I know we are all in agreement that God was not taken by surprise by the events of the past month. Therefore, we need to look to Him to see how we can turn a negative into a positive. How can we get on top of a tidal wave, ride it out, and use its energy for good—just like a surfer would ride a wave?
One major way that we can create positive energy is to shift our teaching themes during our on-line Sunday morning worship time to put special emphasis upon foundational issues. Take a page from Vince Lombardi’s playbook. He would on occasion stand before his team (one of the best professional football teams in his day) and declare, “Men, this is a football.” Then he would proceed to talk about the fundamentals of running, blocking, and tackling. Let me encourage you to help individuals and their families to enhance or for many of them begin a daily personal devotional and/or family chapel time. In times of crisis and chaos, it's always important to focus on the things that are truly important.
Many people have more at-home and discretionary time that could be used for spiritual development. This is a great time to talk about spiritual disciplines— linked here is a discussion summary of John Ortberg’s excellent book “Soul Keeping.” I have also attached a PowerPoint and a worksheet I have used to teach on selected spiritual disciplines. You are welcome to edit them to fit your needs.
As always, I am praying for you.
Mark Elliott, DoM
If you have limited experience recording video preaching and worship, here are some pointers from one pastor after his first week:
This note includes two major sections: (1) Encouragement/Exhortations and (2) Practical How To for those who haven’t used on-line communications with your church.
Encouragement and Exhortation
Let me suggest some strategic ways we can all respond in the midst of these challenging days.
First, I would encourage you to BE PRAYERFUL: We serve a God who was NOT taken by surprise by anything that has happened in the last two weeks. His Spirit indwells us and therefore through prayer we have the opportunity to be personally connected with the God who not only knew what was going to happen yesterday, but He also knows what lays ahead. II Chronicles 7:14 would be one of the most appropriate prayers we could lift up to Him today: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Second, I would suggest that you BE PURPOSEFUL: No, we cannot do what we have been doing in the ways that have been doing them. BUT we can still do the things that God has called us to do if we focus our attention on the “WHY” first and then the “HOW.” God called you to be a "pastor and teacher, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12) Together we have all been called to make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples…for the Glory of God. (Matthew 28:19-20 and II Timothy 2:2) How we do it in the midst of this season WILL be different, and I believe it will drive us back to purpose and away from programs and established processes.
Third, I would challenge you to BE PASTORAL: Yes, you and your family are hurting, and yes, it might be the most difficult time you have ever experienced as a pastor. And if it this is your situation, then give me a call! at 402-680-0820. But I can guarantee you that there are individuals in your flock who need not only the comforting touch from the Good Shepherd, but they also need the listening ear and wise counsel from you--their under shepherd.
Fourth, let me suggest that you BE PROACTIVE: These are not the days where we can function like the lonely Maytag repairman who sat waiting by his phone for a distressed customer to call. Your motto should be “carpe diem” (seize the day)! Your attitude should reflect Paul’s exhortation to the church in Corinth: “'In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (II Cor 6:2) In times of distress, people tend to be more open to the caring touch of someone who truly loves them and truly cares for them. The number of people who need “the touch of the Master’s hand” hasn’t changed, but their hearts have been changed by the unprecedented circumstances we are all facing. “Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! (John 4:35)
Fifth, I would suggest that you BE PERSONAL: With the restrictions on worship gatherings, let me encourage you to shift your focus and energy into strengthening your small groups. For some of you this will be an easy and natural response. For others it will almost be like starting from scratch. If you need help thinking through this process, give me a call. For me, personally, I am having to rethink how I can connect more effectively with pastors and churches. My methodology for 26+ years has been to join you for a worship service as my calendar permitted or to connect over a cup of coffee or lunch—those options are no longer available. Just like I am going to have to change the way I connect with you, you are going to have to change the way you connect with your people. We are all going to have to be far more personal in our approach—which probably isn’t a bad thing!
Sixth, let me encourage you to ADJUST YOUR PERSPECTIVE: While I was in the middle of composing this e-mail, I received a call from Pastor Kojo Allen. In case you don’t know Pastor Kojo, he is a native of Nigeria—a nation that even today is embroiled in conflict between the Muslims who dominate the northern area and Christians who are prominent in the southern area of the country. He grew up with those conflicts as a normal part of life along with the additional hardships of growing up in an area without the ample blessings we experience even today in the midst of what we are considering “extreme hardships.” I am not saying, accept the “new normal.” What I am saying is that it might be good for you to connect with some of your brothers in Christ who are pastoring one of our language churches. Pastors who have fled persecution and poverty that they experienced in Sudan, Burma, Nepal, or Central America. Connecting with men and women who have experienced deep poverty and political persecution can help all of us to adjust our perspective, and to be thankful even in the midst of adversity.
Finally, I let me encourage you to ADJUST YOUR PROCESSES: I was just on a conference call with the Governor of Nebraska. For the next two weeks we are in a government mandated restriction limiting meetings to groups of ten. Even in a best case scenario that restriction will go back to 50 or less for several weeks after that. So…let me suggest you move to a small group (New Testament house-to-house) discipleship based model and then take advantage of the technologies that are at your fingertip related to corporate worship. That brings me to section two.
Practical How To’s for doing on-line corporate worship.
Click the button below and it will take you to our HCN website and to information about both Zoom and Facebook options. If you have any questions after you have reviewed the information please contact our office. We can help trouble
Mark is in his twenty-seventh year of serving as an Associational Missions Strategist. He served in western Iowa for almost eight years, and is in his nineteenth year with HCN. He has a passion to see pastors and church leaders grow in their abilities to lead their churches. He continues to have a heart and desire to see new churches planted and God continues to use his strategic thinking skills in this area. Mark also has a wealth of experience in helping churches clarify who God has created them to be, and what they can do best to reach their community. He has had ample opportunities to help churches in times of conflict, and has seen God do exciting things to restore a spirit of harmony, returning churches to a time of fruitfulness. He also helps churches in transition by working with search committees. Mark and Phyllis who were married in November of 2018 have four children and three grandchildren. They will enjoy their combined 87th anniversary in just a few days.