“As for the future, it won’t be the same. It will be better.”


Last month, I participated in the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection’s annual Leadership Institute. You may recall that several years ago some of our church leaders—myself included—attended the institute, returning with a wealth of practical ideas, many of which were put into place at our church.

As hundreds of mainline churches struggle to remain open, Church of the Resurrection (COR) now has 25,000 members, worshiping online and in six communities around the Kansas City area. COR has defied the odds by becoming a vibrant, active, connectional megachurch, under the leadership of its head pastor, Adam Hamilton.


His name is likely familiar to you. Hamilton is a prolific author. We have used his Lent and Advent devotionals as a congregation, while small groups in the church have also studied some of his other books.


Hamilton and his congregation have long been committed to strengthening mainline churches. It is, in fact, a significant part of their mission, to share what they have learned. Their website, Share Church, offers free materials to all denominations, “providing clergy, church staff and volunteers with practical tools to strengthen the church” (ShareChurch.com).

This year’s Leadership Institute was, of course, virtual. I chose to participate because the focus on Adaptive Change addressed the challenges—and opportunities—of being the church during this time of pandemic illness, social unrest, and deep, ideological divisions.


It will surprise no one that churches today are struggling with an entirely new and unanticipated problem. How do we continue to be a close, vibrant faith community virtually? Christian leaders everywhere—including at our own church—have searched for ways to answer that fundamental question, and our leadership at First Presbyterian has done an incredible job of quickly learning to use the resources available to hold us together.


While many churches have barely managed to stay viable, First Pres has remained strong. We continue to offer consistently inspirational and meaningful worship on Sunday mornings—largely through the efforts of volunteers, as well as Pastor Kim Adams and CE Director Ken Crews. Through the ZOOM platform as well as live streaming, we offer new faith formation opportunities for all ages. Along with our ministry units, our Session continues to meet and to plan for the future—a future which, most experts assure us, will continue to be impacted by COVID-19 for some time.


The Leadership Institute posed the three questions fundamental to sound, adaptive change:

  • What is precious and essential? (What must we keep doing, no matter what?)

  • What needs to be discarded? (What must we stop doing?)

  • What do we need to do in order to carry on in the future? (What changes can and should we make?)

In order to continue to prosper into tomorrow, congregations will have to bravely and honestly question the assumptions that we make about who we are and how we function.


One thing we know is true: “Virtual” church is not simply a temporary, stopgap measure, something we do until we can go back to “real” church life.


Virtual church is real church, a powerful tool for ministry that will likely continue to be used even when the church goes back to “normal.”


The new normal will be significantly different than the past.


Churches that continue to thrive into the future will view the circumstances of this unprecedented year as not merely challenging, but as exciting opportunities to be the church in new ways. Rather than allowing the current state of medical, religious, social, and political affairs to knock us down, we will stand.


We will move forward in faith, in trust, and in confidence in God.


We will continue to be the church of Jesus Christ.


As Adam Hamilton states:

“As for the future, it won’t be the same. It will be better.”


Blessings,


Lou Ann Karabel

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