A Church Now Conversation
with David Fitch
Church Now Conversation Notes with David Fitch
March 11, 2021
This past year has been a perfect storm of combined events that has led to a massive cultural upheaval. We need to understand how significant this is.
Going into 2020, we were witnessing the moral failure of some significant Christian leaders which led to (in some circles) a disillusionment with leadership in the church. Then we also saw an awakening to racial injustice in this country. People were asking “where is the church in this?” The alignment of “white evangelicals” with the Trump administration led to some being frustrated with the church. With Covid 19, everything we were used to calling “church” got shut down or put on broadcast platforms and participation seems to be waning. Everything pastors got used to thinking about their work has been put up for grabs. Everything has been disrupted. Can we admit that we are in a massive storm?
Should we assume that we are going to pick up from where we were last March? What are we going to do with the broadcasts? What will we do with our buildings? Is discipleship via Zoom a good thing or a bad thing? How are we going to lead?
David suggests that now is not the time to start planning to return to normal. Can we see this as a unique cultural moment to lead our communities through asking the big questions all over again: What is the church? What are we doing here? Why the church? Why is this so essential? How do we organize ourselves? Now could be the moment to lead our churches back to who we are and re-shape something for the engagement for the kingdom of God.
- What is the church? David suggests to focus on practices: being at the Lord’s table, preaching, being with the poor, reconciliation, being with children, prayer. Can we lead our people into these core practices that shape us into the presence of Christ?
- Why do we need to do this? Why do we need church? Presence is the way God works. He will redeem us through His presence. He requires people to make visible His presence. (Power, miracles, transformation of His presence) Can we call people back to a deep understanding of God’s presence by the spirit through Jesus Christ working among and all around us?
- How do we do this? We gather together and have neighbors come by and be present together/house fellowship. We go to different places as a guest among the hurting and broken.
Q & A:
Q: What does presence mean in an online digital age? Can we be present online? What are authentic human relationships in this time of disruption we’re in?
A: David is sensing some are surprised at how much good stuff we’ve gotten done via Zoom. Zoom has made a space for people to come to church-people that normally wouldn’t come to the building. In many churches, there is a deep longing to be together again as a gathered community. Physical space hasn’t been devalued during this time, but has become more valuable.
Q: What does authentic neighborhood relationship look like?
A: We are so disrupted at this time, it’s a good time to ask these questions right now. We might have lower numbers, but the density of people wanting to commit to a relationship with the Lord might have increased.
Q: If you’re a pastor, and your people are anxious, how do you tell your people to go be present in the community?
A: Best place to start is to encourage people to sit around a table of 10-12 people and invite the presence of God. It could take time to get comfortable together where people start sharing about their lives. Everyone has a different area they can connect with people. Find one place. Go slow.
Q: How important is it for the pastors to be the first to lead into these practices? Can it happen without the leader doing it themselves?
A: No, it has to start with the leader. Learn how to talk and listen to each other. Make space for God to work and for people to find out about it.
Q: Is there a time to move on to a new mission field?
A: Jesus moved on at different times. There are people who want things to be the same--let them be. We all have to make the decision if we are going to find a new mission field. God can use a change to renew your church.
Q: What do you imagine the institutional church will look like in 2050? Will we all be out of jobs? What will a pastor’s job look like, what about our confessions, etc.?
A: We need to go back to practices to reshape an authentic expression of the gospel. We need to be mission societies. David doesn’t believe organizational structures will go away; they will just change. Seminary education is more important now than before because of the cultural challenges we face that we don’t know how to think through. Pastors might need a second career to be able to make a living.
Q: Is it time to go to smaller group churches and is there a place for church buildings and that kind of church expression?
A: Sacred corporate worship is essential to the formation of the church in mission. We must have multiple places to shape people to live for God. We’ve got to make it a way of life, not only in a church service.
**These notes are a brief summary; please listen to the recording for full and more detailed information.