COVID-19 has certainly introduced a great deal of change to our lives. These changes tend to create angst, stress, worry, and anxiousness. Whether you generally like change or not, most of us struggle with change that is thrust upon us. Interestingly, change that we have considered and chosen for ourselves is generally welcomed and embraced.
I am naturally a questioner when it comes to change – even the smallest change. I am not naturally one who is trusting, compliant, or rebellious – but many of my closest friends are! As a leader of a family and a church, I generally find myself desiring compliance to change that I have deemed necessary without taking the time to listen to the questioners or rebels. I figure that people should just trust that I have thought deeply about the matter before instituting the change.
This is unrealistic!
I was thinking about the changes that have been thrust upon us by either the politicians, health professionals, or others over the course of the past six months. For some of you, these changes were trusted and some just complied. For others – well, questioning was not even an option, and rebellion is probably the best descriptor. It has helped to have someone give me four categories to help understand how people naturally respond to change:
The Trusting One: Those people who naturally trust those in authority. They assume that the person who put the stoplight at the intersection chose that intersection for a light because it was important. This person will joyfully wait at the light at 4 AM until it turns green because they believe it is the safest option because the traffic engineer obviously called for it for a good reason.
The Complier: These people will obey every rule because it is the right thing to do. They do not have to believe the rule makes sense, is appropriate, or in their best interest. Their compliance is not birthed out of trust, but out of righteousness and justice. They too will sit at the light waiting for it to change, but they will be angry or disappointed in the traffic engineer for not adjusting the light to either blink red or at least calling for a sensor to be installed. These people will also be filled with “righteous indignation” toward anyone else who chooses to ignore the red light at 4 AM.
The Questioner: This person will ask, “Why is this light red? Someone must have forgotten to change the setting.” They will stop, look around and then go when they perceive that it is safe.
The Rebel: This person might slow down, but they think all traffic engineers are idiots and they are the only ones who truly know where the lights should be. They question authority figures, not just the decisions they make.
As you can see, to assume a compliant person is a trusting person would create conflict. In the same way, it would create a great deal of conflict to assume someone is acting out of rebellion when they are just asking for the “Why.”
This season has complicated so much of our lives and many of us are left with questions, concerns, angst, and just general frustration. I have no desire to belittle the struggles you may have with all the change, but I want to suggest that change is good for humans. God never changes, but we must live in a state of perpetual transformation. I also believe the church should be continually morphing and that we might be built up. This season has forced us to ask some difficult questions and pushed us forward in dependence upon God and one another. This season has also revealed the creativity of the people of God as we are dependent upon the wisdom of Christ through His Spirit.
I have been thinking about some of the changes that we have implemented at HarvestDowntown over the past six months and realizing how many of you may be struggling with our decisions or just with change in general. I thought it might be good to give some reasoning for some of the changes – knowing full well that this may not be enough rationale for all of you! Please note, that the changes are listed in the order of when the decision was implemented. As you look through this timeline, I think you will see the hand of God upon us as a church community through this difficult season. Thank you for praying for your church community!
Creating Access Initiative (11/2019)
We announced to the church that we were committed to addressing the ADA access and outdated restrooms. We also announced that we had engaged with Echo Architecture to address these two primary issues.
We recognized that a simple audio file of the sermon was insufficient for those who were unable to attend our services. We began streaming our services via Facebook Live with a great number of obstacles – but began planning to institute another access point for those unable to attend in person.
We rebranded Kids Own Worship as HarvestKids and kicked it off with training event for those who minister to our children. The goal was to create a safe ministry to children that goes far beyond Sunday mornings. We launched a comprehensive check-in system and set in place our 24-hour rule.
Creating Access Initiative Launch (3/2020)
Concert of Prayer kicked off 40 days of corporate fasting on Ash Wednesday as we sought God for how He might want to use HarvestDowntown to create access to the whole Gospel of who Jesus is. Our stated goal is to give every man, woman, and child in our six neighborhoods repeated opportunities to accept or reject the whole Gospel of who Jesus is.
Non-essential vs. Essential (3/15/2020)
I have written so much about this very issue, that to sum up this decision with just a few words risks undoing all the effort and thought we put into this. But, suffice it to say, we believed that submitting to our governing authorities on this did NOT hinder what we were about as a church community. We invested more resources and expertise into VirtualHarvest and branded our facility as 411 N. Weber.
Multiuse Sanctuary (4/2020)
Construction on 411 N. Weber was not intended to begin until the summer of 2020, but with our sanctuary empty it made sense to begin leveling the floor so that 411 N. Weber could be used for more than lectures and performances. This has proved to be a demonstration of God’s providence for His church!
First Fruits Gathering (5/2020)
Originally scheduled for the end of April, we decided to reach out to those in our church who give financially to the ministry of HarvestDowntown and invite them to be a part of our virtual First Fruits Gathering. This generated over $500,000 in gifts and pledges toward Creating Access. The initial gifts proved to be enough to pay off the leveling of the floor, pay off our mortgage, give away $21,000 to regional and global church planting initiatives, 50% down payment on our chairs, as well as our design and construction fees.
Re-Engagement to Proximity@411 (6/2020)
We decided that our first moment back together in physical proximity would be a Concert of Prayer on May 29, with our first church service @411 occurring on Pentecost Sunday, May 31. Thankfully, we have been able to satisfy all the health codes, fire codes, and building codes during this volatile season of re-engaging in proximity with one another. Throughout this journey, our goal has been to provide consistency and connection, and re-engagement to proximity@411 was a huge step toward these goals.
Re-launch of HarvestKids (7/2020)
We concluded that our kids desperately needed the socialization and discipleship provided by gathering with each other – possibly more than the adults. We knew that this would require some major adjustments, but kids are important members of our church family. We instituted temperature checks for the kids, asked the teachers to wear masks, and limited class sizes to maintain social distance requirements – all so our kids could have consistency and connection.
The Masked Worshiper (7/2020)
The governor mandated masks for all indoor, public places. Church facilities are considered indoor, public places. We concluded that churches were not being singled out and persecuted and therefore complied with appropriate signage.
Communal Response of Worship (8/2020)
August began an experiment with our order of service to take advantage of the natural “social distancing” that was occurring due to the quarantine of members and with those sitting in their social groups @411. We wanted those children unable to attend HarvestKids to feel valued and noticed. We wanted to create space to pray for one another and care for one another – whether in our homes or @411. These changes are still being worked out, but we believe we are settling in on a rhythm that satisfies our goals of consistency and connection.
Creating Access Initiative Pledge Period Concluded (9/2020)
This month marks the culmination of the pledge period for the Creating Access Initiative. You can click HERE if you would like to make a financial commitment toward creating access to the whole Gospel of who Jesus is. Please do so prayerfully and not under compulsion. If you would like to talk to me more about this, please feel free to reach out. The final pledge amount will be announced the first Sunday of October.
Our desire is not to ever make changes for the sake of change, but we recognize development is impossible without change. I fully understand that all change, no matter how logical or sensible it might seem, is difficult for many people. I hope that this helps some of you process the changes we have made over the past year and you note that our goals have been consistency and connection. We will continue to create access to the Gospel. We will continue to serve as a catalyst for spiritual change within our city. We will continue to value community, worship, and mission in all that we do.
 10% of all that is given toward the Creating Access Initiative will be given to creating access in our district through church planting and globally through the work of Alliance Missions. 5% was given specifically for assessing and training church planters in our district. 5% was committed to a creative access country that we affectionately call “Longbeach.”