The pandemic has permanently changed the way we think about church.
There’s no question that the yearlong church shutdown because of the COVID-19 virus changed a lot about doing church. Pastors who had never taken livestreaming seriously were suddenly asking about video cameras and the best streaming platforms. Pastors who had never looked twice at social media started connecting regularly with their followers. In the last 12 months I’ve personally taught more than 1,000 pastors from around the world how to make online worship services more effective.
But the conversation at the forefront of church leaders today is “What will church look like after COVID?” When this is all over for good, will things change? The good news is that pastors and church leaders discovered two important themes over the last year:
1. Church doesn’t just happen in a building. It happens anywhere and anytime.
2. Instead of spending so much money and effort getting the community to come to the church, maybe it’s time the church went to the community.
Which brings me to what I think is about to happen in churches around the world:
1. Livestreaming has changed everything and will continue. Certainly we want to meet physically, but we’ve discovered that we can have small groups made up of people around the world, not just in our neighborhood. We’ve discovered that people can enjoy worship online. And we’ve discovered people will continue to support the church financially—even when they’re not in the building.
2. Sunday services are about to undergo a shakeup. I’m talking to numerous pastors who have no intention of going back into the building every week. Instead, they’ll connect online at least two Sundays a month, and then physically meet once or twice a month. But those physical meetings will be more like a “boot camp” where believers get far more serious about seeking God.
3. Churches are moving into the communities. Churches across the country are becoming COVID vaccination centers. Some churches (like The Dream Center in Los Angeles) have been a vital link for food, paper supplies, and other necessities during the shutdown. Baptist churches across Texas stepped up during the recent freezing temperatures to help deliver food and water. We’re about to shift from “church” being all about a building, to “church” being all about the community.
4. Churches will never look at the government the same way again. Pastors happily went the extra mile when politicians asked them to shut down for a period, but when it went on for months and months, we knew something was up. Over and over governors and mayors had no problem with people loitering in shopping malls, or packing into casinos, but they kept churches closed. If you don’t think we live in a secular society, then it’s time to think again. Moving forward, we must be more vigilant than ever to protect our right to worship.
5. We know that the best way to protect that right is to become “essential” to our communities. Far too many churches have devolved into social gatherings where like-minded people enjoy each other and make no effort beyond the doors. But to make a real impact we need to become a blazing fire that changes the world. It’s time we re-kindled the New Testament church passion—not just for evangelism and sharing the story of Jesus—but for ministering to every need in a person’s life. People don’t need to be church members for us to help—we just need to step out there and make it happen.
The future of the post-COVID church will not be the status quo, and that’s a good thing. Which is why it’s the perfect time to show the world what we can become.
This article originally appeared on PhilCooke.com and is reposted here by permission.