By Dale Sellers
Congratulations! You’ve almost made it through the second year of pandemic-related issues, and you’re still here! Well, hopefully, at least some parts of you are still here. At times, I’ve felt like I was trying to gain footing in quicksand as I navigated through this season. However, I’ve now discovered it’s not quicksand that we’re in. You and I have been standing in a sifter.
It’s no secret that our churches needed some serious change before we ever heard of Covid-19 or a worldwide pandemic. We were aware of our problems, but most of us continued down the path of least resistance because those we were leading were opposed to change. It was easier not to rock the boat even if we knew the path we were on wasn’t leading anywhere. Therefore, we avoided hard conversations and ignored efforts to connect with today’s culture.
Enter the winter of 2020! In a moment, all of the changes we’d been avoiding caught up with us. At the time, it seemed like it came out of nowhere. But an honest evaluation of the situation probably reveals that the issues we were avoiding were there all along, they just caught up with us all at once (I recently wrote a blog post titled “Seven Years In Seven Weeks” that discusses this more in-depth if you’d like to check it out).
You and I have been standing in a sifter.
Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount that a wise man builds his house on the rock and a foolish man builds his house on the sand. Matthew 7:24-27 (NKJV) says this:
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
The possibility of the storms coming isn’t optional. The storms are coming! And unfortunately, this current pandemic-related storm doesn’t seem to want to subside. All of this traumatic stress can have a long-lasting effect on us if we’re not aware of what’s happening around us as well as what’s happening in us.
Sifting and Shaking
This is why I believe we’re in a sifter. The Lord Himself is shaking His Church to prepare us for the ministry impact He has in store for us. Remember in Hebrews 12:25-29 (NKJV), the writer recalls a “great shaking” that had previously taken place:
“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.”
There is obviously much more going on in this passage than the simple shaking that’s taking place. However, I think it’s crucial for us as leaders of His Church today to acknowledge that only the solid Kingdom principles such as “loving God” and “loving people” will continue to prevail after crisis and confusion have passed. The removable things, such as our man-made ways of doing ministry, are being sifted away so that only the irremovable things of His Kingdom will last.
Jesus is using the current series of events to sift the unhealthy things out so we can be healthy.
Because of this, we can no longer choose to ignore our ineffectiveness in reaching those who don’t know Jesus. People have started returning at pre-pandemic levels to almost every event other than a church service. Those from every age and segment of society are blatantly demonstrating their indifference towards “doing church as we’ve always done church.” Simultaneously, many church leaders are still hoping that things will just “go back to the way they were.” Something has to change.
Because of this, we can no longer choose to ignore our ineffectiveness in reaching those who don’t know Jesus.
If this is you, please understand that the Lord Himself is the initiator of this sifting in order to get us to shift how we do ministry. Although this statement is overused, it’s still true: The message never changes, but the methods have to change.
Knowing that we’re being sifted in order to shift to a more effective impact in our community and culture has me filled with hope and faith for 2022. My hope is built on seeing what’s been discovered after the sifting has taken place in many leaders’ lives. With this in mind, I want to share a few areas where I’m seeing this sifting turn into shifting. I also want to share how 95Network is ready to support you in these areas.
Hopeful Shifts For 2022
1 – Pastors Are Finally Reaching Out For Help.
I’ve only recently begun to understand the long-lasting effects of trauma on my life. It took a near-drowning experience this past summer to force me to confront that I wasn’t ok on the inside. Here are some resources that I beg you to tap into if you need help:
- The Unseen Emotional Impact Of The Pandemic On Pastors – This podcast with Karl Vaters was the most popular podcast of 2021.
- Dale’s Unexpected Sabbatical And Reflections – This is the podcast that I shared after returning from my sabbatical disaster.
- 95Network – Connections – This is a list of our Strategic Partners that can help you address specific ministry issues. You can find them by visiting our Connections page and checking out the Resource Directory.
We’re here for you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you feel like you’ve reached the end of your rope.
2 – Tools Are Being Made Available To Assist With Online Ministry.
At this point, we all know the need to create effective online ministry connections. These days, reaching those who don’t know Jesus in our community will be very difficult without online connections. This is much more than just having a website. Your ability to produce consistent digital content has never been more critical.
This is why we’ve welcomed Jesse Barnett to our team at 95Network as a Digital Discipleship Coach. His expertise will help you get “more mileage from your message.” Right now, take a moment to check out what Jesse offers through Digital Discipleship Coaching.
3 – Church Leaders Realize The Need For Coaching And Mentoring.
Pastors and ministry leaders are normally a very private group. We work very hard to gloss over any “cracks in our armor” that indicate we don’t know what we’re doing.
I’m certainly not being critical here. I did this for most of my life. In fact, this behavior eventually led to open-heart surgery and the writing of “Stalled: Hope & Help For Pastors Who Thought They’d Be There By Now.” Looking back, I wish I would have enlisted the help of a coach to walk with me through the ups and downs of ministry life.
This is why we’ve developed a thorough coaching process at 95Network. There’s a six-month introductory process available today. I’m so excited to introduce a brand new intensive year-long process designed to work through the major issues that ministry leaders face. It’s called EntrePastors. And we also have intensive volunteer/hospitality coaching available too. If you’re interested in receiving coaching, check out our options at 95Network – Coaching.
As odd as it sounds, I’m really thankful for these past two years of sifting.
As odd as it sounds, I’m really thankful for these past two years of sifting. Without it, I’m not sure that our small and midsize churches would have been willing to embrace the changes that needed to happen. Truthfully, I also get great encouragement from realizing that we’re all in this together. All of us are having to make the necessary shifts to respond to the sifting that has taken place.
It may not feel like it currently, but a bright new day is on the horizon. You and I are going to see the Glory of the Lord in the land of the living as we continue moving in His direction.
Be sure to stop by our 95Network.org/online store to find helpful resources designed to encourage and strengthen your ministry leadership.