J.D. Greear is the pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina and serves as the current President of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Summit Church is a Megachurch that has over 12,000 members whom gather for worship in twelve locations spread throughout the central part of North Carolina.
Coming on the heels of Andy Stanley’s announcement of North Point Community Church not reopening this year, Tuesday night The Summit Church held a Virtual Member Meeting where Pastor Greear announced that they would not gather in person at their campuses for the remainder of the year (due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus). He labeled the talk ‘Unpack Your Bags – Make the new normal our normal‘ making the reference to staying at a hotel for an extended period of time (you’d unpack your bags if you know that you’re going to be there for awhile, or not unpack if it’s just temporary.)
We’ve Got to Strategize Like This is The New Normal
Greear made the comment, “This may not be a storm that passes very quickly…we just don’t want to operate week to week anymore as we have been and then wake up six months from now and look back and realize how much we missed (in making disciples) because we didn’t adjust.”
Some of The Summit Church campuses meet in schools, and due to those particular schools starting off the school year virtually, those campuses would not have anywhere to meet.
“We just don’t think that we can keep you safe if we begin to open up for gatherings on a large nature,” Greear said, because the services are typically 500 to 1000 people each.
If a ‘Miracle Vaccine’ suddenly appears, he said they can always re-strategize and are setup to move quickly to adjust “but (right now) it’s time for us to move forward.”
We Need to Become a Movement of House Churches
Pastor Greear made it clear that they need to become a movement of house churches. “Instead of The Summit Church being 12,000 people meeting in twelve different locations on the weekend,” he said strategically, “now we are going to be about 15,000 people meeting in about 2400 locations.”
This Doesn’t Mean That We Can’t Still Gather
The Summit Church is equipping their people to be able to gather in houses that meet the safety guidelines suggested by the authorities, government, and the CDC as to what those house groups sizes should be. They will adjust the weekend streaming services to better fit a house church setting so that the house churches will be more interactive and kid-friendly. Greear made clear, “We are going to gather, it’s just not going to be in large groups of 500 to 1000 on the weekend in our facilities.”
Student Ministry Has No Competition
J.D. Greear also shared what another church leader had said to him, “This is unprecedented moment for student ministry. For the first time student ministry doesn’t have any competition.” Eluding to the lack of sports and extracurricular school activities that usually take students away from gathering together, because most of the activities are cancelled or postponed for the upcoming fall year. He encouraged student ministry to get together in parks and other outside places to meet more regularly because conflicts of schedules shouldn’t be a concern.
The Way You Can Be the Church This Year
The meeting closed with Greear reminding The Summit Church body that “even when you can’t come to church, we can still be the church.” He then gave two ways that they can be the church this year. The first was by gathering for worship and prayer in smaller groups, and the second was engaging others in intentional discipleship relationships.
Greear says they will remain flexible as reports come from the governor and the CDC. “God is not surprised by this. He knew that it was coming, and He is going to equip us to facilitate a movement of disciples making disciples.”
The Summit Church offers various ways to stream their services as well as a way listen to them by phone.