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The last Langstaff Letter on the Post-Pandemic Church brought significant comments, so I thought I would follow it up with a “Part 2.” Just a reminder that as we looked at paradigm shifts that have been happening in the church in recent times, we considered paradigm shifts with the post-pandemic church. I suggested three areas of change that will shape the wineskin, not the wine (i.e., the shape and structure of the church, not its essential message).
- The Digital Revolution
- Retaining the Personal Touch – Small Groups
- Building a Counter Culture Community/Church
So let’s look at some more issues that face the post-pandemic church.
WILL THEY RETURN?
There are two main groups of people that have not been physically attending church:
- Those that were either not able or not permitted to attend church, and
- Those that could have attended but chose not to, so as to avoid contact with people and possibly COVID-19.
There is a question as to how many of these people will return to church. No one knows for sure, but it is certain that not all will return to the church.
Take this email I received: “I am still working through your latest blog. It is certainly a timely one. I have found myself becoming quite comfortable staying home and live streaming instead of making the effort to haul out to church. Lately, we have chosen that option because [my husband] has been getting a lot of dental work done, and he did not want to risk getting covid and having that whole process interrupted. For me, I find I go out a lot all week and it is really nice to just stay home on Sundays. We do go to our church’s growth group meetings on Monday nights, and I attend a ladies Bible study on Tuesday night. I have no issue attending these activities. Maybe live streaming is all going to be part of the post-pandemic culture. It is really nice for times when a person is sick, or a young family has sick ones who need to stay home.”
Notice those words “I have found myself becoming quite comfortable staying home and live streaming instead of making the effort to haul out to church.” Note too, that she was still involved in small relational groups within the church. The post-pandemic church will have to work on convicting people of the importance and value of being a gathered church community again.
DIGITAL EFFECT ON CHURCH LIFE
One reader from Germany wrote, “I have had conversations as to how the pandemic might change the church short term and long term. Worship services have been very restricted here- and one of the concerns is how to keep in touch with church members”.
The Barna Report says 3 in 5 church adults (63%) believe churches should continue leveraging digital resources for discipleship – even after the pandemic is resolved. Also, the Barna Group has a program to help churches combine digital & in-person opportunities to meet the needs of people. I.E,. a Hybrid Church model (shop.barna.com).
A PARADIGM SHIFT WITH MARRIAGE & FAMILY
The pandemic has placed an added stress on marriage and family. At the same time, it is a call for the post-pandemic church to serve the needs of marriage and family. One Minnesota Twin Cities leader wrote:
“People need the relational component in our increasingly secularized, post-Christian society. The pandemic is driving people home to work and do school. There will be a reversal of some of that when the social restrictions are lifted, but I’d expect to see more people working from home, which it seems is coming full circle back to the agrarian society where the economic life of the family was in the home. I think that’s a good thing.
I do think marriage and family need to be rediscovered as the primary center for evangelizing and discipling people. Problem is most people have very little understanding on how to do that because we’ve had such a church-building-based approach to life. Marriage isn’t even a priority in the traditional church. 80% of traditional churches spend zero ministry dollars on marriage ministry.”
A call in the post-pandemic church is to give more attention to marriage and family.
FINANCES & THE POST PANDEMIC CHURCH
With church services closed or restricted, the issues of adequate finances arose, along with the need for alternative means of making contributions and offerings to the church.
Those churches who anticipated the advent of electronic commerce in an essentially cashless society and had trained their congregation to contribute that way were prepared; others were not. In the year before the virus struck, I visited a dozen churches in the Minneapolis/St Paul (Twin Cities) area to see what was happening in other places. In one of the largest churches in the Twin Cities, there was no offering and no mention of an offering in that particular service. Albeit there were collection boxes in the foyer if you wanted to give, they had obviously taught the congregation other ways to give.
Incidentally, I feel that there should be reference to giving and prayer offered in the worship service, as giving is part of worship, even if it is received electronically.
TRAVELING MINISTRIES IN A POST PANDEMIC WORLD
I have a number of ministry friends who, up to 12 months ago, were continually traveling in ministry both in America and overseas. Many of them have had all that dry up, as they have been forced to sit at home waiting for the pandemic to end. I have felt for many of them who depend on the honorariums received in ministry travel to fund their ministry. At the same time, I rejoice in the stories I hear of how God has stepped in and provided funds in miraculous ways.
One wonders if there will be fewer traveling ministries and more Zoom meetings. A friend who travels extensively told me he has already done a Zoom conference, and there is possibly one coming up in Busan, Korea. He commented, “Of course I prefer in person, but we will see what happens.”
Similar things are happening with missionaries. I know of a number who can’t get back to the country they are called to because of travel restrictions. These ministries and missionaries need our prayers.
GLOBAL CHURCH FOR A POST PANDEMIC ERA
In the previous Langstaff Letter, I failed to state that I was particularly writing about the post-pandemic church in America. I mentioned Joel Osteen’s congregation as being the largest one but did not say “in America.” One reader from Australia pointed this out to me:
“Perhaps you meant only the biggest in the USA, which is no doubt true. But it is certainly not the biggest in the world. That honour probably belongs to the Glory Dome in Nigeria, which seats 100,000 under a single roof. I believe also that another church in Nigeria plans this year to open an even bigger auditorium!”
Another leader, this one from Florida, wrote:
“I have been watching for the next solid and observable move of God and have been increasingly disappointed by what I have seen. I also knew the COVID crisis, which BECAME worse from bureaucratic mismanagement (spelled, human gov’ts) had the potential to radically impact the contemporary church model(s) and expose the global maleficence we are going to uncover.
However, in my hunger, I found incredible results happening in the Global South with the Disciple-Making Movement (DMM) which is impacting the kingdom with 100,000’s of conversions in “hard” places, like Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, China, So. America, and Africa. I submit this IS the global paradigm the may well represent the great revival we have all been anticipating.
Widespread, impactful, and thoroughly Biblical (the DMM movement is actually making OBEDIENT disciples via small house churches). This is going to be one of the USA/Western European (Global North) churches greatest challenges – to face their present model and the IMPOSED changes underway to complete the Great Commission.”
So, you can see there is a lot to be considered about the post-pandemic church. In some ways, I wish I was young again. It would be exciting to accept the challenge of seeking the Lord as to how to build in the midst of a paradigm shift.
We have to remember what Psalm 127:1a (NKJV) declares, “Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it.”
So in the coming post-pandemic paradigm shift, may the leaders and congregations of His church rise up and meet the challenge of a new day. May they seek the Lord’s guidance to discover His plans for His church in a post-pandemic age.