The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
Are you excited for a new year? I think most of us would answer that question with a resounding “YES!” Most people were extra glad to turn the calendar to 2021. A new year brings renewed expectations. In regards to church life, I’m both enthusiastic and encouraged about this new year. I’m excited for our upcoming men’s discipleship opportunities, a new series about turning our eyes back to Jesus, upcoming baptisms, vaccines for COVID, and to see what the Lord has in store for His church in 2021. With the excitement for this new year comes a great deal of uncertainties. Churches and pastors enter this year with more uncertainties than ever before. While we are certain that God is still on His throne and He is still mighty to save, we are uncertain about the effects of COVID on the future of the church. A number of articles/blogs have recently been written about church trends and expectations for the future. I’ll share just a few of them.
- The majority of attenders may no longer be in the room. “Physical church attendance has been in decline for decades and COVID in all likelihood accelerated the decline even further. The average church has seen their re-opened attendance come in around 36% of previous levels.” (We have been at 42% the past few weeks in comparison to 2019.)
- Some Pastors will try to fill auditoriums while others focus on fulfilling the Mission. While we love full rooms and worship centers, we must realize that is not our highest aim. Fulfilling the Great Commission is Lord’s mission for His church! As we attempt to “get everybody back” we must not lose sight of the mission of reaching people and making disciples.
- Growing Churches will see the internet and their buildings differently. “Right now, most pastors are using church online to get people into the building. In the future, most pastors will use the building to reach people online.” I believe we must continue to put a high priority on producing the best possible content in order to connect with people who are watching online. During COVID, we have reached some people who first started watching online before they ever came to a service. Solid, biblical, online content matters as we must use every available means to get the Word of God to people.
- Generational differences will become clearer than ever. According to surveys, every generation except the Boomers “had a preference for hybrid (a combination of in-person and digital gathering) or digital gatherings.” While I may desire everybody to just come back after COVID is gone, I think it would be foolish to think that digital gatherings will disappear.
- The political and ideological churches will lose influence with the unchurched. “Unchurched people aren’t looking for politics or ideology. They’re looking for Christ.” I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of politics and want to preach, teach, and share Jesus Christ.
None of us know how the church is going to look when the dust of COVID settles. While I may wish everything would just go back to normal, I think the assertion that “leaders who see opportunities instead of obstacles will thrive.” Just as COVID made us get out of our comfort zones and make necessary adjustments, I think it is imperative to see some of the changes as opportunities as opposed to obstacles. We must acknowledge that the population around us is increasing rapidly while the majority of churches are plateaued or declining. I suspect God wants to use this pandemic as a wake-up call for His church. May we be a church that says, “wherever You lead we will go!”