The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) among many things, has served up a crisis for churches & evangelism worldwide.
Although the word crisis in itself conjures up images of despair and panic it can also offer up pictures of hope and restoration.
Crisis can be the very opportunity for churches to grow and for outreach to flourish.
“Never let a good crisis go to waste!” said Winston Churchill as he worked toward forming the UN after WWII
When you are in the midst of a major crisis not unlike the current COVID-19 situation, the natural tendency is to become consumed with assessing the situation. Personally, we may want to develop response plans and from a church perspective we often lean toward mobilising ministries to meet the threats.
In the process it’s easy to forget that the crisis will pass, leaving a “new normal” in its wake. The world will change, potentially in fundamental ways and the same will be for the church.
It’s valuable to consider and understand the effect that crisis has.
Crisis comes in varying forms and its impact can be varied among individuals and groups.
Current physical distancing and isolation are causing havoc for social workers. One professional explained the other day that the idea of people having to live a rather quiet life is terrifying for many Australians. People are used to the hustle of life and unrestricted social interaction. That has now been removed.
A national lock-down, coupled with a shattered economy with tens of thousands unemployed has created a new type of uneasy quiet. Many domestic violence victims are now inside the home facing their opponents. People with mental health issues are met with varying ranges of response to isolation and the elderly are suffering from lack of family contact. The conditions are akin to a perfect storm for disaster.
As a therapist at The Morph Clinic I never want to omit the tragedy of crisis nor minimalise the suffering that emerges from it. I do however want to bring a focus to this unique and present time where there is possibility for gain. Crisis, although tragic in many regards can bring positive outcomes. I would encourage individuals and churches to see this crisis, this hopefully once-in-a-lifetime event as an opportunity for potential growth.
The church particularly has an opportunity for reinvention. Could it be possible that God is reorganising the present church for the future? Could this future church be better positioned to reach those that don’t know Christ?
Will crisis be the tool that shapes the church for greater effectiveness going forward?
As I write, I reflect on my many personal times of crisis that have been very difficult. Without doubt they are some of the most paralysing times of my life.
Sometimes we sign up for things that don’t turn out the way we expect. But God in His gentleness leads us back to a place where He restores the “factory settings” so to speak. Not all is lost. We do however need to process our crisis. Often, we have on-boarded things to our lives that need to be off-boarded. Experiences that life have served us and our churches need to be processed in order for optimal health.
There are lessons we can learn from crisis both personally and corporately. This is necessary for change.
Where am I going with this?
My faith affords me the view that Christ is in the Crisis. He is aware and is present during this Covid-19 challenge. I have learnt through my own hardships and from listening to others that God is with people as they walk through crisis. God never leaves, He is always with us.
My story is that I’ve always come out stronger, with greater resilience. I’m more educated, more aware and introspective, with a passion to help others and to facilitate change.
The challenge during crisis, both personally and corporately in a church setting, is to capitalise through the challenge. Deliberately taking the time to pause, to reflect and to have the conversations with self and others that bring healing and growth.
In Psychology we take an oath to “do no harm”. As Christians we take a similar oath “to love our neighbour as ourselves”. This is a great starting point. Maybe we need to get back to the basics? Maybe we need to avoid complicating things? Maybe we need to focus more aggressively on doing the loving whilst God does the saving?
Crisis can present an opportunity to audit our congregations.
To understand where harm has been caused and where unhealthy practices may reside.
Pain is also an interesting phenomenon.
Pain is necessary for growth. In fact, on a neuropsychological scale pain is necessary to form new neural pathways for thriving. Taking note of where pain comes from and of the messages it conveys, helps us deal with it. This is necessary for reinvention.
There is a term in positive psychology called “post traumatic growth”. Post traumatic growth (PTG) or “benefit finding” is the positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity, resulting in a higher level of functioning both personally and corporately.
Post traumatic growth involves “life-changing” psychological shifts in thinking and relating to the world. Crisis, our struggles can contribute to a personal and corporate process of change, that is deeply meaningful.
Maybe the crisis we are experiencing is something God is using to bring a holy shift? A shift often requires us to move. Let’s not let such an opportunity pass by, there are great benefits to be reaped from crisis.
Let me make one further comment about people in church circles that are often referred to as the De-Churched.
I would have placed myself in this category.
I talk about this on The Win Win Evangelism Podcast with Tina Waldrom (May 2020).
While I understand that God is restoring a world back to Himself and there are many that need to know who Christ is, there are those who have been gravely affected by the church. They are no longer are a part of the local congregation that they once knew and loved. These people are just as vital to be loved and restored as new converts.
They have experienced a crisis.
Unfortunately, these people have often been put in the “too hard” basket. The principles of dealing with crisis also apply here.
In order for change to happen the past needs to be revisited and pain needs to be dealt with so people can move forward. Let pain be the coach in crisis. I comment further on this in the podcast interview.
Don’t waste a crisis.
I do sincerely believe that God is re-purposing people, “The Church” through crisis. This re-purposing and repositioning is happening in so many wonderful ways. It is important during times of crisis to take intentional notice of what God may be doing and what He may be saying both personally and corporately.
Positive Psychological Practitioner (B.Th., Psych Sci, MAPP)
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