I had breakfast with my dad this morning. We were exploring what the Western church will look like on the other side of COVID-19. We agreed that even churches who have been open for months on-site are still running less than half of the live attendance they did a year ago. What will happen with the half who have not returned is most uncertain. Some will return, some will remain connected on-line, some will shift to other churches and some will take an exit ramp out of practicing Christianity. On the up-side, almost every church has a stronger, more interactive and better quality on-line presence than they did last year. We talked about a place where churches could begin the rebuilding process. He said we must strengthen what remains.
“Strengthen what remains.” Makes good sense to me.
“Strengthen what remains” feels like a practical Word from God. A place to start building. The first thing we must do is fight an urge to “go back to the way we were.” Let’s face it, most churches were in decline before the pandemic; who wants to go back to that? We can’t go back, it isn’t there anymore. We must press forward. All churches have lost something over the past year and your church may have lost much, but if you are still open, you have not lost everything. Had you lost everything, your building would be for sale, God would be dead, Jesus would still be in the tomb and the Holy Spirit would have retired from active duty. We have NOT lost everything. I have heard it said by churches leaders, “I have nothing left to lose” but that is not true either. Let’s face it, things can always be worse and we can always lose more but I do not believe this is our destiny.
It is not lost on me that the Bible closes with a church triumphant. Battered, bruised, causality laden and kicked around a bit but triumphant. In Revelation 3, Jesus speaks to the church at Sardis. It was a church who had lost much more than they even realized. His command is to “wake up and strengthen what little remains.” Jesus is reminding your church and mine that we possess something upon which we can build. We just have to see it. Let me offer a place to begin:
Strengthening What Remains…
- Contact Make personal contact with all former attendees you have not seen since the pandemic began. See how they are doing. Pray for them. Tell them you can’t wait until everyone is back together in live worship! Ask them to pray for an incredible Easter celebration!
- Commit Make a commitment to keep your on-line presence a priority. You may have picked up some on-line viewers over the past few months who are either shut-in or live too far away to ever attend live worship. Let them know they are important. Ask how you can improve your on-line ministries. Listen to their ideas.
- Celebrate Celebrate the people who have returned to live worship each week and thank them for their presence. Ask yourself, “What are we providing that they could never experience were they not physically present?”
- Concentrate Stay vigilant concerning your mitigation efforts. Let people know what you are doing to keep them safe, do what you tell them and offer transparent reports.
- Connect Encourage your people to evangelistically connect with the people in their real time and virtual world. Equip your live attendees to invite their friends and ask your on-line attendees to check in each week and share your services.
As we slowly begin to emerge from a year where Satan has taken his best shot to steal, kill and destroy the church, let’s heed the words of Jesus. Rather than focus on what we have lost, let’s focus on strengthening what remains. By allowing what is still standing in our churches to become a foundation to build upon, we discover that we have far more than we ever imagined.
Take heart, churches who are experiencing great difficulty, discouragement and trial, we have something to build upon!
I am bullish on the Church of Jesus Christ.
The Bible is bullish on the Church of Jesus Christ.
Let’s begin by “strengthening what remains” and move from there.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights. Illinois.