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“Pivot!”

Made popular by Ross’ couch moving fiasco on the TV show “Friends,” “pivot” entered the cultural vernacular as a way to describe a needed change of direction draped in frustrated angst. 

Said with the same cultural anxiety that embodied Ross’s outbursts, we too have experienced the constant “pivots” (I can hear every pastor and leader exclaim this with the same exhausting intensity).

The Danger of Drift in a Pivoting World

As we constantly pivot to adjust to the changes imposed by our constantly changing circumstances, it is important to remember our anchor.  Pivoting only works if you are anchored to something, otherwise, it is “drifting.”  In this Covid-19 season, what are your pivot points and how secure are you anchored to them?  Are you adapting or drifting as you pivot?

I want to suggest several anchor points:

  1. Jesus – Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever and is securely on His throne.  He is not worried, and He will not fail.  Spend time today in worship-centred prayer simply acknowledging the greatness, goodness and graciousness of our God.  As we pivot the “where,” let’s stay anchored to “who.”
  2. Mission & Vision – Our mission is constant as the church – to make disciples.  Spend time reflecting on the mission and vision of your life and the church/organization you lead.  Be rooted in this constant and follow/pivot as God leads.  He will make a way.  As we pivot the “how,” let’s stay anchored to the “why”.”
  3. Values & Identity – Who we are in Jesus defines us and remains the same regardless of circumstances.  Additionally, the values we hold as individuals, families and church/organizations don’t have to change as we pivot. Our identity and values anchor us as we face the storms and challenges of life.  Spend time reviewing your identity in Christ, your calling and your core values.  As we pivot and adapt, let’s stay anchored to our identity and values.

Let us keep one foot firmly anchored to Jesus, our mission/vision and our values and identity.  By doing this, we can freely pivot the other foot, positioning ourselves to move wherever God leads in our constantly shifting world.

Learning the Lessons from Pivoting

As we learn to pivot in this season, there are some important lessons to embrace.  We have been in a season of accelerated change for the last decade or two.  Covid-19 moved accelerated change to warp speed.  If fast change is hard, hyper change is exhausting! Thus, if you are feeling the impact of this season, recognize that part of the reason is the speed at which we are processing change.  We are in the midst of the greatest cultural and technological change in history.  Don’t underestimate the impact of this on your life, leadership, team or organization.  Instead, use it to learn new skills and competencies. 

As a result, don’t view change as a series of individual crisis moments (acts of change); rather, see it as a new posture of constant fluidity and mobility (posture of change). 

These two views of change are fundamentally different.  The first is situational and static (it made sense when change was slower and incremental).  The challenge, however, is that it assumes change is semi-permanent.  Thus, if your decision-making, communication and organizational structures orientate towards this posture, it will grow weary in a culture moving at warp speed and constant change.

Rather, position yourself, your leadership, your team, your decision-making process, etc. around an adaptive and constantly pivoting posture.  This posture embraces empowerment, flexibility, constant innovation, trial and error, etc.  As we transition to the future, see it less as a static change model and more of a fluid change model.  This will enable you to adapt to our new reality where constant change is the norm.

Embrace the Art of Pivoting Not Just the Act of a Pivot

Whether, like Ross, you are frustratingly tired of calling pivots or, like Chandler, exhausted just hearing the word and just want to yell “Shut Up!” each time it is mentioned, may we know our anchor point and adopt an adaptive posture.  This posture will serve us as we move forward with Jesus on mission into our rapidly changing world.

In Search of a Digital Missiology

The digital pivot happened fast!

Although many churches struggled with engaging digitally over the last decade, the circumstances of COVID-19 forced a change.  What church leaders had been apathetic about, opposed to, or fearful of became a necessity.  As a result, the church enthusiastically transitioned to digital.

The church pivoted. Although churches pivoted out of necessity, some did so without critical reflection.  Even though we have become very aware of our missiological failures and the colonialism that dominated previous missionary movements, I fear we are in danger of repeating our past mistakes.

The missionary movements of the past often resulted from technological advancements that opened new mission frontiers.  In the rush and excitement of these new opportunities, the church often neglected the hard work of learning the language, understanding the culture, and contextualizing the gospel. 

We are in danger of making these mistakes with digital ministry!

In the rush to digital engagement, we didn’t consider the fact that digital culture is different from in-person ministry steeped in print culture.  Online ministry is cross-cultural.  With the same pragmatic excitement that sparked the missionary movements of old, we entered digital culture with an in-person ministry methodology.  We moved Bible studies to ZOOM and we live-streamed worship gatherings.  As we did, we soon discovered that the transition wasn’t as effective as we expected.  We discovered that in-person is different than digital. Instead of seeking to understand and translate ministry to digital culture, adapting our methodologies accordingly, we forced them onto a digital culture.  Consequently, they were ineffective and demoralizing.  They demonstrated our propensity to repeat our colonial past.

In the transition to digital, some of our churches had to lay off staff.  In a sad parallel to the colonial missionary movements of the past that ignored local expertise, most churches laid off their digital locals (younger staff fluent in digital culture) and kept the digital tourists (older staff unaware of digital culture).  Consequently, I implore all the senior leaders who will rebuild their staff and leadership teams after the pandemic to rebuild them with digital locals and not just with digital tourists.  Do not repeat our colonial past.

As the church digitally went beyond traditional borders (geographic and linguistic), it was blind to context and culture. In the same ethnocentric enthusiasm of our ancestors, many ignored the hard and difficult work of contextualization. The following are two of many examples. First, digital ministry’s strength and potential lie not only in its ability to spread wide but in its ability to go deep. Community is built and experienced differently online. Second, in digital culture, people want to be part of the content they consume. Ignoring this cultural distinctive will lead to poor engagement and a lack of effectiveness.

We need a better digital missiology!

The digital shift is not going away.  People will not work, learn, shop, play and worship in the same ways again.  Digital has shown its limitations, but it has also shown its capabilities.  The digital mission field has opened, and it is ripe for harvest. 

We are in danger of repeating our past mistakes.  I want to call us, in humility, to slow down and discover a better missiology.  I want to call us to learn about digital culture as we enter it on mission.  To do otherwise is not simply ineffective, it is counterproductive.  Digital is different and your digital ministry must be shaped accordingly.

To learn more about digital culture, Effective Online Ministry and Digital Mission:

Check out my upcoming online workshops with Ambrose University (back by popular demand) – Effective Online Ministry (October 21, November 4, November 18).  Register here.

Read my recent book: Digital Mission: A Practical Guide for Ministry OnlineAvailable now in eBook format at Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, and the Canadian Bible Society (print book available soon).

The Awkward Covid-19 Dance

We are currently in an awkward dance with the COVID-19 virus and it’s about to step on our feet.  Hard!

In the early stages of the virus, we were introduced to the concept of the Covid-19 hammer and dance.  This is the concept used by public health officials to describe the process of controlling a virus with public health measures.  In March we experienced the hammer (the lock-down) as a means to control the infection numbers, “flatten the curve,” and bring the spread of the virus under control.  By doing this, we were able to enter the dance (the season of gradual reopening that we are now in).  The dance is the increasing and decreasing measures of gathering sizes, precautions, restrictions, etc. to keep the numbers at a controllable level by balancing public health with society’s need for the economy, physical community, and education.

As the church, we made the adjustments to the hammer in March by moving exclusively online (with varied success – more on that and why in a future post).  We are now adapting to the dance as most churches are cautiously moving to some sort of public in-person gatherings.

As we enter the Fall, we will be faced with the second wave of the virus (historically, the second wave is the most dangerous and deadly).  As a result, there is a very strong possibility (even probability) that the hammer will be coming back and, as a result, the church will be moving back exclusively online.  I know this is not the news you want to hear, and you will be tempted to ignore it as alarmist.  Yet, I would encourage you to not yield to that temptation. Rather, I implore you to make a plan and prepare for the possibility.

In the coming days, I would urge pastors and church leaders to be prepared in two ways.  First, have a plan for all your ministries to go back fully online.  Whatever you think of online ministry, this is something you can be prepared for.  Just as you have a plan to progressively open up, have a plan to move back fully online.  Second, begin preparing your staff, leaders, elders, and church members for this possibility.  A tenant of change management is to telegraph your moves and if people know you have a plan, they will respond much better when you have to execute it (give a sense of calm and purpose as they do).  Preparing people for this is good leadership and will help your church/ministry lean into the challenge ahead rather than scramble in desperation or surrender in defeat.

As you continue to do the Covid-19 dance, are you ready for the possibility of the hammer?  Be prepared, have a plan, and when/if it comes, you will be able to pivot with intentionality, confidence, and effectiveness.

Effective Online Ministry

Effective Online Ministry: Understanding, Creating and Launching Ministry Online

Wondering how to effectively do ministry online?


Back by popular demand!

Join me online for these three exciting professional development opportunities (hosted by Ambrose University). Classes will run 9am-3pm with a break from 12-1pm each day.


Wednesday, October 21 – Understanding the Digital Culture: Foundational for designing effective online ministry
Wednesday, November 4 – Understanding the Nuts and Bolts (Bits and Bytes) of Online Ministry
Wednesday, November 18 – Designing an Online Ministry Strategy


The cost for the three workshops is $150. Come as an individual or bring your entire team.

These are also available for a 3 credit class from Ambrose University and Seminary (registration includes the videos of the teaching OnDemand).

For more info: click here

To register: click here

Your gauges are broken

One of my first cars had a broken gas gauge. It was extremely frustrating! There was no way to objectively measure how much gas was in the tank at any given time. This was definitely an inconvenience but, in Canadian winters, it was also a major safety consideration. Consequently, I embraced the axiom, “it costs the same to run the car on the full half of the tank as it does on the empty half.” I think there is truth in this for today (especially for pastors).

In these Covid-19 days, your gauges are broken. Your patterns of behaviour, routines, and rhythms have all been disrupted. What you have formally used to judge how you were doing personally (emotionally, physically, and spiritually) are no longer reliable. Consequently, you are probably doing worse than you think in some areas and better than you think in others. Don’t trust your broken gauges and assume your tank is emptier than you think!

Additionally, you need to ignore former gauges you used to judge your perceived pastoral effectiveness. If you don’t, you may show up on Sunday and, as you survey the socially distanced and largely empty room (if you are meeting in person), feel like you are failing. Or, in the absence of physically seeing the sheep that you shepherd, you will falsely believe you have lost them all and panic. Remember, your pastoral effectiveness gauges are broken. Don’t trust them. Instead, look to Jesus and just be faithful. Be faithful and know that is enough. In fact, that has always been enough! Maybe the pandemic will teach us to re-evaluate our perceptions of success and the gauges we use to measure it. Maybe we will recalibrate our gauges and simply focus on being faithful to Jesus and the calling He has placed on our lives.

As you serve with broken gauges, embrace the maxim I learned from my car with the broken gas gauge: drive with your tank half full rather than half empty. Keep your tank full by: Rejecting comparison – this is more important than ever. Giving yourself grace – lots of it. Breathing deeply – repeat regularly. Resting well – more than you think you need. Loving deeply – your family, friends, and church community. Leading boldly – this is the season for it. Loving other pastors – and letting them love you.

Remember: your gauges are broken, and no one knows when the new ones will be in stock.