I am going to be straightforward in this post. There are simple facts emerging that simply cannot be denied. Every church in America will be drastically smaller next year.
Our church is currently experiencing what every single church in our country is experiencing. I imagine every pastor has/is walking this road.
When the coronavirus hit in March, we, like all congregations, closed our doors in response to the unknown threat to the people in our congregation. The decision was made out of genuine love and care for our people. We turned on a dime to move to online services and worked to move all of our small groups to Facebook live groups.
At first the novelty of online church was quirky and fun. “Hey, we get to go to church in our pjs!” As time passed the novelty wore off. The specialness of church, gathering in fellowship with other believers, was just not there. Many who may have attended online at first grew disenchanted with watching and tuned out.
I knew we needed to open back up. As soon as we got the go ahead to reopen we did. Week one we were open jumping through whatever hoops we needed to so that we might gather. I will tell you that I expected a packed house when we reopened. It just did not happen. Where many folks returned to life as normal in other parts of life, they did not return to church.
I genuinely thought closing the physical campus of the church would have been the most difficult challenge I would have faced this year. I had no clue as to the war reopening would be. As we did our absolute best to create a safe environment, we were blindsided by the massive war between folks over their beliefs in government overstep, whether the virus was real, whether we should or should not wear masks, etc. For many, ground zero for those fights happened in the church.
Can I shoot straight? We have had people call into our office and tear our secretaries apart because of our attempts at reopening. We have people who have quit the church and still refuse to talk to me because of our church’s attempts to reopen in this time.
In response to that, we loosened our policies taking a “do what you think is best” approach. When we did that, many of our more cautious members stopped coming as they no longer felt safe in the body. Lose. Lose.
We are not considering others as more important than ourselves but instead waging war and leaving the church as a casualty to our neverending fight.
I would say that my time, stress, and ministry over the past few months has been in attempting to pursue unity in a time where everyone is at war. It has been to keep our church gospel focused in the midst of culture, political, pandemic, and societal wars.
I have had a greater concern though. As I greet at the doors of the church and stand to preach, my heart is broken by the faces and friends I have not seen since March. My heart is broken to see the empty pews, and I fear there are folks who may not come back to our church or any church. For them, departure from the church is not because of one thing or the other but instead because they simply have gotten on with life minus the church.
Most experts are predicting that EVERY church will see a 20-30% decline in attendance and giving. On top of that churches and non profits are seeing a substantial decrease in volunteers.
I have urged, pleaded, guilted, and begged folks to come back. I see the spiritual and emotional deterioration of my people’s lives because they have stepped away from God and the fellowship of the local church, and I want to do everything I can to restore them.
Here is the truth. You desperately need your church. There is more though. Your church desperately needs you.
Financially we cannot survive if the people of the church don’t come back. If we see the 30% decrease in giving, we will have to look at a staff position and ask if it can be filled. We have worked slim over the last year pinching every penny, but without restored giving, ministries will have to be cut.
We need you! Your church body needs you!
More than financially, we have had incredible folks serve the church in the last year. We need people to commit again to serve in the church. We need every Sunday school class and small group to gather again.
We exist to serve Jesus and our community.
When the Bible describes the body of Christ it calls it a body. We depend on every single member of our body to succeed. You matter to the success of our church.
Here is my request. As we come to the last weeks of 2020 and begin to look forward to a new year, would you make the commitment to FBC Vidalia? Would you commit to regularly attend our church? We need you. Would you make the commitment to find a place to serve within our church? We need you.
Here is the big one: because we need everyone in church, would you put your brother ahead of yourself through setting aside any of the war 2020 has brought to us and do whatever is necessary to build the church again?
Your church needs you.