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Ed Stetzer on "Post-Covid" Missiology: Three Ongoing Realities

April 7, 11a (ET) 2022

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Transcript:

Larry Doornbos:

... going to pass it off to you and say, welcome. Thanks for being here, and we look forward to our conversation today.

Ed Stetzer:

Well, good to see everybody. We are excited to connect with you and talk a little bit about the moment we're in and where that goes, together. So, for us, we're going to look at... I'm going to pull up my screen here. Hold on one second. I'm going to pull up my screen and share with you. I'm calling this, a little bit, our post-COVID reality, knowing that immediately you're saying anything about COVID people say, "Well, wait a second. Is this really post?" Or, "I got opinion on this," or, "Maybe we shouldn't been in this," or, "Maybe..."

Ed Stetzer:

And let me just quote the theologian, Taylor Swift, as we begin. "You need to calm down," so we can receive this today and have a good conversation because, again, I don't know if it's post-COVID. You don't know if it's post-COVID. We're kind of, hoping it's post-COVID. But the reality is we're still trying to figure that out, and we're seeing go up in some states, seeing a little bump in Europe.

Ed Stetzer:

But here's the thing. What we've seen in the last two years just has to be understood as a time of great shaking, a time of substantive shaking, where we're just not sure what that means for the future. So where do we go from here? In other words, what do we do, moving forward, with the post-COVID reality, in a time of real confusion, in a time of division?

Ed Stetzer:

Just one of the things I want you to hear and see is that we have a, not just one reality, but it's almost been like a series of six realities that we're walking through together. And, for us, it's a series of not just one pandemic, but a series of, what I'm calling, six pandemics. This is my most recent article in Outreach Magazine, where I serve as the editor. We have, of course, the pandemic of disease, that's been obviously, and people [inaudible 00:02:06] with different opinions and more. But it's been a pandemic of disease that we've seen and experienced for a while. But then the reality is, there's other things. There's a time of distrust in culture, unlike anything we've seen in our lifetime. And there's [inaudible 00:02:25] from technology. You're all one social media crisis away, in your church, or your denomination, or your ministry, from being very busy for a few days or months, trying to deal with a crisis. There's disorientation identity. People are unsure who they are and where they're going. That is multifaceted. I'm going to talk some about that, a huge disruption to mental health that I think will be generational, and then division in the church.

Ed Stetzer:

What we're seeing, probably for the first time in most of our lifetime, is the division of the culture has seeped into the church at an unparalleled level. And, here, we find ourselves in really complicated times. So I'm going to talk about three big buckets to frame where we are, right now. Then, we'll walk through those three big buckets together.

Ed Stetzer:

So, the bucket number one is, what I'm calling, COVID and Our Cultural Convulsion, COVID and Our Cultural Convulsion. And I think we all sort of agree that there is something going on in our culture that's unprecedented. And that unprecedented time is really, for us, something we're going to have to walk through. It's going to be a challenging time, a challenging time for us to think about the culture moment.

Ed Stetzer:

So I actually am relying on an article. I want you to look. Just take a moment. Read the article title and the sub-title. And you can see, here, that the sub-title is, for us, a picture of the current moment. The way he describes it, here, is levels of trust in this country, in our institutions, in our politics and one another, are on a precipitous decline. And, right, this precipitous decline is here. So, when social trust collapses, nations fail. How do we get it back before it's too late?

Ed Stetzer:

So this is by David Brooks, who's a relatively new follower of Christ, and he wrote this in The Atlantic. He writes other things. Not everything am I aligned with 100%. But I found this article and the thesis, here, really helpful. So I want to share a bit with you about it. So we actually had David in class. I serve as a Dean and Professor, here at Wheaton College. So we had him in class.

Ed Stetzer:

While we were in class, we talked a little bit about the cultural convulsion. And the conversation that led me to use language a little differently, exciting David. I wrote this in an Outreach Magazine column, my first column as the new Editor-in-Chief. And I'm going to phrase it a little differently. I think the world is having a cultural convulsion. It's not America. It's not just moral. The world is having a cultural convulsion. [inaudible 00:05:11] David Brooks is much smarter than me.

Ed Stetzer:

So I want you to look with me, just for a second, at 2020. And this is going to make my host nervous, but I want you to stay with me for just a moment. Let's start with 2020. If you can help me out, I want you to put in the chat... Tyler, make sure I can see the chat. I want you to put in the chat, what was the big controversy at the beginning of January, 2020? Just put that in the chat. Just drop that in. See what we can come up with. What's the big controversy at the beginning of 2020? I'm waiting for your chat comments, because I want to see what they are, because I know you're afraid to put them, because you're just like, "Well, I don't want to write this down. It's really [inaudible 00:05:52]. But it's big controversy. And, really, this is so unusual. Somebody got it very early on.

Ed Stetzer:

Usually, it takes a while for people to even remember that we began 2020 with... So, not the election. That was January 6, 2021, and not the January 6 riot. But that was 2021. So it's fascinating to me that, when I put in something... I have this conversation. I was, "What's the big..." People say, "Well, was it COVID? Was it..." Here's the reality. We've had such a last two years that the first impeachment... There were two. The first impeachment of the President is actually shockingly forgotten, because we've moved on to everything else.

Ed Stetzer:

Let's go through 2020. So we start 2020 with the first impeachment of President Trump. Soon thereafter, we begin to hear about a... I don't know if it was flu virus coming out of Wuhan. And people were unsure how to respond to it. I was actually in a meeting at the White House with the Surgeon General. It was me, the head of the Church of God in Christ, the historic African American Pentecostal denomination, and Walter [Kim 00:06:59], from the NAE. And we were meeting with the Surgeon General, who just came back from a meeting. And he told us... We were there to talk about the spread of HIV/AIDS in rural religious communities. But he came back and started talking to us. And he said to us, "Help us. You've got to warn the churches that this is going to be a big deal." And it became a very big deal.

Ed Stetzer:

You remember in, I think it was, March 2020, there was two weeks to stop the spread. Remember everything was shut down, and I think most of the U.S. But Canada, as well, followed suit. So we had two weeks to stop the spread. I miss talking in terms of two weeks. It's been a very long two weeks, very long two weeks. And, again, as I say these things, they'd be like, "Well, we shouldn't have done that." Well I've got more opinions. I've got thoughts on these issues, and I get all those things.

Ed Stetzer:

So, now, we've got, what we call now, COVID-19, two weeks to stop the spread. And everyone was decently united around that time. 96% of churches shut down. Those that didn't... Probably everyone on this call did. Those who didn't tended to be very rural areas, small churches in rural small communities that hadn't been impacted yet. Later, they would be. And it was funny. So two weeks to stop the spread. Well funny is the wrong term. It was funny in my household because, after the two weeks... My wife's an introvert, and I'm an extrovert. And Donna is introvert, and all of our kids are extroverts. So I said to her, after two weeks, and the President announced we're going to go another month, I said to her, "Hey, do you... As an introvert, is this fun for you, that we just get to hang out at home, and we don't have to interact with new people? Is this like an introvert win?" And she looked at me and, with a smile on her face, she said, "Are you going to be here the entire month?" So there is a sense that we all experience some level of dissidence, during that time.

Ed Stetzer:

But, you know, the reality is, by the time you got through the other... maybe halfway through the month-long shutdown, you began to see cracks in the unity that were there. It wasn't long thereafter, we saw the murder of George Floyd all over the news, all around the world. And, again, even then, at the beginning, you found there was not a lot of people defending it. Republicans and Democrats, both, were condemning this. Different ways they expressed that. But, very quickly, you could feel a shift in how people were responding to this.

Ed Stetzer:

So there were the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd. We're just in 2020. So we've had an impeachment. We've got a global pandemic. We've got an economic crash. Do you remember your church giving in March and April? You weren't sure what was going to happen, where the future held. Then, we saw the murder of George Floyd, and it sparked protests that were... The New York Times that were larger than the Civil Rights protests in the '60s. Every Christian book that was written on the topic of race... Think about John Perkins or Trilia [Newbell 00:09:50], or DeMar [Tisby 00:09:51]. All those books sold out, like were out of print and had to be printed more because so many Christians were like, "Well, what do we need to do? How do we need to learn more?"

Ed Stetzer:

It was fascinating to me how many people said, "We want to learn more." Everyone held a panel. I mean, I'm guessing, if I ask by a show of hands, but I won't, every one of you did something. You had a panel. You had a conversation. You said, "We've got to understand the he lived experience of our African American sisters and brothers differently." If you live in Chicago, and lots of other places, there were riots. And the riots... I was the interim teaching pastor at the Moody Church in downtown Chicago, at the time. And I forgot where I was, but I was watching television. And there was like a phalanx of officers and protesters, and some rioters, and it was making the news. And it was right there. I could see it. Like, there's the church, and it's right there. We had families who lost everything. Businesses burned out. I mean, it was a big deal. It was a big deal in Chicago. It was a big deal across the country.

Ed Stetzer:

By the time you got through in dealing with some of these things, you began to feel the way people originally responded to the murder of George Floyd shifting some because, at first, be like, "Well, I want to learn more. How can I understand systemic racism more?" And, soon, people were like, "Well, wait a second. What about... I mean, look what happens when we don't back the blue. Well, do blue lives matter if Black lives matter? And do all lives matter? And, again, this is just summer 2020. Now, I recognize anything I say, be like, "Well, you should've said more about this. You should've said more about that." Just stay with me. I'm describing... I've written plenty on all these things. You might agree with everything I say or think, and that's okay. But my point is not even to wade into all these moments, but to realize just how turbulent and tumultuous 2020, and following, was, because what happened was, you began to see the divide in people. And what was interesting was, if you mentioned George Floyd, by name, in your church, which I'm guessing most of you did... So, if you mentioned George Floyd, by name, in church, and you didn't mention the summer riots, people were like, "Well, are you in favor or riots? Why'd you mention George Floyd, and not the riots?"

Ed Stetzer:

Maybe you had conversations about race and injustice. And it's like, "Well, why didn't you condemn the riots?" I had a great conversation with [Esau McCaulley 00:12:12] on the [inaudible 00:12:13] Church Leaders Podcast. And he said, "Is there like a big group of Christian leaders who are in favor of the riots, that we need to condemn? It seems to me everyone's against the riots." But it was like, if you didn't mention that, if you didn't mention the riots, but you mentioned George Floyd, people began to, they began to get unhappy. There was a cultural convulsion going on.

Ed Stetzer:

Then, we had the election. So the election November 2020. So this is all within one year. How crazy is all this? So this is all within one year, and Fox News eventually called the election for, now, President Biden. And I say Fox News on purpose because, then, you had a choice to make. So my phone sort of lit up, and people said, "Well, what do I do? We've always prayed for the President-Elect." I bet you do, as well. "We prayed for President-Elect Trump. We prayed for President-Elect Obama. We prayed for President-Elect..." You know, keep going back. "But now, people are saying the election was stolen. What do we do?"

Ed Stetzer:

So I called Rick Warren, who just a friend for many years. And I said, "Hey, I need you to do a podcast." So he got on the podcast an hour later. He said, "We're going to pray for President-Elect Biden." And, later on, he would tell me that that got some people really upset, in his church, that he wasn't supporting standing up, speaking out, and stopping the steal.

Ed Stetzer:

So, then, finally, within a year from impeachment, we get to January 6, still within the year. And my guess is... I mean, you, like me, we're really struck by that. I wrote an article in USA Today that really went very far, about evangelicals facing a reckoning. But, January 6, maybe your church said something. Maybe, on that Sunday, you said, "That's not us," because they prayed in Jesus' Name on the floor of the House and the Senate. So maybe you were saying, "That's not us."

Ed Stetzer:

But, then, if you said that, and you mentioned George Floyd by name, but you didn't mention summer riots, and you didn't help stop the steal, or maybe you didn't mention George by name, but you mentioned the summer riots, and you didn't mention January 6, people began to correlate things in their mind, and you began to experience... And when did you put masks on, as a requirement, or off, as a requirement? How long did you wait to open?

Ed Stetzer:

Because, all of a sudden, depending how long you waited to open people are calling you a compromised coward. Maybe you're telling people to require masks. I'm guessing most did, depending on where you are. And let me also mention, too, that what this conversations... You know, this team engages across the country. So if you're in New York... I was the interim teaching pastor during the pandemic. After Moody, I went to Calvary in New York City. It's [Stephen Olford's 00:14:49] old church, across the street from Carnegie Hall. And I got to tell you, very different experience. We didn't have to require masks. Everyone wore masks at the peak of the pandemic. I mean, I think we did, but we didn't have to.

Ed Stetzer:

But, if you're down in Texas, they didn't participate in the pandemic. They've been kissing each on the mouth for two years, and people debate, for a decade to come. The results of all those things is, why is California and Florida so different in their approach? And, yet... Anyway, another story [inaudible 00:15:19]. And I know. I know. You're like, "Well, wait, Ed. I think this." I got you. Calm down. My point is the world has been on fire. And it has come into your church. And you've heard people say, when you required masks maybe longer than they thought, you were a compromised coward. When you kept things closed, you were following social distancing, you were a compromised coward.

Ed Stetzer:

And then, almost everyone's meeting again, today. And most places aren't requiring masks. And then you got a whole 'nother people like, "We're still in the pandemic. You're going to kill somebody. What kind of terrible person are you?" So nobody has walked through the last two years without experiencing a higher level of criticism and difficulty. And I believe, sadly, it's going to get worse before it gets better.

Ed Stetzer:

You say, "But, Ed, the pandemic seems to be ending, or moving to endemic phase," whatever term you want to use. Please don't send me letters. But the point is that cultural convulsions, David Brooks wrote, tend to take about four to six years. Well, I'm trying to remember specifically. I did some more research. I don't know. I pulled that out. But, what he pointed out was, every 60 years... And he cited one author primarily, and I think another, secondarily... Every 60 years, America seems to go through a cultural convulsion... He calls it a moral convulsion... where we look at each other, we don't believe each other anymore.

Ed Stetzer:

I mean, think of the '60s. "I'm not going to believe what you write. I'm going to make my own newspapers and newsletters," and all those sorts of things. So, all that is the cultural moment that we're walking through today, again, every 60 years. And he points back to the late 1800s, the same thing. We see this pattern. So we have been here before. But it's not probably ending in the next few weeks and months, even if COVID becomes endemic, or whatever.

Ed Stetzer:

Cultural convulsion tends to last four to six years. And we look at the peak of the cultural convulsion in the '60s, has to be 1968. 1968, the people weren't sure the country wasn't going to pull apart. I don't think anybody on our call probably remembers 1968, personally. I was alive, but just a baby. So what we see is, it felt more divided, then, than it is now, cultural convulsion of the first order. So, that's one thing I want you to see. It related to a cultural convulsion. But there's a little bit more that I want you to see, as well. And it's another article. I like citing articles, if that helps. It helps us give us resources to read more.

Ed Stetzer:

The other is called, Waking Up in 2030. This is by Ross Douthat. Ross is a columnist for the New York Times. He's actually a former evangelical, converted to Catholicism. He's a very conservative Catholic. He writes, I think, books and articles critical of the current Pope, as being too progressive, as he sees it, just to give you a feel for who he is, former evangelical, oddly enough. So he writes this article. And if you notice the date, it's June 27, 2020. And it's called, Waking Up in 2030, the Suspended Time of the Pandemic Has Put History on Fast Forward.

Ed Stetzer:

So, what happens here... I don't want you to miss what happens here, is his article makes the case, particularly around race, that most of us accelerated our understanding of race, or maybe systemic racism, or maybe injustice, or more, in 2020. The murder of George Floyd seemed to be a catalyzing moment for more conversations, more learning. But the argument he makes... And I'm going to make it not just on race. But the argument he makes is that people accelerated. But they accelerated at different speeds. And we would've had a decade. It's 2020. Right? So it's 2020. We would've had a decade to talk this through together. But, all of a sudden, 2020, it's like people hit the gas. So my guess is some people in your church said, "[inaudible 00:19:05] I want to learn more. I want to be aware. I want to hear from African American leaders who share my faith commitment, who maybe have a different experience living in their community, or engaging certain systems and structures."

Ed Stetzer:

Okay, so I'd say a lot of people did that. So they accelerated. Other accelerated and said that there was a provost at a Southern Baptist seminary. So a Southern Baptist, very conservative denomination, and it later became controversial. The Provost said, "If you peel back..." I'm paraphrasing. "If you peel back the cover, underneath..." I believe he was talking about evangelicalism, or maybe the denomination. But it was more than just that. I think it was the culture. "If you peel back, and look at the ugly underbelly, the rotting corpse that undergirds it, upon everything which it's built, is racism. The whole system is, to this day, built on, and sustained by..." I'm, now, paraphrasing substantially. "... racism."

Ed Stetzer:

Now that's an acceleration that probably went further than, maybe, where some of you are. I wouldn't phrase it exactly that way. ...or the 1619 Project, or anti-racism [inaudible 00:20:18] and others. So people accelerated at different levels. Then it caused conflict. And then some people said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa." And they went back the other way and said, "You know, I'm not sure that we need to talk about system racism at all. That's critical race theory." By now, my hosts are like, "Oh, my gosh. You now also mentioned critical race theory, masks. Let's talk about vaccines. Let's throw it all in. Let's cover it all today." But my point is, we're in the midst of a cultural convulsion unlike anything we have seen in our lifetime. It's not going away any time soon.

Ed Stetzer:

People are accelerating at different levels. Again, that's the point of the article. I can give you an example that he didn't use, but example of gender identity. So conversations about same-sex marriage being legalized... Depends on who's explaining history. But most people will go from Stonewall, which was a protestless riot in New York, to a [Burgafeld 00:21:08], which is the Supreme Court decision. So it takes over 40 years for America to change its mind on same-sex marriage. And, just so we're clear. America has changed its mind on same-sex marriage. So that, culturally, 60 plus percent. I think it's down to 30%, now, would oppose same-sex marriage. So America's changed its mind. People who, generally, haven't are conservative Catholics, traditional Christians, evangelicals, others.

Ed Stetzer:

But gender identity... I mean, five years ago, I don't recall anybody ever asking me a question like I get asked, regularly after church, now. "My daughter wants me to call her by her new pronouns, wants to be called by male pronouns, use the word he, him, his, to describe, because my daughter is now a transgendered man. What do I do?" I wasn't asked that five years ago. I wasn't asked that 10 years ago. Now, I'm asked that... I mean, I'm not saying it's regularly, but probably in the last year, two or three times, after services.

Ed Stetzer:

So the sudden acceleration... So, all around us, people are accelerating at different paces. Some people are saying you should be accelerating at all. And, on some issues, people accelerate differently. I think it's a good thing there's a greater awareness of systemic racism, and to maybe really try to understand the experience of African American sisters and brothers. And it's not just the binary, there too. Could be multi-faceted. Yet, same time, I think churches are really struggling. My guess is that you've had some sort of teaching about gender identity in the last few years. And, if not, you're planning to do one soon. So, I start with the big picture, COVID and our cultural convulsion. So that's number one in our outline. And there's three. The other two are shorter.

Ed Stetzer:

Number two, on our outline, is COVID and the great sort. This has impacted your church. I'm calling it The Great Sort. What seems to be happening is, is that people are leaving and coming to churches for different reasons. But, one of the bigger reasons is they are sorting themselves ideologically, where in the past, they would've sorted themselves theologically. So I call it The Great Sort. And every church as had people, it appears, leave to go to churches more to the right. And maybe that's expressed... You know, what does right and left mean, in the time of wear masks, or racism, or vaccines, or whatever? But have seen people leave their church to go to churches on the right, and to the left. You say, "Why is that?" Because, here's one of the things we learned.

Ed Stetzer:

One of the things we learned is that our discipleship was pretty shallow, and cable news was pretty deep. People are being discipled by their cable news choices, and spiritually shaped by their social media feed. So it's not the church that's driving the conversation. It's actually more and more technology, the phone, the social media, and here. So I think we've got to address the technological challenges. Matter of fact, let me show you a piece of technology that's 2,000 years old. That's a pipe from the Roman Empire. In the Roman Empire, they discovered a metal that was particularly malleable, moldable, foldable. And they used it to make pipes. Now we already knew about the Roman roads. Wow, what a technological breakthrough. We knew about the Roman aqueducts. What a technological breakthrough. But there was hot and cold running water in Roman Villas, 2,000 years ago.

Ed Stetzer:

In a city of a million people, they had hot and cold running water, and it was because of technology like this. You'll notice it's not welded. It's folded. They didn't have welding, but they would fold this moldable, malleable metal. And they made plates out of it, it was so amazing. They made goblets out of it. You've seen pictures of people holding what looks like a metal goblet. And they were, and they did. It was a technological marvel, hot and cold running water, 2,000 years ago. The only problem was the metal was lead.

Ed Stetzer:

So they're literally... Their water's coming in, in lead pipes. They're drinking from fancy goblets made of lead. They're eating from plates. But they're drinking. Right? They're feeding, they're eating, from lead. Everyday, they're ingesting this. But, here's the thing I don't want you to miss. 2,000 years ago, their technology was feeding them and killing them at the same time. It was a technological marvel. And, 2,000 years later, I think our technology is feeding us and killing us at the same time. And it's impacting your church. It's causing people to sort themselves ideologically. And the end result, I believe, has long-term spiritual ramifications, and more.

Ed Stetzer:

So, all right. We get the picture here. So The Great Sort is what I'm calling when people are sorting themselves, ideologically, into, often, different congregations. And, lastly, I want to talk COVID and layers of disengagement. This is, obviously, something we're all interested in. Are people coming back? When are they coming back? And, obviously, in the past, they tended to come back.

Ed Stetzer:

Since I was the Interim at the Moody Church, during shutdown, I looked back at the Moody Church during the Spanish Flu. And it took about 18 months to return to normal. So, not like the next day, but 18 months. So we're... It depends on, again, how you count. But, if Omicron is our last big surge, again, if... Who knows? ... we're 18 months before we're returning, if we follow past patterns. But, also, too, they didn't shut the world down, during the Spanish Flu. It was a different level of response. Churches didn't shut down in the same way.

Ed Stetzer:

People have known for a long time. They didn't know what a virus was, but they knew being near somebody in a time of sickness gets you sick. So people would distance themselves. But some it's weird, some of the things that have happened. Most of you, statistically, on the call... Now I know you're CRC and RCA. So I don't have a specific CRC and RCA sample. But most of you on the call, your giving is at or above your 2019 level. And it's a bit perplexing why that is. Your volunteerism might be at, or above, not everybody. That's why it's an average. But, most churches in North America, today, their giving is at or above 2019, not 2020, 2019. What in the world happened?

Ed Stetzer:

Now, I know you're not Pentecostals. We got some Charismatic Wing, here or there, in the RCA, and a little less in the CRC. So we're for you. But, if you go to a Pentecostal church, like a real Pentecostal church, maybe a good Assemblies of God church, the most involved people sit up front. Not in my denomination. Most involved people sit in the back. They're back rowers. Right? But I want you to picture a church of a hundred people on a Sunday, with 150 seats, a hundred people sitting in them, in 2019. The front third, in a Pentecostal church, is the most involved. It appears that, in 2020 to 2022, the front third has gotten more involved than they were already involved. So they are giving more, and they are serving more. I see some of you nodding your heads. So you're tracking with me. They are giving more and they are serving more. So that's an important... Like, wow. What is going on? What is going on? So giving more and serving more.

Ed Stetzer:

So, second is the second third of the church. The second third of the church is still hanging on. They're kind of, waiting. They're still trying to see what happens. Maybe they've reengaged some of the ministries, things of that sort. But they haven't stepped us as much as the front third. Now, the front third, who were already your best givers, became better givers, often, and better servers. But I want to talk to you about the back third. Remember, it's a hundred people in the church. So, if it's a hundred on a given Sunday, the back third of the church could represent 150 people. You say, "Ed, how can that be?" Well, because they only come Christmas, Easter, maybe five, seven, nine times a year, otherwise. They're irregular attenders. They're loosely-connected people.

Ed Stetzer:

It appears that the back third of most churches, which numerically, might make up the bulk of its people, but they're kind of, loosely connected. Like I said, they don't give a lot. They don't serve a lot. That's why your church hasn't collapsed. But appears the back third, in the last two years, have disconnected, many potentially permanently. Let me show you what I think that looks like graphically. Show you what that looks like graphically. So I think that this moment is key moment for us. And I'm of the view that... You know, God brings us to these moments. All of us come to these moments, for such a time as this, for such a time as this.

Ed Stetzer:

So, if we're looking at this post-pandemic reality... So I'm a missiologist. So I'm going to talk to you about missiology. If we're looking at this post-pandemic reality, we've got a cultural convulsion that appears is not going to resolve anytime soon. We're going to need reservoirs of resilience. That's why this community's important, and others. We're going to need reservoirs of resilience as pastors, as clergy, as team members. We might not be halfway through. Now, cultural convulsion do tend to resolve. In the '60s, eventually we ended up in the '70s. Things started to settle down again, and we got disco. We got disco. So let's hope that doesn't happen again.

Ed Stetzer:

So it might be two, three, four more years. And we're going to lead in a culturally convulsed time, unlike anything we've seen in our lifetime. And I know many would say, "I didn't sign up for this. This is hard." I know. We're going to need reservoirs of resilience and community to make it through together, cultural convulsion.

Ed Stetzer:

Now, The Great Sort... This is a reminder that we're going to have to re-engage and redouble our disciple-making efforts. I was speaking at the [Barna 00:31:00] National State of Your Church event, something David [Kenniman 00:31:02] really... Like I do, he has college-age kids. And he says, "You know, my college-age kids have a phrase. 'You know, he's just not that into you. She's just not that into you.'" And he said, "One of the things, pastors, we learned in the last two years, they're just not that into you. They're more intrigued by talk radio. They're more into cable or social media. And we've got to bring more robust engines of disciple-making.

Ed Stetzer:

And the layers of disengagement/engagement, a third, a third, a third, I want the front third to be normalized. I want that to be what it looks like post-COVID. So we've got to help the front third. And maybe this Easter, and around, could be an opportunity for that. The front third's got to help us engage the second third at a higher engagement, at their higher engagement. Let's normalize the new level of engagement we've seen in some of our key members, of generosity, of giving and serving. So let's normalize that, so the front third helps us to engage the second third. But, then, we've got to engage the third third together. And I think Easter could be a key opportunity for that. Summer could be a key re-engagement. This fall could be a prime season.

Ed Stetzer:

Then, not just getting people back to church. But we've got to engage the world. I think the world's on fire. We're not the only ones that are feeling it. This is a time of great cultural tumult and turbulence. So, for all of us, we can invite God's people to join us, to reach a lost and hurting world.

Ed Stetzer:

I'm actually part of a campaign called, He Gets Us. You can go to hegetsus.com. And we're actually running ads, a hundred million $150,000,000 of ads. You'll see them all over the place. Get people talking about Jesus. We need our churches ready to engage people who are going to be talking about Jesus in new ways. And we want to give time for Q&A. So let me just take us back to the last cultural convulsion. It's 1968. I don't think any of you are old enough to remember. But 1968, the world felt like it was falling apart, Viet Nam War protests, Civil Rights protests, the assassination of Martin Luther King, April 4, assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Where I live, in Chicago, the Mayor just said, "Go break open all the protesters' heads, in Grant Park." And he did, and we remember Dan Rather famously being pushed over at the Convention in the news. This was all over the news.

Ed Stetzer:

What you might have forgotten is, 1968 was also a global pandemic. Your parents and grand-parents would've probably called it the Hong Kong Flu. We call it H3N2, today. And one of [inaudible 00:33:41]... It was a huge deal.

Ed Stetzer:

So we had, in 1968, a cultural convulsion unlike anything most people saw in their lifetime, unlike most people saw in a lifetime. And we are walking through a cultural convulsion, today, that none of us have probably experienced in our lifetime. But here's a brief word of encouragement I want to give you. In 1968, there was a pastor in Southern California. And he said to his daughter, "I want to meet a hippy." And she brought home a hippy. And he was a new follower of Jesus, trying to figure things out. And, anyway, they started a Bible study together. It grew to a thousand people, and soon there was another one, and another one. They started these Bible studies in coffee houses and communes up and down the West Coast. And it spread all across the country. 1968 was that meeting, when the world was on fire, when the culture was convulsing, when people were divided, and the world was obviously broken. We saw an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that, today, we call the Jesus People Movement. That pastor was named Chuck Smith. That hippy was named [Lonnie Frisby 00:34:40]. I'm of the view that we might look back, in 2025, and say, "The cultural convulsion was a real time of shaking for the church. But, it was also a real time of shaking for the world. And the church got on mission, engaged in robust discipleship, made sure sure staff made it together and pastors made together, across the finish line. That front third engaged the second third, to re-engage the third third around Easter, summer, and fall, 2022. And we saw a real outpouring of the Holy Spirit and evangelism beyond that.

Ed Stetzer:

So I'm encouraged. I mean, I'm always perpetually encouraged, because I read the end of the book. And Jesus wins. But there is a sense that hard times lead to spiritual movements. And we're going through a hard time. Late 1800s led to some of the revivals in the early 1900s, not just the Pentecostal Revival. That was one of the revivals.

Ed Stetzer:

So, what I want to say to you, as a missiologist, I see this moment as a key moment for churches to show and share the love of Jesus in the midst of a broken and hurting world. And I hope that's your passion, as we move forward into 2022, still in the midst of a cultural convulsion, we try to do it as the body of Christ on mission, in the world today. All right. That's kind of, my presentation. Thanks for the opportunity to share it with you. My understand is we're going to do some Q&A, or something. I'm going to just turn it back over to Larry, who's the brains of this operation. And we'll go from there. Oh, some people are already starting to post their questions.

Ed Stetzer:

So, I actually can't... Tyler, the microphone's in front of where I would normally see. So I can't see those. So why don't you get that started. Just mind to go over there and move that for me. Okay so, Larry, back to you, brother.

Larry Doornbos:

Yeah. Hey, thanks, Ed, very much, and for mentioning all the good things. Right? So-

Ed Stetzer:

Yeah.

Larry Doornbos:

... one of the questions I have is, "What wisdom do you have for pastors and leaders, as they navigate that social media world? How do they use that well so it feeds, rather than destroys?"

Ed Stetzer:

Yeah, I think some teaching on this would be important. Think about this. If 99% of your church was experiencing marital difficulties, 99% of your church was experiencing some particular sickness, you would address it from the pulpit. 99% of your church is engaged in something related to social media on their phone. I would think we need a discipleship of media use in our lives.

Ed Stetzer:

I was preaching at [Saddleback 00:36:55], this summer. And Saddleback's been experiencing this, as well. By the way, one of the stats I shared at Saddleback was, according to one study of pastors, 30% of the new people coming to churches were people who were leaving their last church because they disagreed with how their last church handled COVID.

Ed Stetzer:

So, when I mentioned there's a third, a third, and a third, there's a new third that's coming in that you got to figure out how you want to deal with all these people who are coming in mad at their last church. And that's part of the thing that's going on. But, when I was there, what I said in my sermon, was, "Listen, if cable news is keeping you out of fellowship, or divided with your local church, you need to turn it off, unplug it, unsubscribe from it. Choose your church over cable."

Ed Stetzer:

So I would, pretty boldly, go into this place and say, "Ephesians 3:10 says God has chosen the church, not talk radio, not social media, not cable news." And I would call people to... I mean, actually, if you gave me more time... But this is... You know, these CRC/RCA people are very Dutch particular. I would've gone through, and talked about some principles that... from how do we move from a temporarily-deficient ecclesiology in the emergency for the sake of the mission, to my principles. But you don't get that today, because Larry is a harsh and difficult man. So, there you go, the Dutch.

Larry Doornbos:

There you go. So I'm looking at my chat, here. Daniel, do you have any questions that are popping up in your chat, right now?

Ed Stetzer:

Yeah, please drop them down in the chat. I can actually see the chat, as well. So, if you want to drop them, there, in the chat, just drop them there, and we'll happy to weigh in. It's hard, sometimes. Just give people a minute to get that on the chat. I understand.

Larry Doornbos:

Yeah. So, do take a second, though, and talk, a little bit, about that ecclesiology point, because I think that... My take is that ecclesiology has become pretty thin. And maybe that's part of our discipleship issue, as well. But, talk a little bit about ecclesiology, and how you view that, and how that can bring a more robust way of responding to the [CRO 00:38:53] moment.

Ed Stetzer:

Yeah, I think we made a mistake. And, again, when I say this, I want you to carefully listen to my words, and not pack them with all the thoughts you have about everybody else. Just listen to what... I think the mistake is, we convinced people that going online was not a big loss. And, now, I didn't say that we shouldn't have gone online. I wrote and article in the RNS, before the national shutdown, encouraging churches in high-spread areas to pause meeting for the sake of the vulnerable.

Ed Stetzer:

So, again, don't... Just listen to what I'm answering. But, what we did is, and what I did, what all of us did, is we got up and said, "Listen, the church is not closing. We're just moving online. We're going to do more. It's going to be great. Praise God." And I think people believed us. And, now, they still believe us, and a lot of them are not re-engaging in proximate, physical activity.

Ed Stetzer:

You say, "Well, Ed, what about people who can't?" There's a whole lot of people who can, that are choosing not to. I'm not talking about those who can't. I'm not talking about someone who's going through chemo. I'm not talking about someone who's got a child who's immuno-suppressed. But what I'm saying is, churches are back, depending on where you are... Chicagoland, we're at 60%. I was just in Canada, yesterday. They're at 30%, 40%. Again, you go to Texas, Arizona, it could be 80%. But there's a whole lot of people that are gone, and they're still going to shows. And they're still doing whatever else... They're going to movies. They're doing whatever else they're doing.

Ed Stetzer:

So, my point is, I think we need to emphasize and elevate our ecclesiology and tell people why electrons and avatars are not enough. We need feet and faces, in proximate community, participating, partaking in the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist, together, and more. So I think, because we're pastors, we're like, "Hey, it's going to be okay. Come with us online." Well, here's a couple things. First, I don't want to hurt your feelings, but there are way better online preachers than you and me. There just are.

Ed Stetzer:

So, if we're going to tell them, "It's no big deal. You don't need proximate community. You need a pastor who's going to care for you, or nurture you, or be with you, or a community that's going to walk alongside you. I'm going to see a lot of people listening to them, not to me and to you. So I think, ultimately, I would teach. And, again, we think of it it the Reform tradition, RCA/CRC. Here, you know, the right administration of the Word. The right proclamation of the Word, the right administration of the sacraments, those things require a proximate community. So I'm unapologetic in saying it's time to come back, if people haven't, who can, keeping in mind that there are... We recognize persons with disabilities. There are exceptions. But I think we need to call people back. And I think we need to do so with an ecclesiological description of why the church gathers.

Larry Doornbos:

So, Kim is asking, "How have you seen churches engaging with other local churches to creating impact in a community?"

Ed Stetzer:

I think that's one of the things that happened early on, Kim. And I hope we can continue. So like our church, our church is one of those multi-site churches. And, where I go to church, is called High Point [Wheaton 00:42:12]. And we're right next door to a big apartment building. DuPage county, I think, is the highest per capita refugee resettlement in the country. So we got a of ministry. So when everything shut down, the systems of distribution were disrupted. So our church turned into a distribution center. Our little coffee shop... A lot of these churches like mine have a little coffee shop and you go in. We turned that into a food bank and a distribution center. But we partnered with all kinds of churches, all kinds of different churches. I mentioned Saddleback earlier and I mentioned Calvary Chapel [Costa 00:42:46] Mesa, earlier.

Ed Stetzer:

So, last time I was out speaking at Saddleback, I did a radio program at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and they've partnered together with Orange County. It's amazing how much more friendly, sometimes, hostile governments can be in the midst of a crisis, to people who are going to serve alongside them. And so they're actually... They have [inaudible 00:43:07] food distribution and stuff for kids. And they did some stuff with personal protection things, you know, masks, and things of that sort.

Ed Stetzer:

So, churches are collaborating in a way that we haven't seen in a long time, in a very positive way. And I think that's good. And I would say, too, that collaboration in service... I talked today about the gospel opportunity. That includes gospel proclamation. Someone dropped in the chat that he gets this campaign. Thank you for that. So I think also gospel demonstration. So here's an opportunity for us, gospel proclamation, gospel demonstration.

Ed Stetzer:

At the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote an article in USA Today, perhaps overly hopeful. And I said, "Christians are going to stand up, stand out, and stand in the gap, in this time. We're going to be caring for the hurting. We're going to be showing and sharing the love of Jesus." And many did. The big ones that make the news, that made a spectacle, that's not necessarily us. But your church probably is better known in your community, and probably known for partnering with others in a community in a way that it wasn't before.

Ed Stetzer:

And, in that article in USA Today, I quoted [Eusebius 00:44:14], the church historian. And I said, "Because of the Christian's work..." I think it was fourth century. It said, Eusebius, "The Christians, quote, deeds... The, quote, 'deeds of the Christians' were on everyone's lips. And they glorified the God of the Christians." And I think we've seen churches... probably yours... I know mine, do that very thing, and, in some ways, collaborated, Kim. Good question. Some ways collaborating with others in the community. Good. Somebody else, question or a comment.

Larry Doornbos:

So, "Ed, I'm going to be working with the church in a couple of weeks. And they are experiencing a lot of what you're saying. They're seeing a lot of people online. They're seeing less commitment to the local congregation than they had before. How did pastors and church leaders try to re-engage that back third of the church?"

Ed Stetzer:

Yeah, and it's a good question. And I actually... I'm going to drop in the chat, a sermon. I just gathered some local church pastors here in Chicago. And Pastor James Meeks sent a sermon where he talked about this. And he talked about bringing the sacrifice of praise. This African American church... It's a fascinating church, actually. It's the largest church, built as a church, in the country. It's African American church. And so I'm seeing if I can find that here it is.

Ed Stetzer:

So he basically said, "I'm going to teach and preach." Oh, Tyler, I just realized I don't have access into the chat. So I'm going to text it to you to drop in the chat, because I'm in my studio. So Tyler's the one who's making the magic happen. But, I'll just drop that in there. You know, it's not going to be everyone's tradition. But I think, ultimately, what we have... We had this discussion with this group of pastors.

Ed Stetzer:

So we're all sitting around circle and saying, "Here's what we are doing. So one pastor said, "We are treating the people who've sort of disconnected and disengaged... We're treating them as if they're checking out the church for the first time. So we're actually..." Maybe you do this, when you have guests, and maybe once a quarter, or once a year, you have a reception for new people. He says, "So we're having a reception and asking people who've been active only online to come to the reception. So we want to, sort of, turn people towards that. So, we're re-engaging them. We're not shaming them. We're not blaming them. We're re-engaging them." So I think that's a good way to do it. Also, too... I texted it to you, Tyler.

Ed Stetzer:

So, we're re-engaging. "We're also," he said... Well, in this case, it's actually a different pastor that said, "How we're re=engaging them." So I would do that. I would say, "What strategies we do." One pastor said, "This spring and this fall, we've committed to call every person, maybe get the front third, or the staff to call every person in the church, try to re-engage them for Easter. I'll see if they engage, at that time. Give them the summer with some contacts from the church, and then try to re-engage with a big opportunity in the fall."

Ed Stetzer:

I'm the national spokesperson for the National Back-to-Church Sunday. I think that would be a good time for your do that, as well. We have thousands of churches, with all kind of resources, to help with that. So, giving people handle... That's September 18, 2022. So giving people handles to say, "Come back. We're going to help you do this together. We're going to walk through this together. We can make this work."

Ed Stetzer:

So those are some of the things... And what I would say is, you need to ask the question, what, in your church, can you do, right now, to make this work? Tyler, I'm going to email to you, because I'm seeing that it's not getting over to your text. So I'm just going to email it to you. So we'll drop that sermon in there. But again, I would ask the question.

Ed Stetzer:

I think... And, again, people use this term right now. I think church is essential. I think we need to communicate that. I think that... And you might say, "Well, Ed, why, then, did you think churches should shut down?" It was a temporarily deficient ecclesiology in the emergency, for the the sake of the mission. I think it was the right choice. I mean, I don't think everybody... People made different choices. I think it was the right choice to say some places needed to pause, and did.

Ed Stetzer:

But I think, now, we've got to help people see that church is not a consumer activity where you watch it on a screen. Oh, and here's one more thing. A lot of times what people have found is that, right now where people used to watch synchronously with you on Sunday... Let's just pick Sunday 10:00 a.m. Now, they're watching your Facebook live broadcast of that, on Thursday. They're watching asynchronously. You're going to have to convince people that the burden of coming to church is worth, because church itself is essential. So I think that's really important.

Larry Doornbos:

So here's another one. "Could this be a tipping point? Will the assembled church simply be smaller in number, moving forward? Is this a time to recalibrate and begin working with what is more than we hope to have..." Let me try that. "... and begin to work with what is more than what we hope to be? Do you seem to be more comfortable working with the committed than with the crowd?"

Ed Stetzer:

Yeah, maybe. I mean, I don't know, Keith. My experience level, going through global pandemics with a global shutdown, is limited. I'm guessing all of us are sure to relate to that. So, best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. 18 months, most churches, after the Spanish Flu, were back to where they were before. They didn't have the other stuff going on, where people were sorting to the left and to the right.

Ed Stetzer:

So, let me put it this way, Keith. I believe they're not coming back. So I don't believe if you do nothing. If you just say, "We're going to keep business as normal, business as usual," I think they... Maybe we'll see some in the next few months. Let's see what COVID does. But, here's the thing. I was a church planter before I became whatever I am now.

Ed Stetzer:

I've planted six churches, depending how you count six churches, depending on how you count. And I think four of them, I was involved in the large launch. And one of the four had a rainy day. It rained. And, when you get rain on your launch day, it's a disaster because you were hoping for 200 people and you get 40 people, because loosely-connected people, or unchurched people who were trying to reach in a new church, or de-churched people, they're one easy excuse away from not showing up for something.

Ed Stetzer:

So, now it's raining. "I don't want to go out." Now you do that. You measure your church attendance, you probably rock when it's raining. It's been raining in the minds of people who don't go to your church, or [inaudible 00:50:45] go to church. It's been raining for two years. Now that has got them in a mindset. So I would say, Keith, I'm not sure... because that's what I'm supposed to say. Right? So nobody knows the future. I'm not a prophet, not the son of a prophet. I work at a non-profit organization. That's what I'm supposed to say.

Ed Stetzer:

But, I think that probably we're going to reset, finally, at a lower level in less churches. I think some churches are not, because they're going to take this as an opportunity to join Jesus on mission and really seize the moment.

Larry Doornbos:

So, Kim is asking, "Do you think there's a point where streaming our Sunday services will hinder, rather than help, our impact?"

Ed Stetzer:

Yes, absolutely. Now I don't know what... So here's the conversation I'm having with a lot of pastors. We made it really awesome. I don't [inaudible 00:51:39] give the sizes of churches on this podcast. But, when I preach at churches, some of the largest churches in the country, now, they'll actually to me, "We need you to record Thursday, for our home audience." So we used to call it Highpoint at Home, at my church. So I'd record Thursday. So, "Listen, those of your at home..." et cetera, et cetera.

Ed Stetzer:

We made it really easy to basically be at-home engager. We've moved away from that. And churches are moving away from that in a lot of places. They basically are saying, "We want to make it that you get to look over the shoulder of the in-person lived experience, rather than making it so great for you not to stay at home." So I do think, Kim, yes. And I'm not of the view we need to turn off the screen.

Ed Stetzer:

You know Tish [Warren 00:52:22] wrote an article in the New York Times, saying that. And they just went crazy. People were yelling at here, saying she's anti-disability. And I would just say that... I mean, she's an Anglican priest. If an Anglican priest, who believes in embodied Eucharist experience together... I'm really not shocked that she would say, "Let's not stream things online." She would actually say, "Take the Eucharist to the home-bound."

Ed Stetzer:

But I think there's something, too, that we have made it too easy to stay home. So I'm a dissenter in some of that. I don't want to plant internet-only churches. I don't even want to make online campuses a goal. I want to make them a tool, where people can engage. But I want to get them in proximate, physical community, partaking in the ordinances, living in community, and more. And I think we're at that place. A, again, people will be watching this video four months from now. And it's going to be a whole different story. This is the world in which we live in. You say something. Then, there's a big new wave and a new... I don't know.

Ed Stetzer:

But I am saying that, as case numbers go down, if we move... You know when the Spanish Flu went away? Everyone says 1920. It didn't go away in 1920. The Spanish Flu stayed until 1957... is when the Spanish Flu went away. And it got bumped away by another HN virus. So, 1957. So we're going to have to figure how to live with it. And part of living with this is living with this in community, in proximate community. I really think that's important.

Larry Doornbos:

Well, Ed, thanks, so much, for spending the time with us. We really appreciate it. And we're excited to hear, again, how God is moving, even in the midst of all the craziness we've got going on around us. So, blessings to you and everyone. Thanks for spending some time with us on this day. We'll talk to you later.

Ed Stetzer:

Good to see you, brother. God bless. Thanks.

Larry Doornbos:

Yeah. Good to see you.