The way Jesus is using us now...
"Innovation, flexibility and faith are key for navigating a post-pandemic world", says Glyn Barrett.
As the second national lockdown loomed last year, Glyn Barrett was asked a question: what do you think Jesus is doing in the church right now?
"I said, 'I don’t think he’s changed. I think he’s still building his church, but the way we’re responding and the way he is using us is different,'" Glyn says.
It’s a foundational point for Glyn as he considers his plans for the next 12 months as leader of the !Audacious Church group in north-west England, and as national leader of the 500-church Assemblies of God network.
For both, he says, innovation, flexibility and faith are key.
"One aspect I’ve been focusing on with our leaders is innovation, and what it means to be innovative."
The pandemic jolted leaders UK-wide out of historic ways of doing church and catapulted them into the digital age, for example, and Glyn is hugely impressed with the response he has seen.
"The way our pastors have engaged with digital media has been really exciting. The social media generation is fast-paced so you can’t just do a 40-minute preach and post it online.
"Pastors have learned the art of being short, sharp and getting straight to the point. It’s been amazing to see leaders in their 70s for whom digital media is foreign doing a really great job, delivering the gospel in a fun, down-to-earth way.
"The innovation aspect has caused our leaders to be hungry to learn in order to present the old message in a new way."
When it comes to innovation, it’s what Jesus said in John 5:19: that he only does what he sees his father doing.
"That’s innovation – the ability of our leaders to go to God, see what he is doing and begin to do it themselves."
Hand-in-hand with this is the need for flexibility.
Church history reveals a conflict-ridden landscape caused by inflexibility of different denominations, but Glyn is relieved that times have changed.
"We’re living in a day where the church is far more resilient, flexible and adaptable than we would have thought possible.
"That’s what leadership is about. You don’t need to know everything about the future. You just have to be one step ahead of the people you’re leading and be confident in that."
Flexibility and innovation will be crucial as churches decide the way forward post-Covid. "It’s certainly true for !Audacious Church as we work to define the best digital/live mix.
"We can’t do away with Zoom meetings,” Glyn says, citing the strain of leadership meetings in central Manchester on parents living outside the city, or older people’s struggle to attend in-person gatherings.
"We’ve had some people say they feel more connected to the life of our church than ever before.
"The flipside, though, is that Zoom meetings don’t foster proper relationships, and it’s very difficult to create atmosphere through digital media."
"Churches need to avoid going fully digital or fully in-person, but find a good mix of both, and a way that works for them.
"At !Audacious Church, there’s a genuine sense of hunger to meet together so we’re doing in-person services in Manchester and people are slowly coming back. But there’s also a natural reluctance and fear.
"For now, we’re reviewing everything we do week by week."
This mix needs to be sensitive to communities shaken by the pandemic, he adds. "As pastors and leaders, we’ve got to become really good at understanding the psychology of this new generation post-pandemic because it’s going to be very different.
"Once the masks are off, the pandemic as we know it is over and vaccinations have been given across the country, it will take people a while to come back to church.
"It will take a season for people to embrace the idea of large gatherings.
"Your 10% early adopters will be in there straight away, then you’ll have the reluctant majority. It will take a while for them to have the confidence to come to a service, remove their masks and be in a place where others are singing.
"The overriding thing is that we have to be focused on faith, not fear, as we speak to people.
"Let’s speak the language of faith and make decisions out of it."
Christians have a history of doing this – setting up hospitals, caring for the dying and looking after the homeless while others shied away, he says. "There are plenty of examples of courageous faith during times of great trial.
"Faith has got to be the deciding factor, not what the media says. We need to ask how does faith respond in this season?"
Glyn was challenged to answer that question himself last year when he felt God speak about !Audacious Church.
"Coming back to the idea that Jesus said he would build his church, I really felt that the gates of hell wouldn’t stand against that. I felt the word I was carrying from God was that this is not a time of stepping back, of restriction, of fearful living and decision making."
With this in mind, Glyn and his team boldly decided to take up a vision offering in November and believe God for £400,000 – a seemingly crazy target when the church wasn’t able to meet.
"We declared in faith that 2021 will be our biggest year yet. Our goal was £400,000 but the church gave £540,000. We’re now planting three new campuses because we’re choosing to disrupt the disruption of Covid."
It’s a challenge and a message of faith he encourages all churches to embrace as they consider the way forward.
"We’re going to be people of faith and refuse to allow fear to get the best of us."
You can also watch Glyn's message from this year's Elim Leaders Summit by clicking the YouTube video below.
Am I waiting for a green light, when Jesus has already said ‘go’?
What are those things that are hindering change in my life and leadership?
3. Where do I sense God is telling me, to be bold, to be strong and to be courageous?
Into what opportunities do we need to be taking a step of faith?
Where is change needed and what are those things hindering it?
In the teams we lead, how do we encourage those around us to magnify the Lord, rather than allowing the voice of fear to dominate the conversation with negative words, what ifs and problems?
What is the step of faith I am going to take and when will I have it?
Who is Glyn Barrett?
Glyn and his wife Sophia lead !Audacious Church, with four campuses in Manchester and Chester which the couple pioneered in September 2007. Glyn also leads the 500-church Assemblies of God denomination and has written four books.
He and Sophia have two children, Georgia and Jaedon.
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