The “Reimagine” project seeks to apply New Testament principles to present-day modes of church practice.
How will you reimagine your preaching ministry to meet the realities of our current situation? What innovative practices can you utilize while still upholding the core teachings found in Scripture? Below you will find some information, tools and resources to help you begin to reimagine.
The church has a timeless message that cannot be compromised, and God uses proclamation of that gospel message to impact lostness through disciple-making. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected how the message is delivered to the hearts of people who are at a loss and suffering in these uncertain times. Pastors face new challenges as many of them are preaching to a computer screen or camera rather than to people. Many pastors wonder who is actually listening to their sermons.
The absence of a visible audience adds to the frustration since they cannot gauge engagement by seeing nodding heads or smiling faces of the congregants. Even when there are a handful of people in the building, engagement is still lacking due to faces being covered with masks. Lack of affirmation from the audience can become a source of discouragement to pastors. Due to COVID-19, terms like online, prerecording and livestreaming are now part of church lexicon. Transmission of the message has received more attention than whether the message is transformational.
The pastor’s emotional health is a major challenge. Lack of interaction and affirmation from the audience may cause isolation and frustration. A question facing the preaching ministry is how to continue gospel proclamation without weekly affirmation from congregants. Pastors need a consistent reminder of their calling from God and camaraderie with other pastors to share openly about experiences and struggles.
Another challenge is a scattered audience. Pastors now have two different audiences in their churches — those who are in the building and those who are virtual. If they are all in Christ, they are the church whether they put on masks or wear pajamas. The challenge, however, is how to preach the message and minister to both audiences. How can pastors effectively communicate the timeless message in a timely manner? With ever-increasing polarization in the nation and around the globe, how can he preach the message of hope and harmony without compromising the gospel?
Tips & Tools
Pastors should ask themselves a simple question: Why am I preaching? The answer will reveal whether the pastor is actually called by God for a time such as this. A pastor called by God will preach whether he sees only one-third of the pre-COVID congregation in front of him, whether he sees faces on Facebook or Zoom, and even if the cameras are turned off.
The “why” question should be asked consistently to check the pastor’s true motivation for preaching. His motivation should be monitored by the biblical calling from God and renewed so that he is preaching not for affirmation from the audience but for their transformation. Then the “why” question will lead to a “how” question. The pastor should not only continue his ministry in the pulpit, but he should also revamp his methods of communication to share the timeless gospel to his audience effectively, whether it’s live, online or offline.
The shift in the preaching ministry due to COVID-19 has provided unprecedented global missions opportunity to go beyond the church building and beyond the worship hour on Sundays. The online platform has provided opportunities to connect with people from all around the globe. With this new opportunity, three elements are needed in preaching: specificity, generality and practicality. Pastors must continue to preach to meet the specific needs of his local congregation because they are his primary audience. But he also has a general audience who watch online, so the message must be Christ-centered to meet the needs of those individuals. Finally, pastors must provide practical application in sermons so those listening will have the opportunity to immediately apply the message. This specific, general and practical sermon driven by the gospel will change the hearts of visible and virtual audiences.