Back To Normal vs. A New Normal

4 May, 2022

An invitation for pastoral leaders into a journey of the Leaders’ Learning-Lab (L3)

Praise God! Relaxing of Covid-Measures are here: no group size limit, less masking, no social distancing! I believe this is a time where many of us will rush to resume services, encourage as many to return, bring back our worship teams in full strength—many things that our members have missed. This is much needed and a relief!

However, is this season a back to normal or a new normal?

I surveyed 10-12 pastoral leaders recently, asking what their biggest questions & challenges in this new season are, you may resonate with some of their answers:

  • After all that we have gone through and changed, what is “church” actually?
  • How can I create direction & environment for real disciples to be made?
  • How do we do church in a post-pandemic world?
  • How can we focus true-life discipleship rather than numbers and Post-pandemic circumstances?

These questions indicate that something has changed through the Pandemic and as we move into Endemic, some sort of paradigm change. I want to suggest to you that this is an opportunity God is giving us for paradigm changes. This has through Christian history to various degrees.

One paradigm change occurred in Acts 10.

[9] About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. [10] He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. [11] He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. [12] It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. [13] Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” [14] “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” [15] The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”… [27] Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. [28] He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. … “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism [35] but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.

Acts 10:9-15, 27-29, 34-35

The boundaries of the Gospel were traditionally thought to surround Israel. Other avenues were considered unclean and unaccepted. But God had forced Peter through his physical need and hunger into considering a new pathway for the communication of the gospel. Boundaries could not prevent God’s love for all peoples had pushed the boundaries, transforming unaccepted channels to become accepted channels.

What has been the new, untraditional channels of communicating the gospel that we were physically forced into out of need during the Pandemic? Is God, out of love for all communities, calling us to accept avenues that were initially unacceptable? What are the lessons we can learn from this?

Another expression of this paradigm change occurred in Acts 1.

[6] So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” [7] He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. [8] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” [9] After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.[10] They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. [11] “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:6-11

With the resurrection, the disciples were expecting Jesus to return to being a political king over Israel. But the ascension into the sky meant a paradigm change—Jesus’ kingdom was to break political boundaries to stretch all over the world. The angels asked the disciples to stop standing there and staring into the sky. Implicit in that message is this: “Go! Start doing the work you are called to; the Spirit will provide what you need to fulfil Jesus’ mandate for you in this new season!”

Moving from Pandemic to Endemic can be a moment of paradigm change for us. I submit to you that it’s not just a back to normal, but also a new normal as well. Why? There are some things which are not the same compared to pre-Pandemic:

These movements belie that this new season is not just back to normal, but also a new normal.

  • People have experienced and become used to online alternatives to church and its efficacy – decent ministry, convenience, timesaving
  • New groups of people connected online from all over the world
  • Uncertainty due to concerns of future outbreaks

These movements belie that this new season is not just back to normal, but also a new normal.

In the same way the angels implicitly communicated to the disciples to stop starring into the sky, I believe God is communicating to us: “Go! Do the work of navigating the new normal. The Spirit will provide what you need to fulfil Jesus’ mandate for you in this new season!”

Dear pastoral leaders, you are given a high calling. Though much changed through Pandemic-Endemic, your tasks and calling are given by the Lord Himself who will return one day. You need to go about doing it!

If you see this Pandemic-Endemic as a new normal and not just back to normal, I believe there would be 4 questions that you would face in making disciples for Christ in this season:

  1. What could God be calling my church–unique in her resources & profile–to shift or change to better fulfil His Purposes?
  2. When through the Pandemic has God been teaching me lessons, what are they and how may my church apply them?
  3. How can my church endure in her mission and grow if Pandemics are a new reality that will continue to bring disruptions?
  4. How can we raise new generation of leaders in transition that can lead various generations through a New Normal?

Go! Do the work of navigating the new normal. The Spirit will provide what you need to fulfil Jesus’ mandate for you in this new season!”

If you are not thinking and praying about this, then you are going along with the tide & only returning back to normal. If you desire to navigate a new normal, I believe it requires you to pray, discern and think strategically with your leaders & people, for your church.

Churchlife Resources seeks to help you personally grow and sharpen your strategic acumen to navigate this new season via our Leaders’ Learning-Lab (L3), a quarterly 2-hour zoom-session that includes video-learning, sharing diagnostic frameworks, and breakouts as laboratories to discuss and apply principles to your own church/ministry situation.

Our first L3: REDEFINING CHURCH IN THE NEW NORMAL WITH 3Ps: PILLARS, PLATFORMS & PROGRAMS will be held on Saturday, 21 May, 930-1130am. You can find out more and register here!

Leaders who understand core-principles of church health will be able to navigate times of change, re-definitions and ambiguities in the new normal.

May God raise you as a leader with this insight & anointing for such a time as this!

From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders…all these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take. (1 Chronicles 12:32, NLTSe)

ABOUT LEADERS’ LEARNING-LAB (L3)

Sharpen your leadership aptitude as a pastoral leader with L3, a series of quarterly online learning sessions for pastoral / lay leaders on Church Health & Growth in the New Normal.

Hosted by ChurchLife Resources’ Rev. Dr Philip Huan & his team, we will cover topics such as:

  • Understanding Church Health Pillars, Platforms & Programs
  • Sustaining Evangelism Momentum in Church
  • Sharpening the Discipleship Framework of your Church
  • Building Vibrant Small Groups, & others...

The 2-hour zooms sessions include video-learning, sharing of diagnostic frameworks, and breakouts labs to apply principles to your own church/ministry situation.

Attend as a group of pastors / staff / elders / leaders to grow together for maximum benefit. Individual pastors may make this your continuing development journey.

Customize your learning-lab through 3 options:

i. Awareness, Understanding & Reflection (self-learning lab)

ii. Spar & listen with pastoral leaders in similar situations (peer-learning lab)*

iii. Application to your local church ministry scenario (application-learning lab)

*subject to sufficient participants of similar ministry-stage

Visit www.churchlife-resources.org/leaders-learning-lab/ to find out more!
Any queries, email us at [email protected]

Rev. Dr. Philip Huan is the Principal Consultant at ChurchLife Resources, and is passionate about helping churches and leaders become strong and healthy!

Photo by Joshua Hanson on Unsplash

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