Recently there have been a number of articles in Christian magazines and blog sites, as well as YouTube videos, about what the Post-COVID church will be like. All the “experts” believe there will be some permanent changes in the patterns of worship, church life and ministry after the pandemic settles down and we return to some kind of new normal.1 I’ve been reading and listening to as many of these as possible, and I’d like to share five observations with you:
(1) Active church congregations will be smaller. Even the largest megachurches are preparing for shrinkage in membership, income and outreach.
(2) The pandemic has accelerated a trend that’s been going on for more than twenty years. Back in April of 2019, The Gallup Poll published a report entitled, “U.S. Church Membership Down Sharply in Past Two Decades.”2 The researchers found that, even among those who considered themselves believers, affiliation with a church was less likely.
(3) There will be more of a focus on young adults, and less on older, more traditional members. Of course, this comes at a price: members over 50 are the major financial supporters of churches and their staffs. This is sure to make it more difficult to build stable financial empires.
(4) There is also a tendency among some groups to harden lines and to retrench to more traditional belief systems. It’s amazing to see how many videos on YouTube are of Christian leaders attacking each other over relatively minor differences in doctrine or practice.3
(5) The “experts” haven’t got a clue. That’s my bottom-line observation.
I’d like to share two examples for those who wish to follow up on this study. The first begins with a June 2020 video4 by Dr. Paul Maxwell, one of the most respected Evangelical voices on state-of-the-art strategies for church growth. Ironically, nine months later, Maxwell posted another video in which he explains that he is no longer a Christian believer.5 This man’s Post-COVID non-faith is not an inspiration to anyone.
The second example is a very thoughtful analysis by a group of Roman Catholic historians who speak of the trend away from church as a “Religious Recession” and predict that their Church would soon be “half as big as it was thirty years ago.”6 At the same time, its members would be asked to support “an infrastructure built for a church that no longer exists.” Wow!
I have observations on what we might anticipate Post-COVID ABC might be like. I’ve become very encouraged as I thought about this. However, I don’t want to rush it, so I’ll continue with that part of the discussion in next week’s Messenger. Do you think you can wait?
– Pastor George Van Alstine
1 If you want to read more about this, see articles:
3 This tendency of returning to more hard-core orthodoxy tests seems to be escalating. I’m toying with labeling it “Making Evangelicalism Fundamentalistic Again” and producing a line of MEFA hats and T-shirts.
4 “Seven Ways Churches Will Change After COVID” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjk4hYyU3Ds