Christianity in a Post-Corona World
This Sunday, January 24, our two in-person sanctuary services (9:15 and 10:30) will return with our safety protocols in place (masks, temperature checks, social distancing). We will also continue our online service and live stream the 9:15.
Dr. Rubel Shelly and I are currently leading a Wednesday night class at 6:30 on “Christianity in a Post-Corona World.” We invite you to join us.
2020 was an incredibly challenging year for all, but especially for churches, priests, and ministers. Leading a faith community is difficult and taxing during normal times, much less during a global pandemic where people are being told to stay away from each other for the sake of public health – the exact opposite of what the Christian community usually does. Throw in hostile politics, racial tension, and you get a perfect storm of stress and emotional exhaustion.
The short term challenges and changes that have happened in churches are now obvious – virtual worship, live streaming, outdoor services, arguments over what is safe, suspending child care and Sunday School, declines in giving, Zoom meetings and Bible studies, and an ongoing challenge to keep people connected. What has not received as much attention are the permanent changes this pandemic is bringing to Christianity and the church. Here are TEN predictions:
1. Online church is here to stay. All churches should invest in their websites, streaming capabilities, and digital platforms for the 21st century. Even post-pandemic, the digital medium will continue to be essential and the preferred worship choice of many. This will allow churches to cast a much wider net. Live attendance numbers will likely take years to recover in most cases but will be supplemented virtually.
2. Many smaller and aging churches will be forced to close. This was already happening before Covid but will only be accelerated during this period. Larger churches will also experience a shuffling of members during this time.
3. Staffing structures will need to change. The same program staff needed pre-pandemic may not be needed when it’s over. New skill sets (including technological skills) will become even more important. A renewed emphasis on congregational care and healing will be necessary because of the stress, trauma, and grief that has resulted from the pandemic.
4. Difficult theological questions will need to be asked and explored. Why does God allow a pandemic to happen? How is God working in the midst of the pandemic? How is the faith community being called to serve those who are hurting?
5. A newfound appreciation for in-person fellowship, worship, and singing will continue to emerge. After months of being apart and looking at a TV or computer screen, Christians are more than ready to see each other in person and embrace. This process will evolve slowly as more and more people get the vaccination.
6. We will see a significant decline in unnecessary church meetings. Many churches are realizing how many committee meetings were taking place before where nothing was actually accomplished. People would simply go out of a sense of obligation and wonder why the meeting had to last so long.
7. The importance of active small groups will only grow. Those who have remained most connected to churches during this pandemic are most likely active in a small group or Sunday School class that gathers on a regular basis, even online. Effective small group leaders will be in even higher demand.
8. A deep hunger for hands-on mission will be present. Covid has been a legitimate obstacle for doing hands-on mission work which is where many find joy and meaning – building Habitat houses, hosting Room In The Inn, recovery groups, school partnerships, food pantries, mission trips. So much of this has been suspended because of how easily the virus spreads.
9. Churches that can successfully navigate the contentious political divide will draw new people. Many come to church to get away from awkward political tensions that divide, not to hear it from the pulpit. Ministers must be able to differentiate between “gospel issues” and “partisan issues.”
10. Preaching and teaching that relates biblical truths to everyday life challenges and that helps people find meaning and purpose through knowing Christ will prove most effective. Christ continues to offer the answers to many of society’s deepest problems.
These are only predictions. The coming months will tell if they prove to be accurate. What we do know for sure is that things will look and feel different on the other side of this pandemic. Change is inevitable. Growth for individuals and churches will be optional. Opportunities remain if churches are willing to take risks, think outside the box, and not live in fear.
January 24, 2023
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