COVID is killing the church
The church may be done for sooner than some calculated.
You may have wondered how congregations who experienced dwindling numbers before the pandemic are going to survive.
Here’s the truth. They’re not.
Covid is killing the church. Even healthy, vital congregations (or those projecting vitality) are riding through deep pains and significant losses. Diminished giving is a norm. Already tight budgets cannot take more hits.
And Covid isn’t over.
And inflation just hit a 40-year high.
If you haven’t noticed, I am a local pastor in what I think we can all admit is an economically repressed area. Middle to high-end housing developments aren’t popping up anywhere here in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, for example. That new family moving in with the kids and the income to support healthy programming and social services is an exception, not a norm here in Susquehanna County. Recent high school and college graduates are leaving the area. Less recent high school and college graduates have already gone.
Vitality is a word that may seem scarce these days. To that end, I was paid to write this column when I began here in 2018. It was token money—something that was very welcomed that helped with grocery shopping. I was paid every two weeks. Since the pandemic began, that added gift to my income is gone. The paper can’t afford columnists. I have been writing this column for free since 2020.
In the face of all of this, read with me the following four verses with unblemished joy:
- “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).”
- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17)!”
- “Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized [Scythian], slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3: 9-11).”
- “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:18-19).”
The Apostle Paul is the author of Colossians. He is right when he says in 3:11 that Christ IS all that matters.
Thank you, Paul. The stuff I mentioned ahead of the scripture cited is just stuff. In this life we do have trials and tribulations (John 16:33). I haven’t lost heart.
But where? Is there joy in the pressures and the pains of a congregational life too close to death?
No, this is not joyful. This is painful.
So, let’s not look at what isn’t. Let’s look at what is.
Our joy is in the LORD. Yes, we want the grand joy in the worship practices and traditions we grieve. Those days of glory where the sound of a hymn sung by a full congregation was rich and magnificent—and of course uplifting. But, as you heard in 2 Corinthians 4:14-6-17, our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our current Covid sorrows. So much is wasting away these days. The old IS gone (or going) and the new is here.
What is the new? The new is in what God is doing these days. God is creating something new from something old. We need to be reminded that Christ is all that matters. The Son of God lives in us, not in a building.
It may help us to remember that the church in Corinth the Apostle Paul wrote to isn’t there anymore. Its doors closed. But this never stopped God from being God. This tangible loss, hardship and setback didn’t stop Christians, either. Vines do need to be pruned in order for new growth to occur. This is happening today.
Have joy even in a season of loss and despair. Why? Because in the wasteland, God is making a way through both wilderness and streams.