For Michael Murphy, Pastors are heroes. As part of his ministry Leaderscape, he works with hundreds of them around the world, helping them to navigate the times we’re living through. Research shows that 65 to 80 per cent of Churches were either flatlining or shrinking, and that was before the pandemic. But he doesn’t believe the blame should fall on the shoulders of their leaders.
COVID-19 has only increased the pressure Pastors are facing. In the space of three days, they had to shepherd their Churches through a complete paradigm shift into the online space. Now, as we seek a “COVID normal”, they can wake up to two aggressive emails in a row, from parishioners arguing with equal passion that they should “reopen now” and that they shouldn’t even dream of it while vulnerable people remain at risk.
Murphy grew up under the influence of Hillsong’s Brian Houston, and pastored himself at Hillsong for more than a decade, then at Shirelive for eighteen years. Now he’s helping other Church leaders with his experience. Size doesn’t matter. He works with Churches of 50 in New Zealand, and of up to 13 thousand in the US. “We love Churches, and Pastors that are leading Churches, of all sizes,” he said.
Leaderscape’s work isn’t meant to replace that of the Holy Spirit, which is of course the first voice any Pastor should listen for. “We understand that it’s God who brings the increase. We understand that Jesus said, ‘I will build my Church’.”
“But we also understand he’s given trusted leaders the responsibility to grow disciples who make disciples. And so in a nutshell, we have the honour of helping to catalyse fresh momentum, with some of God’s generals in Churches all over the world.”
Some of you might be thinking this conversation isn’t about you, or musing on what your Pastor should be doing better. But Murphy says you are partly responsible for how your Church is going. “Imagine a Church where every one of the congregation grabs a hold of the mission of the Kingdom of God, and everyone is allowing the Holy Spirit to give increasing freedom from the inside out. And they move forward as the army that God says that we are, supporting their leaders.”
“Nothing can stop that kind of Church, and I think that’s something that Jesus always had in mind. COVID or no COVID. The mission and the mandate of the Kingdom of God doesn’t change.”
Murphy isn’t expecting we shouldn’t be shaken by this period of “shaking”, as the Bible puts it. COVID-19 is a historic moment for every one of us. “I think when our soul is assaulted, and whether that be through social distancing, or lockdown, or just handling the barrage of fear, it has implications in so many areas. It would be tone deaf to be triumphalist, and say ‘let’s move onward and upward’ when people are hurting right now.”
But as believers, he says we have to think about how we position our souls. “When our heart and our identity is rooted in Christ, it’s not that all those concerns or challenges go away, but I think what that does, it certainly contextualises them. And really that’s where it starts. The health of a thriving Church comes out of the health of the souls of the leader, the leadership team, and ultimately the congregation of that Church.”
Listen to the podcast of Michael Murphy’s conversation with 20Twenty’s Neil Johnson for much more on how you can support your Church leaders, and help grow your Church, during this unique and historic season.
Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.
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