Sat, Sep 19, 2020

Scott Wakefield   -  

Total Reading Time: ~10 mins

I’m sorry it’s so long. Someday I’ll (maybe?) learn to just leave it to the basics. Ugh… (It’s not because of self-importance, I promise, but rather the insecurity and fear I constantly battle knowing that anyone on the planet gets to tear apart every single thing I do, say, or write. Wait, maybe that insecurity and fear are because of self-importance?! Oh no. More mental paralysis. Anyway, moving on… for everyone’s sake…)

A Few Miscellaneous Points of Info

  • Scott’s Thoughts Written & Video Updates Now Posted on App – I swear, if I hear or see the words “Scott’s Thoughts” and see my picture one more time, I’m going to scream. But, since we’re trying to communicate clearly and often, in that vein, we’re posting all written and video updates on our app, to make it handy for FCCers to continue to have everything all-in-one-place.
  • Live Hosted Online Services at only 9a, 10a, & 11a on Sundays – Friendly reminder that, starting last weekend, we’re only doing “live hosted” (i.e., with a real person) online services at 9, 10, & 11a on Sunday mornings. The next bullet point helps explain some of why we’ve made this change, (along with last week’s Scott’s Thoughts Written Update. ← See… Sick of myself.)
  • Rebroadcasting & On-Demand – Starting this week, we are going to be “rebroadcasting” our service and sermon a few times throughout the week (on Facebook and YouTube) as well as having On-Demand services and sermons on Facebook, YouTube, and our app at noon on Sundays, available immediately after the service.
  • YouTube Playlists – We have begun posting playlists on YouTube just like the app, so make sure you Subscribe to our YouTube channel at “fccgreene” to receive those notifications.
  • Online Strategy – For the record, again, we are absolutely not “for” online to the exclusion of in-person. We’re actually pretty defiantly pro-gathering-in-person. (See last week’s written ST and this Brown Bags & Bibles for more.) We are trying to offer a lot online, for now, because many of our folks are still at home and also to see what works and what doesn’t, so that we know best how to proceed in the future most simply and strategically, using online means as a front-door to in-person.
  • Next Steps Rejiggering – We are pretty radically rejiggering Next Steps and making it a leaner and more flexible process that adapts to anyone, whether first-timer or 1,000th-timer, to help everyone connect meaningfully to our 7 Habits vision for growth. Much more to tell you in the next couple weeks, so be looking for that.
  • If You’re Returning to In-Person Soon – Just a heads up… Please be aware that things will look and feel different, in terms, not just of the people who are there, but in terms of your personal connection. Not only do we have more services with fewer people in each, (and, I suspect, that distanced service dynamic isn’t going away soon), but we also have about 3-4 dozen brand new people, those you were used to seeing in worship may not be there, especially since Life Groups aren’t generally sitting with each other as they had been, and since many have stopped serving during Covid, so… As you’re returning, you are probably best served by thinking like a first-time guest, both for yourself and for others, meaning a couple things… (1) Even if “you know how things work here at FCC”, you should give serious consideration to attending our new version of Next Steps as part of your reentry plan. Things will feel different. The people around you may be different. (2) You can help us by being intentional about helping others connect.

Lessons Learned (Particularly from Leading Through Covid)

As we’ve said many times, as a disclaimer in churchwide communications from the very beginning of the Covid crisis, (“If you’re immunocompromised, etc.”), we understand some of our people are unable to return because of extra precautions due to vocational or family responsibilities, being immunocompromised, health issues, etc. No sweat. Everyone’s gotta make their own decisions based on their own context. So, straight up, the following are not directed toward any particular person and certainly not “those FCCers who haven’t yet made it back to church.” The last thing I wanna do is unnecessarily shame or guilt people. We Christians rest in God’s grace achieved for us, in Christ, to free us from the guilt and shame of our sin. These are simply some things that I have noticed during the Covid Crazy, each one with numerous anecdotal and/or scientific data points because, as a 100% extrovert ADHD infohound (who is constantly holding back and who is in a calling where feedback is constant), I am constantly engaging with people and information every moment I can. (And no, I will not footnote everything, sorry. Ain’t got time.) It’s not exhaustive–there’s much more to say–so I’ll parcel out a few at a time over numerous weeks, but here you go, in no particular order of… anything. Some are pointed; some are a mix of rambling and rant. If the particular shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn’t, don’t. (Ok, enough with the disclaimers.) Whatever the case, I hope they make us all think about our own need for growth in Christlikeness.

  • This point needs to be made first, because not only do I tend toward seeing holes and problems everywhere, but there’s so much negative and frustrating stuff to talk about otherwise. … Well before and even during the last 3 months, while we’ve been doing the weird Covid-friendly version of being “open” and online, our people who Serve on the team are so consistent and wonderfully faithful! From Elders to well-known staff to folks who are onstage, greeting guests, teaching and caring for kiddos, to the many unknown behind-the-scenes volunteers who show up early and late on Sundays to setup and/or sweep, so many FCCers have been adaptable and flexible in ways that continue to lay groundwork for future ministry and flourishing of the body of Christ in our community. Seriously, we’ve got so many faithful servants. The onstage lights and online videos and aesthetically pleasing signage snooker self-righteous Pharisees who think they know “how church works” into presuming we’re a watered-down show, but as I say to people all the time… Once you begin to look under the hood, the secret to FCC is the Word of God doing its work through amazing people who humbly serve at church and in our community. It’s the Spirit of God using their everyday boring faithfulness that makes the difference.
  • (Yet… Despite the first bullet point being true…) People. Be. Crazy. And this bullet point definitely includes you and me. And, in my reading of Scripture, anyone who thinks that people are “basically good at heart” and that people “want to be good” are also crazy or at least aren’t looking closely at themselves or the world around them. People may want to be good, but they aren’t, and they can’t, of their own power, make themselves be what they aren’t. I include my own heart in this! My desires are not good but evil, and the more I know myself, the more I know I am not “basically good at heart.” That’s why it requires, as Paul says, “the power of God for salvation” in Romans 1:16. As we say in step one of re:generation, “We admit we are powerless over our addictions, brokenness, and sinful patterns, that in our own power, our lives are unmanageable.” (See Romans 7:18 as representative of many passages that provide further description of our inability to overcome sin and evil in our own power and flesh.)
  • The extent to which anyone looks at themselves accurately is directly related to the intimacy of their relationship to God, the formation of a Scripturally-formed worldview, and courage. The last place anyone wants to look closely is themselves. The penultimate (next-to-last) place anyone wants to look is those closest to them. And way before those two, the-first-and-all-the-in-between places anyone wants to look is the faceless and relationally anonymous world at-large. This is why everyone, rioters and looters included, feels justified when they destroy things, because the deceitful human heart perverts the world into an exercise in meting out its own justice apart from God. At root, we are no different, feeling like there is some nameless and faceless “system” out there that is “controlling” our flourishing and like “everyone out there” is against us. So we focus on everything and everyone other than ourselves, not wanting to admit our sin needs a Savior to die. (See second bullet point again.)
  • Btw, everyone is against you. And for themselves. (Again, see second bullet point.) This is because sin is real and demands more repayment and atonement to an actually holy God than we think. And (because our feelings are often the more threatening-to-self truth than our rationalizations), that is why we crazy humans are constantly placing Messianic weight on our relationships, spouses, kids, bosses, teachers, doctors, politicians, parents, (and pastors.) It’s like we can’t help ourselves (Romans 7:18, again.) This is why grace matters more than we think, say, operate, etc. The grace of God needs to be lived among us and not just intellectually believed by us. I mean the following with the force it seems to imply. —> The flourishing of our relationships, church, community, and entire society depend on grace-centered Christians. I’m serious. The church is the most foundationally important institution on our planet because she alone understands there is no adequate payment for sin outside of grace that comes from God.
  • Used to be that people talked about how one of the natural consequences of leadership was making some people unhappy. Now, leader or not, the internet means that no one is safe from being instantly convicted in the court of public opinion, regardless of the evidence or actual circumstances. There are no more trials. Everyone is in danger of being cancelled and publicly shamed.
  • Faithful leadership will become increasingly rare, which means that, if the church doesn’t train up strong leaders who have scriptural priorities at heart, and teach families to do the same, our country and communities are doomed. Sounds alarmist but I’m serious.
  • I can’t believe I’m saying this one for how it seems so obvious, but apparently some don’t really know how the internet and people work, (see second and third bullet points!)… Just because one of your “friends” posts something online about someone or something doesn’t mean you should believe it! For all the amazing parts of the internet, it has a serious dark side in that it can easily be a cesspool of incessant gossip and slander. That your friend’s claim is online does not make it more credible. In fact, not that anyone should care, but for a few (Go to 3 mins into this Video Update for a warning from Joshua 22 to ensure that lack of personal information doesn’t become unnecessary suspicion and distrust.)
  • For way too many, Covid has become an excuse for a spiritual vacation. We as a church have been patient with spiritual lockdown for long enough. Too much spiritual atrophy has happened in our community to remain silent.
  • Though Covid has uprooted everything and it seems like everyone is freaking out, as a church we have been doing and are going to keep doing the same thing we’ve always done… Helping people find and follow Jesus.
  • Taking empty pot shots without personal knowledge or experience is easy, cowardly, and ultimately often a rationalization for one’s own failures and avoidance of responsibility. (Again, go to 3 mins into this Video Update for a warning from Joshua 22 to ensure that lack of personal information doesn’t become unnecessary suspicion and division.)

That’s enough for now. I’ve already got enough to keep going for many, many weeks.

Why are we using a Pre-Recorded Sermon During In-Person Worship Services?

We’ve had a few people ask about why we’re currently using the pre-recorded sermon for our in-person services. Yeah, good question. The answer is typical of the complexity and interconnectedness of our multisite vision. While it may initially seem like a degradation in quality and personal connection, when all the factors are considered, it may help facilitate an environment that may be even more personal.

Here’s a smidge of background… Initially, when we went 100% online while closed from March 23 through May 31 (11 Sundays), we decided to be intentional about restructuring so we could add online services as a permanent front door to in-person engagement. As a result of the both “open” and online hybrid, our current posture is to experiment (<– key word here) with pre-recorded sermons during Covid for a wide variety of reasons, which fall into three categories: the congregation, our multisite vision, and my role in all that. So the Elders have asked me to continue with pre-recorded sermons for now because of the following factors.

  • Allows me some much needed rest and sanity. I don’t want to belabor this, (and frankly, I detest one iota of this becoming public knowledge because I’m ashamed of it,) but I work way too many hours, have yet to regularly take a day off since becoming Pastor 13 years ago, and I have not remotely been present enough with my family… for a long time. Some of that is my fault and some of that is the nature of this calling. There’s much more to say about all this, but this pre-recorded experiment has forced a reset of my schedule and has meant, for the first time in a long time, that I have been getting some needed rest and can see some hope for working from something other than fumes and failure. So, the Elders have asked me to continue preaching via the pre-recorded sermons for now, as part of protecting me.
  • Allows me to get around to more people. This enables me to joyfully and personally see and connect with way more people at both campuses by being present at either the first or second half of every service. I haven’t been able to do so ever since beginning multisite a year-and-a-half ago… and I love it.
  • Allows me to see more of what’s happening. One of the little weird but important parts of my job is to be highly aware of how things are going in lots of different ministry environments. This experiment has enabled me to get around to more environments to get a more accurate picture of our organizational health and needs.
  • Helps us gauge feasibility for scaling to 3+ campuses. Said simply, this helps us gauge readiness and health for how to scale to more two than campuses.
  • Pre-recorded preaching is not inherently impersonal and may be more personal than it seems. This is an interesting and bigger factor, I think, than most assume at the outset. Hear me out… During this weird Covid season, we’ve noticed that, having done screen-first pre-recorded sermons for months, now when we have streamed the live sermon from one campus to the other, it sometimes feels more like watching in on what the other campus is doing and even less personal than prerecorded. Think about it… When watching the pre-recorded sermon, the communicator is making direct eye contact with every single person watching 100% of the time, which is pretty daggone personal. When streaming the live sermon from the other campus, (which is what we’d been doing for a year-and-a-half), the preacher is almost literally making zero eye contact with well over half those in the audience. Sure, there is absolutely spur-of-the-moment personal connection that happens live that doesn’t when pre-recorded, (and in fact, that’s something I’ve always liked about preaching), and there may be reason to abandon pre-recorded
  • Could potentially save up to $15,000 per campus-launching costs as well as allow us to adjust to future pandemics, problems, persecution, etc. This isn’t a current factor, and likely won’t be, and may sound like alarmism, but it is 2020, so… it’s made us think about potentialities. This is part of how technological agility may scale to help ensure church can happen in a difficult future. Long story short, streaming live costs more and pre-recorded sermons/services can be sent to a living room microsite if the government revokes our nonprofit status, we can’t meet in buildings, we experience persecution, etc. This is not much of a current factor, but why not use Covid crazy to experiment to gauge what we can and can’t do effectively with technology?
  • Gives multisite campuses a backup in case in-person streaming doesn’t work. We had a recent Sunday where we had a streaming glitch and were able, after a few awkward moments, to switch to the pre-recorded sermon.

I hope this explanation helps you understand better what’s going on and why. It’s just an experiment, for now. It’s not forever. If it’s more effective and helpful, we’ll keep it. If it’s not, we won’t.