The COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted our personal, professional and spiritual lives. Yet more and more Christians are recognizing it as an opportunity to reflect, learn, and grow closer to God. From online services to spikes in Bible sales and faith-based Google searches, the church seems to not only be adjusting but thriving!
This has inspired some powerful discussions about the future of the church, revealing a few glaring weaknesses and some significant strengths.
So, what has our time apart taught us so far? Let’s take a deeper look.
Christians Find Comfort in Consistency
When the world experiences earth-shattering transformations, individuals and businesses often try and change with it. Ministries and ministry leaders have adapted their messages to stay current, and that’s a novel approach. But, it isn’t the only one. At least, not according to Ben Lowell, CEO of Back to the Bible Canada:
“Where we came down on it is that we needed to make sure that people knew, that what they expected from Back to the Bible is what they were going to continue to get: expositional bible teaching. There had to be something familiar and consistent in a time where the world was in chaos.”
By staying the course, Lowell is actually bucking the curve. He’s also noticing a difference, as more and more Christians seek out the familiar in a period of rapid transformation.
The True Value of Faith in Jesus
Those that anchor their value in the economy, career aspirations, relationships, or anything material are beginning to discover the limitations of their philosophy.
Not so for Christians. That’s because followers of Christ know that He is looking out for them. “God is involved in our long term good,” Lowell explains. “What we go through now is going to come and it’s going to go, but our faith in Christ is a long-term game.”
This isn’t a new development by any means, but it’s one that bears repeating. Christians and non-Christians are re-discovering the true value of faith in Jesus.
“The sureness of hope in eternity,” Lowell continues, provides Christians with the armour that we need to overcome whatever negative experiences we encounter.
What Really Constitutes Church
Social distancing has dramatically redefined the fundamentals of the church. At a time when spiritual guidance and community are critically important, Christians are not permitted to congregate as they usually would. Does that mean that the church as a physical and spiritual entity is no longer active? Not exactly.
Reflecting on that very same predicament, Don Millar, Program Director at Toronto’s JOY Radio and broadcast ministry veteran, asks, “If we say that we can’t do church without this or without that, and all of a sudden we find that we don’t have this, and we don’t have that, we’ve got to understand what really constitutes church.”
Of course, the church is more of a verb than a noun and what is more important than a building is that the word of God is being spoken.
“All of that other stuff fades away,” notes Ben Lowell. “But the word of God lasts forever.”
It Reveals Weaknesses, But There’s Room to Grow
“Maybe your church is too social if all of a sudden your churchgoers aren’t getting anything out of what you’re putting out there,” says Millar. “Many of these churches are more focussed on the community aspect of the church, more an event thing, than being a place to teach and learn the word of God.”
Ministries based solely on fellowship are bound to struggle any time the ability to gather together is hindered. It’s a weakness, but it’s one that can be corrected in due time.
The main takeaway is that, in order to sustain the long-term health of the church, ministries must focus on teaching and interpreting the Word of God while leaning into the technology that is now part of our modern world. This means communicating where people are now, exploring digital options like blogs, podcasts, and videos.
“We’ve got the technology,” explains Millar. “What this is doing is forcing the church to use the technology that we’ve been blessed with. After all of this is done, we will continue to use technology in an increasing way to glorify Him.”
Continuing to Learn… Together
COVID-19 will pass, but the lessons that it teaches us will live on. As will the technical skills that we develop, the relationships that we build, and the people that we help. The times have already taught the church a lot about itself, now it’s just a matter of putting those lessons to work. And we can only do that together.
If you want to hear the full conversation between JOY Radio’s Don Millar and Back to the Bible Canada’s Ben Lowell, listen below.