Church Roulette

Photo by Naim Benjelloun from Pexels

I already know that you might be uncomfortable with just the idea, the image of church and roulette in the same title. I get it. I also hope you will take a moment to think through this with me.

In my last post I wrote about how everyone is just trying to figure out how to land the plane, and church leaders are no different. I know that churches are figuring out how to respond as we emerge from the pandemic. And this is being done without a playbook. No church leader has experience with this re-emergence process. In a sense, any move forward is a gamble. The outcome is uncertain because no one knows exactly the right next step.

We are living in a new world.

Many leaders and thinkers are writing about the post-covid life and post-covid church – and I’m not sure we are post-covid (certainly not on a global scale). Gaining inertia when there has been nothing for over a year has proven to be a huge challenge. There are as many attitudes as there are individuals. How do you pull people together when they are as splintered as ever? The church is presented in Scripture as a unifying presence, but finding unity in a divided world is going to take a Divine miracle. We are living in a new world. We have never had to start from scratch and we never had to start with the roadblocks of covid leftovers in our thinking.

We need to pray for our church leaders. No matter how much thought and wisdom go into our path forward, the truth is we do not know where this is going to land. Spin the wheel, try to win. Create a new program. Try a new approach. Revamp a class we used to have. Give people options or do not give people options. Meet more often. Meet less often. Maintain social distancing. Forget social distancing. Are online-only attenders really attending? You can land in the red slot or the black slot – and there’s not a lot of control over the situation.

Leaders have a lot to lose.

  • Loss of clarity, as they attempt to provide a common path forward for diverse members.
  • Loss of members, as people choose to go and worship someplace else or just remain online.
  • Loss of sleep, as they worry about and pray for those who are choosing not to worship any longer.
  • Loss of revenue in the church that could force difficult choices (some churches have even closed their doors).
  • Loss of focus on shepherding, opting instead for easier less confrontational busy work.
  • Loss of respect from those who mis-interpret the leader’s actions as political or appeasement. It’s hard when the members of the church make the leader’s work harder – there’s a verse telling us what God thinks about that.
  • Loss of insight as they try to lead people who are suspicious of others, on both sides of every issue.
  • Loss of spiritual energy if prayer is neglected during this trying time.

This is brand new territory for all of us. None of us have recovered from a pandemic before! There’s nothing easy about it.

Much of what we do at this point is consider the alternatives, pray, and then take a chance. Turn the wheel, throw the ball, and see where it lands. And I do not think anyone is comfortable with this. While there are losses and potential losses, there are also wins.

  • Leaders win when they decide to keep on trying and never give up.
  • Leaders win when they connect with individual members and express care and concern.
  • Leaders win when their prayers are for the healing of the churches / church.
  • Leaders win when their practices are not dictated by politics nor by politically charged members.
  • Leaders win when they are willing to think out of the box and risk something that may fail.
  • Leaders win when they care more about restoring fallen people than restoring previous programs.
  • Leaders win when they keep pushing forward when it would be easy to just let things go on as they are.
  • Leaders win when they support and encourage one another.
  • Leaders win when God gets the glory, Jesus is the key example, and the Holy Spirit is the chief source of guidance.

The idea of Church Roulette simply recognizes that as we move forward we do not always know what to expect. We are not always sure about what to do next. We find ourselves open to trying some new approaches and taking some new chances. Sometimes it will turn out well, and sometimes not. But we keep moving forward anyway – not taking foolish chances, but willing to risk everything to minister to the saved and reach the lost.

What chances are we taking to move forward? What risks are we making to reach out? How willing are we to trust God with the ending and just move forward? It’s stretching our faith and that’s a good thing.