COVID CHRISTIAN CHURCH
by Trevor DeVage
I said last week and I repeated this Sunday my conviction that the church will not—we dare not—get back to “normal” once this crisis is over. The old normal just won’t work anymore. And it shouldn’t. Here are three ways the church must be different after the quarantine is lifted.
1. GATHERING WILL BECOME IMPORTANT.
Some have wondered whether people will return to church buildings after so many weeks of watching online. I believe they’ll be eager to return. More than ever they’ll want to experience the body of Christ as it gathers for fellowship and worship.
But I believe our gathering will be more focused. We’ll understand as never before that we gather to scatter: “While I’m here, what will equip me to go back to the world for Christ?”
And preachers will need to ask, “What are we scattering our people toward?”
Even now, in this time of social distancing, the church is functioning seven days a week. We’re distributing food to those left without. We’re conducting online prayer sessions, small group meetings, elective classes, and youth meetings. We’re emailing and phoning to check in on each other. (Our seniors minister has personally contacted every person over 60 on his list!)
All those long-distance, through-the-week connections remind us that the work of God is among the people we’ve been staying in touch with. We’ll gather for fuel to continue his work with them every day, not just on Sunday.
2. SIMPLICITY WILL BECOME VALUED.
Without all the busyness, without all the hurry, life for many these days has become simpler. They have no choice but to dispense with most of the extra around the edges. But their relationship with God through the church has remained. And for many it has deepened.
Meanwhile, many who feel out of control because of all the pandemic’s punches to their reality are turning toward God. Carey Nieuwhof blogged that 49 percent of all churches are growing right now. “Church growth just spiked by 300 percent in the last month,” he reported. Just two paragraphs from his powerful post explain what’s happening:
The collapse of so many people’s worlds has got them asking deeper questions, and, thank God, they’re still looking to the church to help.
Instead of seeing online church as an obstacle, many church leaders are realizing it’s an unprecedented opportunity.
It’s happening with our church. Some 7,000 viewers stayed with our online services at least 20 minutes this weekend. (By the way, the 20-minute benchmark is a much more conservative way to count online viewership than some use.)
And attendance isn’t the only growth metric. I’ve spoken with many church leaders who say giving is higher than ever before. People are investing in what they see really matters.
When isolation eases, I’m praying we’ll grow out of viewing church as one segment of our lives and discover how our relationship with God through his people is our very lifeblood. It won’t need to be complicated. In fact, the simple strategy we introduced earlier is perfect for the new world we’ll experience: Pray. Invite. Engage. I believe many Christians will be ready to introduce others to the meaning many have sought as they’ve struggled at home alone.
3. NEW WAYS TO COMMUNICATE WILL BECOME VITAL.
Content won’t change, but the way we deliver it will change. Even as many gather physically, many will continue to engage online. This will change preaching. Several ways come to mind:
• Platforms and pulpits are not required. Teaching can be effective from office or living room.
• Big fixes are possible with minimal cost. Camera angle and inexpensive lighting properly placed greatly improve how the speaker appears on a screen.
• We look at the camera and not around at an empty room. The camera is the gateway into the eyes of those watching.
• Content volume will be trimmed as we offer smaller snippets more often with concentrated substance and value.
• Authenticity will grow from a buzzword to become a central strategy. Viewers value transparency as never before.
Meanwhile I’ve been thinking about another type of communication that is becoming central for me. I’m discovering how it multiplies power, and I’m becoming power hungry…just not how you think. That’s what I want to talk about in next week’s post.
What changes in church are you valuing most? What’s different these days that you hope to see continue? What will the new normal look like in your faith and ministry?