Two-and-a-half-years since the beginning of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the rebound of American church attendance remains stalled.
Various surveys find that upwards of 25% to 33% of Christians who previously attended services prior to the virus shutdowns have not returned to their pre-pandemic routines.
Carey Nieuwhof, a former pastor and church leadership strategist, told Christianity Today:
“In 2022, the constant cycle of hope and disappointment will give way to the new reality that this is your church. It will become evident that some of the people who said they’re coming back later clearly aren’t coming back—ever.”
One pastor told me, “Here we are trying to encourage non-Christians to visit our churches, and yet, many of our own people won’t even come back!”
Singling out the one primary reason for this disturbing and disappointing trend would be difficult, but the lean towards online worship inevitably remains in the top tier of explanations.
Virtual worship services pre-date the pandemic, of course, but many churches went all in when they were either forced to close their doors or when their congregations or communities balked at the prospect of traditional gatherings. Online services in many churches today represent something of a polished television program with online-only introductions, numerous camera angles, and pastoral shoutouts specifically geared for the at-home viewer.
Every church needs to prayerfully consider their calling, and some may feel especially well positioned and prepared to evangelize those who would never otherwise darken the doors of a traditional church. It’s good to exploit technology for all its worth in the pursuit of the Great Commission.
But for Christians who have grown accustomed to the convenience of streaming the Sunday morning service in their pajamas or sweats, the pathway is far clearer and more direct:
It’s past time to get back to attending church in person. If you’re comfortable going out to dinner on Saturday night, there’s no reason you can’t go to church on Sunday morning.
“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near,” wrote the author of Hebrews (10: 24-25).
Some may suggest it’s possible to love one another in various ways beyond being together at a church service, but there is no adequate substitute for being together in fellowship. The Holy Spirit works in marvelous and wondrous ways when believers congregate. By staying away from your church’s services, you’re snubbing your nose at one of the Lord’s great gifts.
The late pastor Dr. Adrian Rogers was once preaching on Jesus appearing to the apostles following His Resurrection. As you will recall, Thomas was absent, and later painfully doubted the veracity of the story. “You never know what you’re going to miss if you skip church on Sunday!” observed Dr. Rogers.
Your church congregation needs you – and you need them, too.
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