How the Coronavirus Moves God's Church into the Next Stage
March 15, 2020, 8:17 AM

How the Coronavirus Moves God’s Church into the Next Stage:

“House to House” (Acts 20:20 for 2020 that produces 20/20)

Ben Scott, PhD

Director of Missions

South Central Baptist Association

Sunday, March 15, 2020


If we genuinely “know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28 NASB), pandemic illness (or persecution or apathy) is part of God’s plan. For more than one year now, I’ve been preaching that real estate and stained glass windows are no longer the growth model for the church, but I did not (and still do not) know what the next phase will be. However, I believe it’s some recontextualization of a return to Acts 2:46, Luke’s first of three mentions in which believers gathered “house to house”.


Churches abandoned meeting spaces at the Governor’s request from March 15-28, 2020, but strategic pastors did not cancel services. They merely switched to distance learning modalities like recording the sermon for publication on YouTube or offering prayer time through Zoom videoconferencing or Facebook Live. At South Central Baptist Association (SCBA) where I’ve been the Director of Missions since August 2013, pastors have gathered for prayer through the Zoom videoconference app every Tuesday morning for years. But only a quarter of our pastors participate, and the remainder are now behind the curve in regard to God’s next move.


The organizational church is dead. And if you aren’t following my distinction, ask yourself the question, “How many stained glass windows were in the first century churches?” My generation (Gen X or Busters) abandoned it (the organized church) 20 years ago, and the next two generations (Gen Y or Millennials and Gen Z) now constitute the largest number of completely uninvolved American citizens ever (6% and 13% respectively). Barna and the Pew Research Foundation call them “nones”: people under 20 years old who believe there is no God (atheists), do not know (agnostics), or do not consider it important enough to consider (apathists).


Chuck Lawless, a prolific Southern Baptist Convention writer and seminary professor, confirmed my message from our October 2019 SCBA annual meeting that churches believe they’re embracing the Great Commission, but through redefinition and cafeteria mentality (pick what you want to believe), our churches have not engaged. There is very little “life-on-life” discipleship since the World War II generation died out, and so Elders (my grandparents’ generation) and Boomers (my parents’ generation) sold a formula Christianity that resulted in reform (behavior modification) but not regeneration (holistic belief involving head, heart, and hands). So as the Apostle wrote almost 2,000 years ago, we have “a form of godliness” (2 Tim 3:5) but nothing more.


The next phase of the Church—and yes, there will be one as long as Matthew 16:18 remains in our Bibles and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 does not happen—will involve a jolting return to the basics of the faith. Only those truly committed will have the courage to engage the Great Commission when, like a pandemic, the government advises but does not mandate we abandon gathering. Public opinion will encourage it for “liability reasons” or “good judgment” or “out of an abundance of caution” or “the public good”. And if you attend, you’ll be labeled a rebel or non-team player, because somebody might slip on the ice, transmit an illness, or otherwise offend. Persecution will follow quickly “for the public good”. And here is Luke’s second use of “house to house” in the context of persecution (Acts 5:42).


Smart pastors and church leaders will engage both the Great Commission and new modalities for evangelism and discipleship that focus on “anytime, anyplace” transmission and life-on-life strategies. The “y’all come” is still right-headed from the pulpit on Sunday mornings (1 Cor 1:21), but unless it’s cultivated individually from Monday to Saturday by “each one reach one,” the buildings will become community centers, storage facilities, and renovated apartment complexes…if they’re not bulldozed down entirely. It’s the third and final use of “house to house” in Acts (20:20). Notice that it’s 2020 - the year, Acts 20:20 is still the methodology (group and individual proclamation), and 20/20 is our designation for clarity. These are not merely coincidental; they are divinely providential!


There is nothing to fear! God is at work. We need to get on His page, not scratch and claw to preserve our 19thand 20th century organizational structure that focus on real estate and stained glass. “House-to-house” and “life-on-life” through distance learning modalities is where the growth will be. Engage it!

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