Reimagining Church in a Post-Pandemic Politically Divided World

"The pandemic of 2020 has given the church a pause to reimagine new wineskins."


The pandemic of 2020 has awakened the world to a new reality. Life and church practice will never return to the way things used to be. The wave of global nationalism, rise in cultish conspiracy theories and emboldened white supremacist movements will call followers out of traditional weekend worship practices to become workers for kingdom justice.

Numbers in worship will no longer be the litmus test for success. The consumer-centered spectator model that grew out of the church growth movement is a brittle wineskin. Church practice must move from presentation to dialog and from spectator to participant to reach young disenchanted generations.

Many in the church have syncretized faith with highly secular partisan political platforms. The way of the cross has been wrapped in the ideals of the American flag. These Christians have given cult-like allegiance to political leaders who betray the moral and justice demands of Jesus.

Justice is a predominant theme in both the Old and New Testaments. “Is not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice…to set the oppressed free…to break every yoke…to share your food with the hungry…when you see the naked to clothe them…to not turn away from your own humanity” (Isaiah 58:6-7). “For I the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrong doing” (Isaiah 61:8).

Phyllis Tickle, in her excellent book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, describes how approximately every 500 years the church experiences a time of re-formation. These reformations have resulted in new form expressions of Christianity.

“First a new more vital form of Christianity does indeed emerge. Second, the organized expression of Christianity, which up to then had been the dominant one, is reconstituted into a more pure and less ossified expression of its former self. The third result is of equal, if not greater significance, though. That is, every time the incrustations of an overly established Christianity have been broken open, the faith has spread – and been spread – dramatically into new geographic and demographic areas, thereby increasing exponentially the range and depth of Christianity’s reach as a result of its time of unease and distress” (The Great Emergence, pg. 17, Baker Books).

The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century is a great example of a powerful new expression of Christianity. The movements shift from a priesthood that was separate and distinct from the laity to be re-formed into the priesthood of all believers, with literacy programs that would make the scriptures available for all. Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible from the traditional Latin to German, the common language of the people, radicalized the practice of the faith.

Re-formations force the established institution to reevaluate its own values and practices. The Protestant Reformation moved the Catholic Church into a process that would create fresh new expressions of practice through the Counter-Reformation.

Two millenniums ago, in a re-forming emerging moment, Jesus spoke these words to his Jewish followers: “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out, and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matt. 9:16-17).

The pandemic of 2020 has given the church a pause to reimagine new wineskins.

Mike Slaughter, pastor emeritus and global church ambassador for Ginghamsburg Church, served for nearly four decades as the lead pastor and chief dreamer of Ginghamsburg and the spiritual entrepreneur of ministry marketplace innovations. Mike is also the founder and chief strategist of Passionate Churches, LLC, which specializes in developing pastors, church staff and church lay leaders through coaching, training, consulting and facilitation services. Mike’s call to “afflict the comfortable” challenges Christians to wrestle with God and their God-destinies. Mike’s latest book Revolutionary Kingdom: following the Rebel Jesus is available on Amazon and Cokesbury

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