The Hybrid Church Model
If your movement is not moving, then it is not a movement; but could be a monument. There are cycles to movements and usually movements overtime become the opposite of what they started out to be. There are cyles in movements. The first generation, generates. The second generation, motivates. The third generation, speculates. The fourth generation, dissipates.
History is replete with conservatism giving way to liberalism and light giving way to dark. It is not that the darkness has become stronger, but the light has become weaker. This is one of the major reasons, if not the major reason why the Great Commission has not been completed. Instead of the Church remaining as the thermostat, over time, it becomes a thermometer. Instead of regulating temperature, it only reflects temperature. For example, when I reflect over the spiritual temperature of the United States, the Church by in large stopped regulating Spiritual temperature a long time ago. It seems that so many are more interested in winning elections than winning souls. The more souls who are won to Christ, the spiritual temperature would rise and society would be transformed. So, what is the answer? The only way out of decline is an upward vision to lift the Church.
When we launched the Global Church Network (www.GCNW.tv), in 2002, for almost a year, our team was building a technology platform with Real Networks in Seattle. We had private meetings with the then, CEO, Mr. Rob Glaser. Additionally, we also had private meetings with American Online’s Founder Mr. Steve Case and his team in Washington, DC. When I shared with Dr. Bill Bright, the Founder of Campus Crusade, the vision of online training with, he immediately said, “In the future, more students will be trained online than all of the current Universities and seminaries in the world.”
With the above in mind, when Dr. Bill Bright and I stood before 5,000 leaders at First Baptist Church, in Orlando, Florida, we launched the Global Church Divinity School (www.GCDS.tv). We stated, “In the years to come, online training will be the major way that leaders are taught for ministry and professional work.” I remember several leaders saying, “That will never work. We will never see the Internet in our lifetime in every place on earth.”
A few months later, Dr. Bright and I were hosting a number of business leaders in his home. One leader (who I have chosen to leave nameless), said, “The Internet will not be in the island nations in our lifetime.” My response was, “When NASA was launching its first rocket to the moon, they had to project where the moon would be by the time the rocket arrived. Without being able to project the future location of the moon, the rocket was a waste of money, time and talent. We are launching our online training rocket and know that in time that everyone will have access to the Internet.” When I get an email from my friends from Oceania or now Zoom with them, I still think of the early conversations with leaders who at that point did not see the tidal wave of technology coming their way.
The current pandemic has afforded the Church another opportunity to get out front and on the cutting edge of evangelism, discipleship and vision-casting. The temptation will be to “get back to normal” when the previous world before pandemic does not exist anymore. The Lord is not calling us to live in “the was” but in the “is.” He is not pushing us from the back but pulling us forward into the “now.” Old maps will not work in new land. How do we read the map now?
The Old World View
For more than 20 years, as it relates to training, the world has been moving from where to who, while the Church for the most part, has moved from go to come. Instead of going out and compelling the lost to come to the House of God, we have bought into the attraction model. One of the main reasons that Church attendance is down, is because the Saints for the most part, have stopped compelling them or bringing them to the local church. Nowhere in the New Testament are lost people commanded to “go to church.” However, the saved are commanded time and time again, to go, share and compel the lost to come so that “my house might be full.”
Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself.” He is the greatest magnetic force of all time. We have not been commissioned to make our local churches more attractive, but to lift Jesus higher. He is the attraction; He draws all peoples unto himself. Instead of being more seeker sensitive, I suggest we become more Savior sensitive. Of course, we need excellent lighting, great sound systems, friendly ushers in the local church. Yet, we live in a time, it is going to take a lot more than a state-of-the-art building to attract the lost to walk inside. I realize this might sound like saying more and more about less and less. Nevertheless, if the Church does not get this fundamental, biblical principle correct, then on the other side of this pandemic, the Church will be further behind the curve in the days ahead.
Between Two Worlds
As we move forward, it is imperative that we realize that the world is now our campus. When the previous generation went to college, they went to a “where” for their studies. The common question was, “Where did you go to college?” Yet, today, it is not where did you go to school, but who taught you when you went to school? In other words, the important question is not, “Where did you study, but “who taught you when you studied? The old educational model will in time collapse due to cost and complexity. I am willing to predict by 2030 to 2035, the old models will be gone. Just think about it: a private Christian college education today averages $120,000 or more. Ten years from now, this model of education will cost $200,000 or more. Do you really think that parents and students are going to continue to pay those high sums?
For the last twenty years, the old Gutenberg model (print, cement classrooms, and professors) has been giving way to the new Google model (digital papers and books, access to information without authority figures). Today, students don’t need authority figures to access information, but need authority figures to process information. Instead of adopting the accreditation model, the world is gradually moving to a credentialing model. In the past a recognized organization trusted institutions by making them “legitimate” to give degrees to students. Yet, with the birth of the Internet, though not realized at that time, distance died with the expansion of the Internet. We live in a whole new world.
The New World Vision
As the Church enters into this new world, we are going to have let go of old world paradigms. The recent pandemic did not slow technology down, but rather sped technology up. For example, I know pastors who has chosen not to ramp up their technology as to their website, online streaming, etc. Yet, the pandemic forced them to do so or to close their doors permanently. What is amazing is that they knew the Internet was increasing every year, but they chose to do nothing to get ready, until the tsunami hit.
At the upcoming Synergize 2022 Pastors & Leaders Conference, we will be launching a new state-of-the-art hybrid-church, technology platform. It is time for the Church to build a rock-solid platform, that is not enslaved by the world’s system. There are several components to this hybrid-church platform.
As we move into the future, hybrid-church-evangelism will be extremely important. Pastors will have to make fundamental decisions as to how the technology is utilized in the church. The temptation will be, “what got us through the pandemic is now the new model.” I would like to suggest some ideas for consideration. First, instead of streaming every church service, a selective strategy will be more successful. Pajama Christians, those who now choose to stay home and watch the worship service, will most likely never return as long as every church service is streamed live. In this context, when the pastor is having a special guest, consideration could be given not to stream that particular service, but rather encourage “the saints” to attend in person.
Additionally, in the halls of this kind of above thinking, strategies should employed about reaching the lost. It is imperative that Believers utilize this new world vision to build bridges to their friends, who do not know Christ. Creative approaches should be thought through as to how bring the unsaved to the local church and especially to Christ. Simply streaming a worship service is not a strategy. Every pastor should be given careful thought as to how to protect their Christ-centered preaching, so that it cannot ripped from the Internet simply because tech-giant does not approve it.
Second, as we step into this new world, hybrid-church-education is a must for success. Since distance is dead the world is our campus, the local church now has the opportunity again, to train in-house both young and seasoned Believers. Instead of outsourcing, insourcing will become common place. Every local church can become a training campus, where members are trained onsite by the best minds in Christendom. The Global Church Divinity School (www.GCDS.tv) was built to empower the local church to open its own campus, establish a low-cost threshold and multiply their leaders like never before. We live in time when students don’t have to be sent away to learn; but can learn by the best leaders, where they live today.
In the days ahead, there will be a cataclysmic technology battle between the tech giants and what is commonly known as cable television. When this battle happens, the tech giants will win and television as we have come to know it will change forever. For the most part, except for certain events, people do not watch programed television but watch what they want to watch, when they want to watch it. You may ask, “What does this have to do with local church education? Everything! This shift, that has already begun, will further accentuate, that distance is dead, and the world is our campus.
In addition to hybrid-church-evangelism and hybrid-church-education, we have entered into hybrid-church-expansion. In the past when solid members in our church left, we simply prayed for them and said goodbye. Yet, today, missional consideration should be given as to whether or not the person or people, who are leaving could become an ambassador for their church. In other words, instead of simply saying good-bye to them, consider whether or not, the Lord of the harvest would desire for them to begin a house church, where they go. Think about it. Since the Internet does not know distance, members could be missionaries as to they go to different places around the world. In time, any local church could have tens if not hundreds of multisite locations around the world. We must move from addition to multiplication.
Another creative way to harness the technology, is showcase “windows of the world.” If the local pastor has a “Missions Sunday” each month, then he/she could showcase a different region of the world each month. He could also have a missionary, who may be in remote location to share live 3 to 5 minutes on this Missions Sunday or have it pretaped ahead of the service. In 12 months, the pastor would have taken his/her congregation around the world!
The Uncharted World Before US
Some years ago, I was in Lisbon, Portugal. When in Lisbon, I arranged for a Spanish speaking driver to drive me to Palos, Spain. Palos is located about 3 hours from Lisbon. When I arrived into this small sea town, I went to a very old monastery. While in the monastery, I looked at the old world artifacts, before walking into what is called, “The Vision Room.” As I walked into The Vision Room, I read these words about the top of the door, “The Birthplace of America.”
Upon walking into The Vision Room, I sat in the same chair that Christopher Columbus sat in 1491. In 1491, Christopher met with a Franciscan Monk, who was close friends to the King and Queen of Spain. Columbus shared his vision of new trade routes. Instead of going around the tip of Africa, he proposed sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. The Franciscan Monk bought into the vision of new trade routes and shared it with the Queen and she shared it with the King. The King and Queen then funded Columbus journey to The New World.
Columbus had shared the same vision with Portugal leaders, but they dismissed it. I have often wondered, if Portugal had the opportunity to think about it again, if they would have chosen differently. They missed one of the grandest paradigm shifts in human history.
After my visit in The Vision Room, I went to actual location where Columbus’ original boats, Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, were anchored. Today, it is a lovely grass lawn with a fountain. As I stood there, I prayed, “Lord please double the size of the Church in my generation and make it harder for people to live on the earth and not hear the Gospel.”
I submit to you that we have a new world before us. It is time for the Church to set its technological sails into the ocean of evangelism, education and expansion or we will have missed one of the grandest opportunities of this generation.