The church is in crisis.

Pastors and laymen have witnessed first-hand change to the American church. The church has suffered a major decline in attendance over the past three decades. The crisis began when COVID-19 showed up.

The virus is a catalyst for the decline in church attendance. When our state-issued the “shelter in place” — everything stopped. Ten weeks later, we reopened the church doors.

Members return to worship services has been much slower than anticipated.

Carey Nieuwhof said: “The return to church will not be the rush leaders hoped. As tempting as it will be to reopen the doors and believe everyone is coming back, the data (right now) shows that’s not the case.”

The national polls revealed that only 35% of congregants returned to their church building. Shocking!

Change is here. We are facing unprecedented times. Therefore, decades of church planting and church experience did not prepare us for this season. A recent poll of church leaders asked when people would feel “safe” to gather again in public?

Responses included:

  • 10% admitted they were unsure.
  • 25% said they aren’t coming back for a long time.
  • 30% said they’d instead worship at home and return when masks are no longer an option.

The answers are all over the map. Some churches will not reopen until 2021.

“North Point Community Churches announced in-person gatherings will be postponed through the end of 2020.

This announcement by Pastor Andy Stanley was surprising and captured national attention. Pastor Andy decided to error on the side of safety. The opinions from the public and parishioners were positive and negative. Pastor Andy faced brutal criticism.

We live in times where every decision is challenged. Everyone has an opinion and a social media account. So, we spew our thoughts without the proper experience or expertise.

We can make the best of this and here’s how:

Get informed

We live in the information age. All information is not equal. Every day we read lies, fake news, and news from unverified sources. It is imperative that we find information with data and substance. In order to make good decisions, we must have adequate, reliable information.

So, do your homework.

Don’t follow the zealots

There are zealots on both sides of the church crisis. Some don’t even believe the virus is real. That is fake news at its best. We have others afraid of everything.

The Christian zealots believe we should not give COVID-19 any consideration. We must find the balance by knowing the truth.

There are simple things everyone can do. Common sense says, protect the elderly and the sick, wear a mask, wash your hands, and social distance in crowds. These are excellent fundamentals for staying healthy and COVID-19 free.

COVID-19 planning

Never assume you know where the virus is going or not going. The virus may go away, and it may come back. Prepare for both. Prepare for COVID-19 to be around and determine how your church will respond.

Churches should plan for long term COVID-19  and post COVID-19.  A plan will ground us and prepare us to move forward. The worst thing a church can do is nothing.

If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.

Don’t look back

A common mantra of churches — we’ve always done it this way. Do not look for a quick return to the old ways.

Do we want the same results as the last 50 years? Not this time.

“There is nothing permanent except change” — Heraclitus.

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change” — Albert Einstein.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” — Winston Churchill.

Some want to return to the good ol’ days. What happens if those days never return? We have placed much of our importance in gathering. There is a biblical command to gather, but we know the mission of the church was never focused on a building.

Refocus the mission

Whether we meet in a building or not, the mission of the church has not changed. The mission had a church before the church had a mission.

The Pandemic has changed our gatherings, but not our mission and purpose. Many are confused about the purpose of the church. The church is not a building, entity, or organization. The church is a group of believers called by God to accomplish His purpose. The church is an organism. It is alive and well and will flourish again.

The church looks dead. Just remember, so did Jesus. God, resurrected Jesus from the dead and He will resurrect His church.

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3–4, NKJV).

Yes, that’s real.

Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail.” (Matthew 16:18, NKJV).

The church is God’s idea and will survive and thrive.

“For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27, NKJV)

No one and no-thing can annul what God will do in the coming months.

Get ready. Get ready. It’s about to get interesting.

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