From the standpoint of small church pastors, the path ahead in ministry is not "new or even innovative," but rather "slow, simple, honest, and relational" in nature.
As part of his ministry, Karl Vaters, pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California, has spoken with a large number of small-church leaders who are navigating their way through the worldwide crisis that has preceded the lockdowns.
Vaters wrote in an article for Outreach Magazine that the nearest equivalent to the Hebrew spies from Numbers 13 is the local pastor of a thriving local church. According to the Bible, Numbers 13 described the spies as Israelite men who went across the Promised Land in order to provide Moses with an early report on the conditions within.
The local pastor, on the other hand, is more informed about the reality on the ground, including how people are coping and what they are most likely to end up doing in the long run.
Thus, Vaters came to the conclusion that these small-church pastors had amassed wisdom that needed to be heard, and that they represented the greatest untapped pool of insight and knowledge in the Christian community.
The first thing that Vaters pointed out was the increase in the pace of societal change, which has become considerably more intense since the onset of the COVID-19 global health and financial crisis. He said that the virus simply accentuated every pre-existing problems, such as divorce, eviction, bankruptcies, unemployment, pastoral resignations, division, church closures, and so forth.
Vaters predicts the first phase of the post-COVID-19 impact is expected to be so chaotic that it will trigger the second wave. He added that it may take at least five more years for people to adapt and evaluate their next move.
Second, there is a "shift" that is "already happening" as per a small-town pastor who Vaters has spoken with. That is a reference to people moving from urban areas to rural areas. With the rise of remote work, which has been accelerated by the pandemic, many employees are discovering that they no longer need to live in big cities, with their associated expenses and fast-paced lifestyles.
In the opinion of Mel McGowan, an architect and a contributing editor for Outreach Magazine, even huge and expanding churches are no longer interested in larger structures. Consequently, there will be a significant increase in smaller and medium venues.
"Several advantages to this approach include cost, location, portability, relational access and more," Vaters noted.
On social media dependency during the lockdown period, Vaters, the author of "The Church Recovery Guide," assessed that two groups would emerge at the end of the line: those with a strong yearning for physical connections and others who would remain deeply stuck in their virtual world.
Despite these unprecedented changes and challenging times ahead, Vaters said that it's not a time to panic. Small-church pastors like him maintain that these things have no bearing on the church's purpose, destiny, or hope.
About the future of pastoral care, bi-vocational or entrepreneurial pastors will increase in number. This is similar to what Mario Murillo has often mentioned in his previous blogs about Christian ministry not being confined to the pulpit but rather spreading to other sectors of society, ranging from education to politics.
Furthermore, Vaters quoted Andy Stanley, the son of famous preacher Charles Stanley, who is now pastoring in Georgia, as saying that "in times of disruption, there is a shepherding role all of us must assume."