The hybrid is here to stay

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According to a recent poll, many Americans “don’t expect to rely on the digital services that have become commonplace during the pandemic” after all that COVID-19 subsided. About half of American adults say they are unlikely to continue participating in virtual activities, getting groceries delivered or using curbside pickup.

Still, according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, nearly half say it would be a good thing “if virtual options for health care, community events and activities like fitness or church services continue post-pandemic.”

Translation?

People expect and want a hybrid world. Not entirely online, but not entirely physical: hybrid.

“Rather either-or, I think we’re more likely to face a hybrid future,” said Donna Hoffman, director of the Center for the Connected Consumer at the George Washington School of Business. “People have found convenience in some of these virtual options that makes sense, and they don’t necessarily have anything to do with it, like your safety or the pandemic, even though they’ve come of age during the pandemic. “

If there is one institution that needs to grasp this new model, it is the Church. The church needs to bring the physical and the digital together and think accordingly about things like service, community, evangelism, and discipleship. The future of the Church is that it will be, and must be, hybrid.

My fear is that this is not the case.

I don’t know where to begin to tell you how many pastors and church leaders I’ve heard that the key to making things right again is going to be the ability to start meeting again. Going further, they said they hoped to never hear “Facebook streaming” again for the rest of their lives.

But then came the earthquake shock: people did not come back in droves. The “new normal” was not the “old normal”. The reason had little to do with the pandemic, which only provided a smokescreen. Churches have been experiencing a decline in attendance for some time. What the pandemic has done is accelerate and broaden the effect of two seismic cultural shifts that have enormous significance for the life and mission of the Church: the new reality of a post-Christian world and the revolution digital.

That’s why much of the focus of this year’s Church and Culture conference is on all things hybrid, including topics such as:

  • The Hybrid Church: Rethinking Ministry in the Post-Christian Digital Age
  • Overhauling community in the digital age
  • Connecting with Nonbelievers in the Post-Christian Digital Age

In his book Think again, Adam Grant describes three dominant mentalities: that of the preacher, the prosecutor and the politician. With each, we take on a particular identity and use a distinct set of tools. If our personal and intimate beliefs are challenged, we shift into preacher mode and deliver “sermons” to protect or promote our beliefs. If we recognize flaws in another person’s reasoning, we go into prosecutorial mode and organize arguments to prove them wrong and make our case. If the goal is to gain an audience, we go into politician mode and campaign and lobby for approval. “The risk,” Grant writes, “is that we become so absorbed in preaching that we are right, chasing others who are wrong, and political politics for support that we don’t bother to rethink our own points. sight.”

Grant argues for a fourth mindset, that of the scientist. “If you are a scientist by profession, rethinking is fundamental to your profession. You are paid to be constantly aware of the limits of your understanding. You are expected to doubt what you know, be curious about what you don’t know, and update your opinions based on new data. But being a scientist, Grant points out, is not just a profession. It’s a state of mind. It is a “way of thinking that differs from preaching, prosecution and politics”.

I hope Grant’s use of “preaching” in a semi-pejorative way, and his highlighting of a “scientist” in a favorable way, doesn’t figure so literally in your mind that you want to defend the role of sermons and castigate the secular scientific mind and therefore fails to grasp its larger point of view. It tries to make the case for necessary thinking that too often can be thwarted due to resistant mindsets. For example, he lists the four most annoying things people say instead of rethinking:

“It will never work here.”

“That’s not what my experience has shown.”

” It’s too complicated ; don’t think too much about it.

“That’s how we’ve always done it.”

If you have ever caught yourself saying any of these phrases, or even thinking about them, you need to deliberately commit to rethinking, especially in relation to a hybrid church model. We simply need to rethink the Church’s approach to fulfilling its mission in light of a post-Christian digital age.

The heart of this reflection rests on a single word:

Hybrid.

James Emery White

Sources

Hannah Fingerhut and RJ Rico, “Are We Heading for a ‘Hybrid Future’ as Virtual Services Lose Their Appeal Post-COVID?” USA todayJuly 7, 2022, read online.

“Americans’ Pandemic Preparedness and Changes in Daily Life”, Associated Press/NORCJuly 5, 2022, read online.

Adam Grant, Think again: the power of knowing what you don’t know.

Get more details on the upcoming Church & Culture Conference 2022 live stream on Thursday, September 22 HERE.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founder and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a former assistant professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His last book After “I believe” is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. To take advantage of a free Church & Culture blog subscription, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture podcast. . Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

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