2020 will go down as the year of the great disruption. Just when you and I thought this was going to be an epic beginning of a new decade, it became the year that regular church changed forever. This has challenged every leader to either adapt or to die out. It’s also created a level playing field, as the rules for church have changed. No longer do the greatest buildings and the best equipment matter. Church has been stripped back to the bare bones, like a house undergoing a renovation. For those who have yearned for more and longed for an awakening, this season has come as an unforeseen rush of fresh air. For those caught off guard, it has been more than challenging.
We are a church with 10 campuses in varied locations, including schools, universities, and large buildings, which range from 1 to 50 years old, and house congregations of 100s to 1000s. We made a decision to embrace the pain, and to see the disruption as an opportunity to focus on the three things that have always mattered most: Community, Accountability, and Sustainability.
The first question was, “How do we do weekend services?” The seemingly obvious choice was to go online and broadcast services using YouTube and Facebook Live. Instead, we made the difficult choice to use Zoom because, as a video conferencing platform, it allowed us to not only provide high quality prerecorded presentations, but also helped us to become a church of small groups. With Zoom church, the content offered doesn’t rely on the ability or skill of the small group leader. Instead, the leader acts as a host and pastor, with preaching, worship, and offering being central. It’s the best of both worlds! The combination of community and mutual accountability, has created sustainability.
Last Sunday, for example, some of our campuses were at 150% of their attendance before the pandemic. Zoom church has created deeper connections, increased commitment, and delivered exceptional quality to our people. My wife and I run two services on Sunday ourselves, with about 50 attendees. We have gotten to go deeper, and build more intimate bonds, with this group of people. Not only that, but new people have joined, made decisions to become followers of Christ, and are growing with us. The discipleship process has been strengthened. The pastoral process has become more effective with the use of Planning Center and work flows that keep our hosts and staff accountable for connecting regularly with their people.
Overall, our leadership development has also gone to a whole new level. Sharing the ministry with others has resulted in stronger leaders, a powerful network of small groups, and an outstanding level of intimacy. On top of that, our giving has remained healthy. But the real kicker is that Zoom Church has provided an opportunity for church planting that was not considered possible before 2020. As a church with a vision to plant 200 campuses in every continent of the world, Zoom has opened our eyes to the possibilities of going to the whole world with the mandate of Jesus—not just to provide content, but to “make disciples of all nations.” We already have services running in Columbia, South America, and Indonesia, with services soon to start in other countries in Asia, South America, and Africa. Part of the beauty of Zoom is the ability to observe which countries, areas, and states respond the best to your church, thereby giving insight into the areas with the biggest growth potential. Instead of the expensive exercise of sending assets to the ground and hoping for the best, we can grow a campus to 100 people on Zoom, and then decide which location God is directing us to reach in person. Being data driven has helped us create high impact with little cost until it’s clear where we are supposed to plant a church.
The pandemic has opened our eyes to what Jesus told us: the fields are white with harvest, but they aren’t just ready in our local community—they’re ripe in communities all over the world. There are people around the globe who need your kind of ministry and your kind of church. You have the ability to count the people and devices in each of your services, and make personal contact with every church member every Sunday—something that was never possible before. We will never go back to simply doing in-person services. The pandemic has been a gift—an opportunity for God to open our eyes to a church without walls.
Ashley and Jane Evans are senior pastors of Influencers Churches Global, an organization which ministers to thousands of people every weekend. Known for his innovative, daring, and creative leadership, Ashley inspires the best in others and raises high-quality leaders. His passion to provide solutions saw him start a political party in 2001, which has had 6 senators elected to Parliament. Ashley is a renowned speaker, consultant, executive leader, and served as the national director of Australian Christian Churches for 12 years, overseeing 1000 churches. He is also a former chairman of Australian Christian Care, a peak welfare body. Ashley and Jane have been married for 33 years and are the proud parents of 3 amazing sons: Mark, Nathan, and Benjamin, and two wonderful daughters-in-law, Lauren and Chloe. They are also grandparents to Judah, Asher, and Jed.
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