…praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:47 ESV
Coming out of the COVID crisis every pastor in the country was thinking, “Wow, I’m looking forward to all the people coming back to church.”
They didn’t all come back.
A few churches have the same attendance. Some are growing, but most churches are dealing with 60 percent of pre-COVID attendance. Everybody knew that because of 2020 the church of 2021 wouldn’t be like the church of 2019.
Most weren’t expecting a 40 percent loss.
For those of us who love the church, please be patient as I get more depressing for a moment. Online services are tanking now. Churches once had thousands of online views, then had hundreds, and now dozens.
Even more depressing (I will get hopeful soon) – almost every pastor that I talk with about the Church post-COVID bemoans the lack of volunteers. As churches restarted with programmatic needs for worship teams, children’s ministry workers, and many other service areas – the volunteers came back at 60 percent.
COVID isn’t entirely responsible.
Church attendance loss trends were in place before 2020. Travel, affluence, kids’ sports, busy weeks, the tension of right or left politics, and a growing spirit of self-indulgent doubt have been eliminating church membership for years.
Pastor Grant, I’m depressed!
Okay, let’s continue to pray and have hope. God has this! He is sovereign.
Throughout church history, in every age, when the church seemed weak with downward attendance, loosening morals, and challenging doubt, that’s when the skeptic’s chorus of glee grew loudest – that “Finally! We can get rid of the obstinate and narrow-minded Christians.”
Well, as Mark Twain quipped, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Keep praying and watch. We are not witnessing the ominous sounds of the Church’s death but the precursor of revival. If the 60 percent come back committed, with the church pruned, new growth will result.
With Jesus as the head of the church – have faith. I’m hearing in conversations with distressed pastors talk of renewed dreams and passion. In the fallow fields of post-COVID church, signs of life are sprouting.
The church that I pastored for 49 years started in the Jesus Movement.
In the latter 1960s teenagers left the church, drugs were everywhere, and the streets had protests. While in church buildings, the parishioners sat in suits and dresses, singing old hymns, and seemingly irrelevant.
Sound familiar? Perhaps the only difference – shorts and sandals rather than suits and dresses.
God moved in the latter ‘60s. Eleven million young people spontaneously became Christians in a few years.
It will happen again soon. All have trials, all have difficulties, and all have questions.
Some have chosen to focus on the doubt, thinking of growing irrelevancy in the church, and dwelling in a self-congratulatory skepticism.
Others – the 60 percent – choose to face their doubt with engaged love. Love always wins.
The world is ripe for revival.