There is a ‘new normal’ and none of us have any idea what it is going to be like. Welcome to the world of every missionary and church planter in the first 18 months. Everything is changing really quickly and every thing feels new.
For many, this COVI-19 pandemic has come as a shock to your way of being and doing. It feels like a hurricane came through, uprooted and knocked every tree over. This may be God’s way of uprooting His church in order to replant it; to take her back to her roots. It is no secret that the church in the US has been in decline for some time; for various reasons (we will not address them here). What we will address in this blog is the how we can take this opportunity of this ‘shock to the system’ in order to hit reset on our church and be replanted for the coming season of ‘new normal.’
Why Trees Topple (and churches for that matter)
Strong winds from thunderstorms, tornadoes and other severe weather often uproot and topple trees. After major storms, the sounds of chainsaws are heard throughout the neighborhood as emergency workers and homeowners cut up downed trees. Wind-thrown trees are believed to be the result of poorly distributed roots from soil or climactic factors that restricted root growth on one side or another, or inadequately developed root systems because of generally poor growing conditions.
A strong wind has just come through and has knocked some churches down, for what seems to be at least 8 weeks. It is likely that some churches will not be able to survive that time because their strategies, operational systems, and financial development was not as deep as thought. Other churches are staring at the obvious now and trying to figure out what needs to change in order to readjust.
Can an Uprooted Tree Be Replanted? (Can’t we just continue business as usual?)
Some may think an uprooted tree can simply be pulled back upright, but that's not the case. The prospects for saving an uprooted tree typically depend on its age and size.
If winds have uprooted a large old tree, the tree generally can't be saved and removal is your only option. Righting a large toppled tree would require a crane or other heavy equipment to lift the tree. Even if you successfully right the tree, it would still present a toppling hazard because of the damage done to the anchoring root system that holds the tree upright. Big trees rarely survive after being righted because of the loss of roots that nourish the tree.
If there is something that COVID-19 has taught us is that if we refuse to change and adapt, it will only be a matter of time. All churches become established through a combination of charismatic leadership, facilities, leadership, and time. All of that was uprooted and exposed in the last few days. Without a clear end in sight on when we can gather again on Sundays, this may be the chance for the church to get back to her roots.
- What is the mission of the church?
- Did all of our prior programming actually accomplish the mission?
- What new approaches must be considered and implemented?
- How were we allocating monies toward the mission?
- What needs to be reconsidered?
- What needs to continue?
- What needs to start?
- What needs to stop?
If you answered nothing needs to start or stop, watch our for the whole, there’s a root that’s exposed and you are about to fall into it. There is a strategy gap, operational systems gap, or financial development gap that you are about to fall into.
Can we really save Uprooted Trees (and churches)?
Trees may be righted and saved if most of the roots remain unexposed in the soil. First, cover the exposed roots right away to keep them from drying out. Then dig out the soil beneath the exposed root mass and cut off the protruding shattered roots to allow the tree to be returned to the vertical position. Lift the tree up and fill in the area around the damaged roots with soil, and water thoroughly to eliminate air pockets and settle the soil. Prune off cracked or broken branches. Support the tree by driving three stakes or anchors into firm ground around the tree and use guy wires to tie the trunk to the anchors. Spread mulch around the trunk to preserve soil moisture and check the tree for stability each year.
Well, the roots of the church are exposed today and everyone is aware. We can’t just pretend and throw some dirt on it. There’s no telling how long this season will last and things may dry up faster than we think. In order to lift the church up again, some roots may need to be cut off, broken branches may need to be pruned and the 3 anchors (strategy/operational systems/financial development) need to be reevaluated and then deeply dug into firm ground.
Which branch needs to be evaluated? Which root needs to be checked? Which anchor needs to be monitored, tweaked, or changed altogether in order to be ready for the ‘new normal’? Let me ask it this way:
- In terms of your strategy, what needs to change today (staff/goals/mission/impact) in order to be effective today and ready for tomorrow?
- Which part of your operational systems was just compromised? Which
systems are currently broken or missing?
- Was your financial development strategy ready and in place? Are you in a position to sustain AND meet the needs of those who are hurting and vulnerable? Will you be able to make it financially through another pandemic or national crisis?
Most fallen trees (churches) will stay alive after the fall, for a little while. But you know it’s on the ground, broken, exposed, and dying. It is not supposed to stay that way. The good news is, everyone has been uprooted at the same time, which means we have the opportunity to be replanted and positioned for effectiveness and impact this next ministry season.
Your church, small and large, is uniquely positioned to impact your community today and the coming weeks/months. If you have never thought through these concepts or want to process them together, I would be happy to jump on a zoom call and chat through the unique dynamics of your church and the opportunity ahead.