“Church life, as we know it, may implode” (from my book, Spiritual Prepper, released in 2017.) That might be one way to describe church life during the COVID-19 initial outbreak and lockdowns. It may even be a way to describe church life now in the aftermath and continuation of COVID.
In a 2014 blog post, I wrote that one of the realities we needed to be prepared to face was that “the American church as we know it will change.” Now, as you’ll see, I didn’t foresee it occurring due to a pandemic, but rather I envisioned it coming due to attacks on our religious liberty. This is what I wrote then:
“If America faces tribulation and change, so will churches in America. But I believe church as we know it can change far before that point. Under the Obama Administration, it appeared the freedoms of our churches were headed for fundamental changes. One possibility I have heard mentioned is the possibility of church giving losing its ‘tax-deductible’ status, which threatens to change church as we know it. What happens to Christians in America when there aren’t elaborate children’s ministries? What happens when cutting-edge music has the plug pulled? What happens when there are no full-time pastors? What happens when big buildings can’t be afforded? Again, if we are struggling to remain faithful in such times of blessings how will we then? Whether that is a way in which things for the church will change who knows, and at that, the loss of giving is probably the least of what could happen to the American church.”
I launched Stand Firm because I was concerned that if the church as we knew it changed, it would have a domino effect on our faith.
I was wrong on the church-changing catalyst, but I was sure right about changes within the church as we knew it impacting our faith. For most churches, attendance has remained lower since the start of the pandemic. Many church members have not returned to church. Programs and outreach haven’t returned to full speed. Many who once were faithfully involved in their church are no longer involved much at all.
We know our gathering together regularly and our involvement in a local church is vital for our faith, but it isn’t the epitome of our faith. Yet our commitment to our local church is often like the tip of an iceberg. If the iceberg exists, there will be a tip visible above the waterline. And the more substance of the iceberg exists under the water, the more of a tip that will be exposed. I believe this same principle applies to our personal faith and our participation in a local church. Often if we’re not participating in a local church, we don’t have much going on in our faith. Even if one is disillusioned by church and has tried to live out their faith “outside the camp” they’ve likely seen their own faith and its expression wither without the encouragement of a local church.
There’s no doubt that fewer church members are attending worship services and church events. There’s also likely evidence those who attend are doing less than they were. It may not be necessary for us to return to exactly what we were doing in church before COVID, but our faithfully following Christ and carrying out the Great Commission shouldn’t waver.
I’d argue that our following and gospel-fishing have likely suffered. COVID-19 has slowed us down in our walk with the Lord. We need to realize that it’s likely it has, and we need to take a COVID test. No, not a giant Q-tip run up our noses, but an evaluation of the direction our walk with the Lord has taken the past couple of years. Would you take that test? I have a feeling we’re all positive to some degree; we’ve all shrunk back due to COVID. Here are some questions to consider:
• Are you as connected to your local body of believers more or less since COVID?
• Are you being encouraged by other believers more or less since COVID?
• Are you encouraging other believers more or less since COVID?
• Are you in the Word more or less since COVID?
• Are you being taught/discipled more or less since COVID?
• Are you discipling others more or less since COVID?
• Are you growing in your faith more or less since COVID?
• Are you serving the Lord locally more or less since COVID?
• Are you displaying the love of Jesus more or less since COVID?
• Are you building relationships within your neighborhood and personal networks more or less since COVID?
• Are you sharing the Gospel more or less since COVID?
• Are you faithful in your daily devotional time more or less since COVID?
• Are you praying more or less since COVID?
• Are you helping raise up the next generation in Christ more or less since COVID?
• Are you engaged in missions more or less since COVID?
• Are you giving more or less since COVID?
I’ve had several COVID tests, and I leave with watery eyes and a burning nose. They aren’t fun, but they’re necessary. This COVID test may not be fun, but it’s also necessary. Things may never return to “normal,” but we must recalibrate and continue growing and carrying out the Great Commission. We need to see if we’re standing firm or not.
Jake is available for revivals and preaching learn more at standfirmministries.com.