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Relaunching Decentralized Churches: A Long-Term Analysis

What does it look like for us to launch decentralized churches once we are past the COVID-crisis?
The pandemic has revealed that there is a significant over-reliance on the Sunday gathering in the ways we conceptualize the church. By placing too much emphasis here, we underestimate many of the other aspects of the life of the church that foster kingdom advance and disciple-making.
With every crisis, there is a threat and there’s an opportunity. Both are present now. The threat is that we are seeing flaws in our system and understanding that we are more fragile than we often think. The centralized understanding of the church that places too much weight on the gathering is the only methodology many know and, as a result, leaders are paralyzed to know what to do moving forward and many churches will likely collapse.
The opportunity lies in the church’s sent-ness. We’ve been scattered and, like the church in the book of Acts, suffering disperses the flame of the gospel. Though the Sunday gathering may be closed, the mission continues to move forward in different domains of society. This work more closely resembles that of the post-apostolic church gathering in the margins of society.
The form of the church will change post-COVID. Rather than lamenting these changes, we must first try to reimagine the legitimate expressions of the church we see in this new reality. Many of us will struggle to do so since so much of what we know as “church” will have changed. Can we acknowledge that these micro-expressions of the church are actually church? Then, can we organize around these new forms? I’ve discussed many of the nuances of such a change in The Forgotten Ways.
Then leaders will need to shift from hyper-focus on the Sunday gathering to the Monday through Saturday scattering of the people of God. We will need to strengthen this scattered church and find disciple-making tools that actually foster the maturation and mission of the people as they scatter. Take a good look at the systems and formulate tools that help people deliberately become like Jesus in the scattered space.
Finally, leaders must attempt to build scalability and place pressure on multiplication. If the systems are too complex for the average follower of Jesus then they are not scalable. We need churches and leaders who provide the types of disciple-making all of God’s people can implement and multiply in the lives of others. This work will necessitate that we harness the unique APEST-gifting of the church for their scattered mission. God has always given these gifts to his church. The long-term crisis of COVID-19 provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to see them flourish.
Check out this video as Alan Hirsch shares more on this long-term opportunity.