The Post-Quarantine Church: Six Urgent Challenges and Opportunities That Will Determine the Future of Your Congregation
By Thom S. Rainer, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2020.
Book Review by
Joanne Cortes – associate pastor at Beltsville Seventh-day Adventist Church, Beltsville, Maryland, United States.
COVID-19 has impacted practically every church around the world. In this book, The Post-Quarantine Church, Thom Rainer looks at what our church may look like after the pandemic. He offers six urgent challenges and opportunities that may help a church to determine the kind of future it will have.
The first challenge Rainer suggests is that the church should gather differently and better, find innovative ways to use the church facility, and be ready to think of creative ways to reach people currently not being reached (11).
The second challenge involves seizing the opportunity to reach the digital world by designing the most effective social media plan for the church right now. Beware of jeopardizing the church by being digitally busy while having no effectiveness. It is better to simplify the content being shared (25).
The third challenge is to reconnect with the neighborhood. Be a church in and for the community by having a clear purpose and mission and by being a positive influence on those in the vicinity (39).
The fourth challenge is to pray. Take prayer to a powerful, new level by praying regularly and asking members, as well as the community, to join in this challenge. Prayer can happen in an empty church building, via technology, basically anywhere (55).
The fifth challenge reminds churches that after the quarantine, they can practically begin with a “new slate” and serve their communities in ways never done before. This would be a good time to partner with new organizations and groups (69).
The sixth challenge involves encouraging churches to consider making lasting changes that will make a difference. Think strategically and reevaluate ministry objectives, committee budgets, job descriptions, and other aspects of the organization to position the church for success after the quarantine (85).
The final chapter in this book states that challenges faced by the church can also be opportunities. The author lists nine key changes for the post-quarantine church that also reinforce the six challenges provided earlier:
- Simplicity will be vitally important.
- Only outwardly focused churches will survive.
- Worship-service gatherings will be smaller.
- “Multi” will multiply.
- Staff and leadership realignment will focus more on digital proficiency.
- “Stragglers” will become a subject of outreach and focus.
- Digital worship services will be newly proposed.
- Ministry training will change dramatically.
- Pastors will leave their lead positions for second-chair roles.
Rainer concludes by articulating that “the post-quarantine era may prove to be one of the most challenging seasons for churches and their leaders. The opportunity to lead change is likely greater than at any other point in our lifetimes” (110). The pandemic has changed the world and the way we are used to doing church, yet there is a great opportunity in that we are practically given a blank slate—an opportunity to rethink, re-create, and revamp church.
I recommend this easy-to-read book to those who may be unsure about whether the church is being truly effective in the mission during these uncertain times, those who need help in rethinking what church should look like after quarantine, those whose church may be struggling because of COVID-19, and those who are ready to begin to think outside of what is normal. As we enter this new “normal,” we cannot forget that Jesus promises that no matter what we go through, even if it be a pandemic, He is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:19, 20).
The Call of God
Written by Pastor Marcel Ghioalda, Senior Pastor, Newbold Church
The past twelve months have forced us as a Church, a community, and possibly even you as a prospective ministry or mission student, to wrestle with questions about the form and function of what God calls us to be. From my perspective, these questions are placed in five key areas: our commission, community and congregation, and the roles of clergy and church.
Perhaps you identify with some of these questions! Perhaps you seek to discern the voice of God calling you for a life in ministry. Perhaps you search for the heart of God, pulling you towards Himself! Perhaps you wonder if He is the One calling you to join Him in shaping a future with Him. You are not alone in your thinking and questioning. The future is wide open at this point and your hunger for answers may be an indication of His call for your life!
Have you found yourself asking any of the following questions:
Commission (“Why are we here?”):
- Is preaching, teaching and baptising enough, or is it too utilitarian?
- Does caring for people form part of our commission, or is this the remit of other organisations? Where does it rank in our order of priorities?
- Should we care, even when it does not lead to preaching, teaching and baptism?
- Should we keep preaching and teaching even when no one is listening
- What should we be preaching and teaching about?
Community and the Congregation (“Who is my brother?”):
- With regular and physical meetings severely impacted by lockdowns and restrictions, who do we have an immediate responsibility for?
- Our Adventist members?
- Our local community?
- Those with immediate needs?
- Who decides which needs are more important?
- Is there even a list of needs priorities?
- Spiritual needs!
- Physical needs!
- Emotional needs!
- What happens when the priorities of the church and community differ?
- Should our artificial boundaries still play a role?
- Membership in the Adventist Church vs. non-members of the Adventist Church
- Christians vs. other religions vs. no religion
- Membership in the local church vs. a church in a different country
Clergy (“What shall I say?” / “Who will go and serve?”):
- Is it about primarily preaching, teaching and baptising?
- Is it about coordinating church services?
- Is it about coordinating people to serve others?
- Is it about rolling up our sleeves and care for people at the expense of the above?
- Is it about praying for the people?
- All of the above? More?
- Who should do all this: the clergy, church members, the community?
Church in the present day (“How will we do church?”):
- Is church, the gathering of people in a building on a Sabbath morning for traditional forms of study or worship?
- Is church, the online Sabbath School class, small group I belong to in order to pray, worship with, discuss various issues, read a book and talk about it?
- Is it the family worship environment I engage in daily?
- How about the neighbourhood where we connect with people as we meet needs?
Over 52 Sabbaths of experimentation, soul-searching, much joy but also frustration, and many of us are left with more questions than answers. There has never been a time of greater uncertainty in the recent past that challenges all the above aspects at the same time and with equal intensity. The old is broken and rebuilding it may not be what we are called to do. Through His Spirit, God is revealing Himself in a powerful way, redirecting us towards Himself and reasserting His role in leading a people. Now, more than ever God is seeking a group of leaders to follow His calling into a new tomorrow with Him.
If you are serious about engaging with some of these questions while studying Theology at Newbold College of Higher Education, you will be intentional on at least three levels: spiritual (prayer and reflection), experiential (participation in a local and national church, as well as the local community) and intellectual (reading and learning). Ministerial training at the College will equip you with the essential knowledge to help redefine and reshape the commission, community and congregation, the roles of clergy and church, as well as discerning the voice of God as you lead.
If you feel God pulling you towards Himself in wrestling with these questions and if you’re seeking the opportunity to join God in the work He is doing in the church and the community, then you’ve come to the right place.
Welcome to Newbold.
Church is . . .
A retirement reflection – or is it a doodle?
Having served South England Conference members east, west and in-between, Pastor Jonathan Barrett has recently retired from pastoral ministry. I have always appreciated Jonathan’s careful use of words, thoughtful and intentional – the hallmark of an excellent preacher! Reflecting on church life, he put those thoughts on paper and did an A-Z of words in church life, called ‘Church Is . . .’ Any he’s left out? Read more
Rhythms of Grace
‘He stopped taking my calls . . .’
From the father’s perspective, the son asks the impossible. For The Firm to work like a smooth-running engine, this is how things are. ‘But,’ the son persists, ‘I need to do this for my family.’ Faced with two conflicting needs – royal convention and his son’s need – the father seized up with indecision. Wearied by unresolved conflict, when informed, ‘There’s a call for you Sir,’ it is one he does not wish to take. Read more
by Sharon Platt-McDonald
The seven National Health Service periods of health focus for March include:
- 1-31 – Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
- 1-7 – Eating Disorders Awareness Week
- 10 – No Smoking Day
- 11 – World Kidney Day
- 11 – 18 – Nutrition and Hydration Week
- 19 – World Sleep Day
- 20 – World Oral Health Day
In this issue we focus on ovarian cancer, as well as some of the activities you can engage in to raise awareness and funds to combat it this month. Read more
The cross –
and the printed page!
Last Sabbath we were eager to step out into the brilliant sunshine without being bundled up in the usual winter woollies. It was a perfect spring day; there was so much loveliness awaiting us as we walked up the hill towards Great Gonerby. Spring flowers seemed to have appeared overnight . . . celandines, dandelions, daisies, crocuses and daffodils had joined the numerous swathes of snowdrops that have been delighting us for several weeks. We heard the raucous calls of the rooks as they fluttered about in the tops of the elm trees, no doubt chatting to the mothers-to-be in the nests. We also heard the sweeter songs of the songbirds, who, it seemed, were singing for the sheer joy of being alive. Read more