, but how can I walk with people through addiction or those that are going that are grieving, or how do we see the issues that are going around around us? Every church has a multitude of them, let alone surrounded by a community that's deeply affected by different things. Instead of saying I'm not worried about you, who's who's a stranger or naked or math, the whole matthew thing, but I need to I need to know Jesus more. That's more important, that I know Jesus and I know that I know the Gospel, that we become so focused on that we don't see those that are hungry, the stranger, the naked, and it goes on and on, that we don't live out the Gospel, we're just simply saying we want to consume it. I think that's where we have the problem of the Church today is that it's it's comfortable to just sit in a Bible study. It's uncomfortable walking up to the homeless or the stranger or those that are that don't have a voice or in pain or whatever and to put ourselves in those places. So would you say this basically comes down to an issue of discipleship? It does, and I think and I think churches, and I want to say I'm one of them too, is are bad disciple in people that that you know what I like? Being a part of a small group is something that I've always loved, but to walk with people through the ups and downs of life. But as a pastor, oftentimes, how am I going to do that same thing with two people? How do I help people walk through that? Those those people like I'm too busy for a small group or discipleship group or or or whatnot. But how do we need, as a church, need to come up with the way? How do we walk with our people so that they're getting deeper into Christ, not only consuming, but how do we live it out in our in the way we do? We do how do we see this naked? Those that are naked, those are the stranger and those are hungry and so forth. But how do we live it out. So kind of looking at the kind of what we would say we're in the before, how do you think that Church has handled themselves during Um and? I know that, you know, covid is still somewhat with us, but kind of especially in the thick of it, maybe that first year, year and a half Um? I know that there is a h article that came out maybe about a year but around the time of the Pand imic that talked about kind of...

...entering into a blizzard which and could become a mini ice age. How do you think churches handled that that they were they even prepared for the blizzard, or did they um and and then later the ice age, or did they just kind of not do well? Or are there examples of churches that really did kind of step up? So Andy Crouch and Dan on Blanchard wrote that book about that article on the Ice Age. I was like this is a phenomenal thing and it's really like I talked about it an awful lot as they talked about that. We all thought this whole pandemic thing was a blizzard, like hey, we're a shelter in place for two weeks and then everything will be perfectly fine, as as an all blizzards, the roads will be kind of cleared and so forth, but in the actuality, what we experienced was an ice age and drastic reshape in the landscape. And what was amazing about that article they wrote it like a month into the pandemic, and I'm like, how do they how prophetic is that that you that you're talking about things like two years down the road? I'm like those, those dudes are like geniuses, prophetic, and I was like man, I wish I would be able to think like that. But but churches, like we're in the pandemic. was saying when can we get back together? When can we have choir? Like a few weeks into the pandemic, the shelter in place in California. Here we had a two weeks shelter in place and they said everything will be perfectly fine. So everyone's like, okay, we can have choir again, let's let's let's open up, let's have fire. We're like no, hold on, this thing is really going on and they're like we want to go back to the way it was, and they're like we're missing church. This is this is the center of WHO I am. I'm like and then we've really had enduring it. We had to figure out what was essential for our church. In our churches. No longer were the men's fellowship that we're that drastically important, but a lot of churches had to figure out who and what they were. So, like the Church that I go to, discovered that that community, they needed to figure out how to get together and how to how to get together in the midst of this pandemic, because some people couldn't do zoom and some people couldn't do this or that, but they understood that they needed to get together. So they began to meet in a park across the street from where they used to be. They met at a park really spaced out. And the other thing that they figured out was that that the that the sacraments were important to them. It was important for them to get together and have and break bread together, to to go through the Lord's supper together and do a communion together. So you have had to figure that out. I was like, okay, we're putting a little crackers and we're throwing it to you or however. However, they figured it out how to do it, but they needed to figure out and find out what is essential, and I think that is the best thing that to describe what we as a church has had to do, because all that fluff things, all those things that you, as a pastor and I as a pie us, are inherited from generations of doing different things. Like you, just kept at they kept adding different things to the church and become, before it came, this huge thing where, like, where did we inherit all these programs and these different traditions? When it note the person that created it was like a hundred years ago, and you're like what? But we still do it, and so and so you're bringing everything down to the essentials. Is what was what is what has been great about this is the church has been able to be whittled down to the essential, saying this is who and what we are as a community. And it's like, for one it's like, okay, we need to be together, we need to worship together and sing and pray alongside one another, in a safe way, of course, and the other one was communion. Each of us had to figure out all these different things in different ways. Some people stopped doing worship altogether and said we are just going to come to we are like, I have a friend that a colleague, that she was a pastor of a church and can tie key, and she's like, I got on the phone, they didn't could do zoo zoom. We did a conference call with everybody and we simply, I preached and we prayed with one another. That was their essentials. Everything else was was gone and whittled it down to the to the very essential who and what they are. And so we have this opportunity now that we're in this post pandemic kind of kind of place, if you say a post pandemic. However we want to describe it is that we that we get a fresh start so we're not gonna we we don't have to go back to what we were doing in in twenty nineteen or early twenty, that we can say, okay, this is who we are now as a church, and how do we go about being who we are, because what we used to be doing might not be working anymore, it might not be relevant to what we are, or perhaps we don't have the people that we used to do, that used to do the food pantry that we did before that we're like we've done a food pantry for twenty years, but now all the people that used to run it are no...

...longer with us, that that they want to other churches or they just don't want to come out anymore, or whatever it is. Now we can begin to re say this is who we are as a as a congregation, and kind of what I what I wrote about in my book, is kind of saying, say, let's let's look at this, that we have this overarching mission, statement of who we are, but the people that God has called together might be vastly different than it was before. And what is passionate for this group of people? And how do we figure out our core values of WHO and what we are as this gathered, new gathered community, saying how do we live out this into the community? And it might not be what it was before because you might have a new group of people, some people might be doing zoom from across the country or whatever is how do we live out into this? So and how do you deal with the fact that, as you've said, when and lots of churches have dealt with this, I have myself, but when we start back up with in person worship, there are lots of people who aren't there. Um, some people have moved on, Um, may have are either just stopped going to church all together or have gone to another church. Um, and it seems like you have to deal almost with a season of grief about that loss. Um. I mean it's also, I think it is also, I think, an impetus of moving forward and doing some different things, but also seems if you have to balance that with what, what has, what's been before, that it's not coming back and that you have to kind of feel then deal with that sense of grief of a loss of that. Yeah, as you imagine, most of us going to our churches these days and it's not nearly the people that are in worship is far and few between as opposed to before. And you could have been a worship and they're probably down to half attendance, if that. I have a friend who's WHO's a pastor of a large church, and he's like people are just aren't coming out. They aren't coming out physically to church. They might still be watching it on zoom. He's like. He's like we got through the pandemic, our finances were fine, but now we are in this after effect now that people are wondering if they still want to be connected to this or do they need to find another church or or whatever it is, and we're in this place of really trying to figure out and it's one thing to say this is where we are, this is where we who we were, and it's sad. We just need to lift that up to God and saying we thank you for that chapter in our ministry, God, but now, God, you're doing something different. And I think, I think a lot, especially in the world that we live in, people are looking for hope, not even, not necessarily even hope in Jesus sometimes. You know. I mean like we come to church and we have this hope in Jesus, but they're looking for not to come to churches and they're saying, oh, there's a plan and there's an idea, there's this hope that this church can be effective into this community once again, as opposed to well, we're just going to come and gather and look around and acknowledge people are missing and that's sad and we're not going to do anything about it. But people are hanging onto leaders that are willing to lead into new places. Of course, leading to new places, we'll always go to those places sometimes and we're like oops, that was a bad road to go down. To, let's back it up, but saying here's where God's calling us to be, not just merely sit in these in this pew, but to say we want to be an active part of this community, and I believe that's what God calls us to. A lot of times we get that that woe is me kind of mentality and kind of saying look, what's going on in in the community and that's sad, but we will be in our four walls and deal with deal with our different four walls. And but how do we intercede into and be God's word into the community? And how what does that mean to walk through people that were on the edge of society financially and now that now pre pandemic and now we're dealing with six dollars a gallon of gas here in California. It's like they couldn't make it when it was at three or four dollars, but now you're at six and you've got just gone through a pandemic and everything. How do how do we walk with people that are going through that way or the rise of social inequities that have happened really in the pandemic and everyone and people saying, well, we were all in the same boat together. I'm like, no, we weren't all in the same boat. We were right all rioting in the same on the same ocean, but some of Y'all's were on a yacht and some of us were in a dinghy and some of us were simply treading water and hoping and hoping that we that we weren't being overwhelmed. But how do we walk through some of these different things and how do we, as the church, kind of be in the middle of all? M Hmm. So how does the church, I think,...

...move people, especially if it was before, and I think also in some ways after, from a consumers mindset to one that's more disciples focused Um, because I think a lot of us do want to see that and I think, but I also think so much of the church, and I even think some of the structure beyond the church has always been feeding into how we have to be a certain way so that people will be interested in helping us to come Um to church. How do we change that around that that people aren't there feeling that they're coming to Um have their needs met, but to feel that they can, they are called to serve? Kind of going through what I talked about awfuls from Jeremiah three through eight, where it's really talking about that, that hey, we need to plant gardens and settle down really be invested in the community, and I think that's where the problem is, is that is that people, people aren't invested in their community. We look at ourselves and how do we take care of WHO's number one, and that's often ourselves, instead of saying, hey, how do we care for how do I care for my neighbor? How do I care for my neighbor that's going through different things? Or how do I care about that home, the one that's homeless down the street or mentally challenged or all these different things, and then we then kind of going on. It talks about how our Shalom is connected to the Shalom of the community that God has called us to, and I find that incredibly fascinating that the completeness this whole idea of Shalom, that we get this complete andess complete peace, that my sense of complete peace and peace and God is connected to how the Shalom of the community that God has called me to. Am I willing to step out into this community and be a part of the solution for the different things that I know I can't solve all the problems that are out there, but how how can I bring help bring about peace and prosperity of the community that God has called us to and often times that we drive in we go, Oh, God hasn't called me to this community, God has called me to the to the hills instead of the valley. And how? But how do I say God has called me to this church in this particular town at this particular time? How can I best serve to help create the Shalom in this in this community, into this town? How? How am I going to be a part of this? And it might say, Hey, I'm sean. I can't solve all the problems, but say Sean and a couple of people from the church, we can make a difference. We one person to start to bring other people together and we can make a difference to solve maybe one problem in the town, and that's as we live out the Gospel, as I think is the is the most important part. It isn't. It isn't about saying discipleships, saying I'M gonna sit in my small group and I want to be in that small group discipleship. I've did five years with this small group and I am so much deeper. I can tell you things in Hebrew and Greek, but I haven't done anything about that. and to live, how do we live it all out, and which I think is incredibly important, is how do we is how do we live out what we do, and a lot of what I write about is how do we interested in the community? What does it how do we be be God and to be the hands and feet of God into the community instead of simply driving by it? But like, how do we? Do we sit and when we do we pray for the community? Do we walk through the community and pray for it? Do we stop and care for the wave to the children are on the swing sets or whatever it is? But how do we be a part of the community to really know and see hey and pray? God break my heart for what breaks wars in this community. I want to know, I want to feel what it's broken in this community and so that I might I might step into it. And and part of it is a lot of times is that is that pastors will say we, we, we pray for the community. I go, well, what would you pray for the community they're like. Well, on staff meetings we prayed for the community the pastoral prayer during worship, but have we walked? When I was a new church development pastor, I would walk the five to six miles circle around the our ministry area. I would say, God, break my heart for what breaks yours in this community. I stopped and pray for over the schools. I stopped and say pray for the government, the police officers, the health care workers and everything and say and saying God, make me relevant in this community. That it's not that I'm just putting lip service to this, but I truly want the peace and the prosperity of this community. And it's not simply I'm I'm saying, okay,...

I want the peace and prosperity of the city, but no, God moved within me so that me and the congregation that I serve or walk along with are people that I walk feel and how can we do something to solve some of these issues of alcohols, of children, children's neglect, gun violence, etcetera, etcetera, but to truly be a part of the solution? Where do you see especially mainline congregations um moving after covid Um and I bring that up in the context of as you are well aware of that, probably the narrative that we're used to hearing a lot is, of course, decline Um and that was already happening before covid. It's really sped up after covid. But where do you see churches kind of moving? Where do you see some green shoots happening of how churches are taking risks being a little bit different understanding, you know, maybe at the end of the Ice Age, of how everything is different now. It's it's interesting as the calls that I get. So I worked for the National Church and so specialist for the church planting and people like what our church plants really doing to kind of to be flexible and to be audible in the midst of all this, and so we wrote resources of how do we revision and remission in a post pandemic age? And a lot of it is like how do we know one, how do we know our community and to it to what we kind of talked about is we don't look back, looking back and saying, oh well, it's okay to say this is where we were, but but saying here's where we want to go and saying it's okay to experiment, it's okay that to do things and if you fail that that's perfectly fine, but at least you tried something new. But also, when you're saying we're gonna do something new, it's not saying I'm doing so, we're gonna do something and this is something we're gonna be doing for the next hundred years and kind of we talked about earlier years and next pastor and the next past you're gonna deal with it. But I'm saying we're gonna do this for six months. Then let's let's evaluate if is one. Is this effective? Is this meeting what we want to do? And then, if, if we're meeting what God calls us to do, what can we do to help it be extreamlined or better, and kind of doing something, really looking at that, to really experiment and to understand that we're in this new place and saying we want to be exactly how we were in twenty nineteen isn't realistic. That we need to take into into account of the people that have left the people that we've gained. There's incredible stories that I have my friend Chris, who's the pastor of a of a church in New York City that they went. They went online and they started gathering all these different people and then then about a year ago they decided, okay, it's time to start meeting back in first every so often, we're gonna start meeting in person. But people felt so inclined to be a part of his church that people drove from South Carolina too, on their days that they were meeting in in person to come up to his church because they felt so connected that they were a part of his church they did those drives. So there's there's there's connection that in zoom, where you're like, okay, I feel a part of this whatever, and then there's really feeling connected, because people right now, sorry, people right now, are really feeling that need to be a part of something and being a part of something that is real and that is doing something. If we're just sitting there and giving lip service, saying sooner or later we're gonna do something, people are like, okay, great, but if we're saying here's what we want to be and to live into, we're gonna experiment, we're gonna fail along the way, and that's perfectly fine because oftentimes you know as a pastor, and I know as a pastor is we hate to fail. That we we when we're saying we're gonna try, we're gonna do something, but we've planned it out so that we're like, we can't fail in this, we've really thought through it, we've done the strategic thinking of all of how to do it. But in this time saying, you know what, there's some things that are happening. Maybe we need to have the pulse of some of these different things and be willing to experiment and saying, well, that didn't go well as we as well as we wanted to, and that's perfectly fine, but at least we as a church try to do something in the community and let this not be the one time we do something in the next ten years, but we're going to follow it up by trying and saying we learned something from that and we want to do something else. And so there's so many stories of different people doing different things and experimenting and really living into who kind of who God calls us to that. Another one is the way station just down the street here in Camerio, California. I sat in the back of their church because it was a...

...cool hip place on a Sunday evening to go to go to worship. It was a it was an art studio, so you're like it's this. They had professional musicians and I was like this is awesome. Professional Musicians leading worship and you're like this is cool. But then the pandemic happened and you couldn't meet in this artist studio anymore and they found themselves in the park across the street and they were often they were like, well, why don't people meet us in the artist studio? We left the door open. There's a sandwich board inviting people in and we talked to people, but a lot of people never really came in. But now they're in there. In this Um, there's park across the street that you have you have low income families having barbecues and that you have homeless kind of walking through, you have those that are mentally have mental illness, that are just one Sunday, someone just screaming sentities in the corner of the park. That all these different things. But now they feel that they're really getting the pulse of the community because instead of being isolated on a professional artist studio, there where God calls them to be. And I was appreaching there on Sunday night and I was staring. I'm like, I was staring across the park and there was this five year old kid just laying on the ground all by himself. I was like, should I call the police or something, because he's all I didn't see his parents anywhere and I was like hey, what's the deal? And then come to come to find out that his parents were on the freeway within eyesight, but they were at the center median of the freeway on ramp selling flowers. But that was the place for him to feel saved. They had an eye on it, but he's still a good distance away. But and so the pastor had a good the pastor had a good conversation with them, but they would have never come to this place where they getting the pulse of Camerio California in that park, where they meet the mentally challenged, those are a low income, those that need food and they helped them out all the time, those that just need to be this stint. But you can tell that they have an ear for what's going on in worship and what's being said in worship, that radical things like this are happening across the country. And across the world, as the Church has, was caused during the pandemic to really rethink who and what it is, and and some of it might be by accident like like this. This church happened to be in the park and they didn't plan for all this to happen, but as a result of the pandemic caused them to worship outside that they're in this whole new demographic having this whole new mission of who and what they are, simply because this is where they ended up and they don't intended to go back, because now they realized that they were called to this place at this time to sit with those that are having mental illness or those that are just walking through the park, or the families that are on this wing set or the or that those that are selling flowers on the on the on the medium of the freeway, or whatever it is that they that God has called them to this place, and I think we as us, as a church as a whole, need to recognize that God is calling us into these new places and sometimes we feel like we're like begrudging, like we're not the cool hip church anymore, that we're not in the artist students, professional musicians, but God's called us these new places, which is exciting, that that they're seeking the Shalo of the community that God has called them too in a far different but also far more effective ways, as they're open to the prouting of where God's lead them. What role do you see for online ministry, because obviously that's something that a lot of churches weren't doing until covid hit, and so what role do you see for, I guess some people have now called it hybrid ministry that is both online but also in person? Um that can in some ways stretch, stretch people Um, especially people who may be watching hundreds of miles away, to to be engaged, and this is gonna be interesting moving forward. It's like in the Presbyterian Church we're starting to talk like we have membership and all this stuff. How does somebody that I'm in California, that's in North Dakota, but they regularly give and everything like that, but they've never stepped into your church and stuff like that? How are what? How do you categories them as a member? And there's these are incredible questions, but they're far above my pay grade and stuff like that. How did do that? But but yeah, I go to what was great about Um, about the pandemic in many different ways, is that I got to visit people that my friends are leading worship in Nashville, Tennessee and in New York, and you got to be able to be alongside with your friends and some of your colleagues and meet new, intriguing places and experience worship in different places. But here we are where we're meeting in person and online, and I don't think it's you can't take say, okay,...

...we're no longer doing online worship anymore. I don't think that's something that people can do, churches can do anymore, even though early on in the pandemic they're like, okay, this is just for a season, that we're going to cut away and we're gonna go back to church as normal, because so many of the people that even regular tenders of a certain church now view it online. My mother in law loves watching at their church online because she doesn't have to get dressed and get up and go up and go to the church and stuff like that. But but there's but there's different. But how do we do this? How do we balance? We understand that the church is not the building, but it's also the relationships that are part of it. So I think what's going to be intriguing moving forward is is how do do we have pastors or do we have or do we have leaders that are perfectly that are designed to say we're going to create community with those that are that do it, that do it online, that you can't just say where you're going to view them on something. You'RE gonna view the worship on Sunday and they're just gonna it's gonna be a one way thing, them watching us on worship, doing worship and then click out and that they're done. But there's gonna have to be away for the church to connect back to them and create relationships with them. So whether whether these are new positions, I've started to see some of them start to rise, like we need an online pastor, a pastor that knows how to how to gather people online and create relationships with different people, that it's a that's a non physical on campus. They're not trying to get them on campus saying hey, from down the street, my goal is to get you into the church. But realizing that these people aren't might not ever, might not ever want to be meeting in person, but saying that there will always be. But how do we create community and an intentional community? And that's going to be the challenge moving forward, is how do we create intentional community with people that like, oh, we're just peeking in and then when we aboard we can click to another church or click off. But how do we how do we with such easy to move away and not or people that want to be anonymous in all this? That's gonna be a challenge for pastors and leaders to really engage online people as as we're moving forward. But it's here to stay. And how do we start to deal with it? How do we create small groups? How do we just create discussion groups? How do we create disciple script shift groups, and how do we do some of these things to keep people, to have people engaged? As opposed to it being a one way thing, it's a two way becomes a two way street. Yeah, I think it's something that I'm still trying to figure out and I think it's going to require some different strategies and even, I think, different content and what's going to be out there. But Um, but yeah, it's we're not going back to not having it, but I think it's how is it going to be used and how can people, how can we connect with people so it's not just them watching something? Yeah, exactly, it's gonna be. It's gonna have to figure out how to be a two way street. And then, I mean because we become invested when we have a relationship with the leader or other people there. Then you're like, I'm going to show up because I have a relationship with the other three boxes that are on the zoom screen and I want to be with them, as opposed to, Oh, I don't know them, I have no investment in this, so I'm not going to show up because they don't mean anything to me. And it's not like I want to be with Sam or whoever that is next to other boxes. But if it's like, Oh, Sam's going to be there or Laura is going to be there or whatever, then I'm going to show up. It's gonna be a priority in my life, as opposed to, Oh hey, there's there's a football game on. I'd rather watched the football game than clicking in the small group. So if someone is maybe the pastor of a church or the lay leader of a congregation that is looking to try to do something new and they're trying to kind to figure out where they are and what they can do. Um, what? How would they kind of connect with you, which is obviously the thing. Think about your website and book and all of them. So my website is rediscovering vitality dot com, and so they can connect with me through there. Um the other place to really kind of connect, to connect with me as Sean at rediscovery vitality dot com. And so I do a bunch of different workshops across the country. I do a lot of traveling. Um, I have a book that talks a little bit like what we talked about. Is, how do we interact with the community, understanding that we're isn't a blizzard that we went through, but an ice age, and how do we not be a relic of a time gone by? But how do we interact and how to and start? It's a lot of it's a workbook. And so how do we, as as a church, kind of really challenge ourselves and to be a part of the solution instead of being so inwardly focused, to be outwardly focused? And so you can buy my book at Cyclical Publishing...

Dot Com. Because if you go to Amazon, it's like twice the amount of twice the cost. So if you go cyclical publishing DOT COM, slash rediscovering, dash vitality, slash. Yes. So are you gonna just go to Cyclical Publishing and my book is rediscovering vitality and you can pick it up there for twenty bucks as opposed to the fifty that's on Amazon? Really yes, and so pick it up there. Yeah, I will definitely suggested that. Definitely. Yeah, and I'm totally up for a conversations. If people just want to email me and have conversations about what's going on in the world, in their church world, I'm more than open to that as well. Buean, thank you so much for taking the time to chat and I um and thank you because I think that this is a message that a lot of churches, a lot of communities are are kind of dealing with and trying to figure out where to go next, and I think that this is a way of giving them a bit of hope. Yes, it is. Thank you for having me, Dennis. I appreciate it all right, take care. BYEBIB. Well, I hope that you enjoyed the episode. Um, I think it was very unlike me, and I hope that it was something that you will be able to learn a little bit more. There are some links um in the show notes that I hope that you will take advantage of, including Sean's website, Um, that I hope that you will consider using. Um. In the past I have asked you to consider making a donation and when you go to our church and main's website, which is that church and main dot org, and I just wanted to say thank you to one person who is making kind of sustaining donation. That's sort a certain amount they are giving each month Um to support this podcast. So, Um, I do want to say to Joe Thank you for that, and also to those who haven't um police consider doing that. It helps to defray some of the costs of putting this content online, and you can do so again by going to Um Church and Maine's website, canmain dot org and look for the button that says donate, and while you're there you can also see videos, obviously, past episodes, Um and the like. And also just one other thing, if you have, please consider leaving Um, excuse me, a rating or review at our on the podcast APP of your choice. That helps for people to find this podcast a lot easier. So that is it for this episode of Church and Maine. I'M gonna saying it's your host. Thank you so much for listening, Take Care, God speed, and I'll see you soon.

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