Hebrews 10:24-25 – And 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.
The past few weeks I have seen what I believe is an unhealthy trend in churches that, at least to me, seems fairly new.
I live in Maryland. We don’t get a lot of snow, but when it snows, the average Marylander freaks out and purchases enough toilet paper, bottled water, and liquor to last a couple of pandemics. The past couple of weeks, we have had snow. It isn’t Minnesota snow, but to a Marylander, it might as well be equivalent to the Rocky Mountains.
During this time, we have had several conversations about whether we should close down for the weather or remain open. We decided upon using everyone’s favorite pandemic word and did a hybrid service. We cancelled our 8:30 AM outdoor service (because who in their right mind would want to be sitting out in the falling snow) and kept the 10:30 AM indoor service unchanged.
As the one who posts the majority of the social media on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, I made it point to follow all the local churches around us. What I noticed is that the past 2 weeks, a large portion of the churches around us closed down due to the snow.
I don’t remember that happening on such a large scale and I am thinking, completely unscientifically of course, that it has to do with the COVID comfort that we have all slid into.
Allow me to explain.
When COVID hit, many churches weren’t allowed to be open except for a few people who were considered essential to streaming a service. This led to every church out there becoming a streaming facility.
The leaders in the churches became increasingly comfortable in becoming a modern-day version of a televangelist. The congregations became increasingly comfortable sitting at home in their pajamas watching the stream.
Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
We have already noticed, in reading the like of Thom Rainer, Ed Stetzer and others, that the average church lost over 60% of their volunteer base and are finding it difficult to rebuild it again (I can concur with this, by the way. As the guy who’s title is Director of Ministry & Outreach, finding volunteers who are comfortable returning to church is a tall order these days, we have had to rebuild from scratch).
But now add to the fact that people are more easily swayed to say, “It is going to be bad weather, I don’t think I want to risk going to church today.”
On Sunday we had 90 people in our sanctuary. COVID restrictions allow us to have 118 (50% of fire code). So we were well below the restriction, but we also were not missing a lot of people. Our average attendance between 2 services since coming back has been somewhere between 130-150 each week. For a church that was about 200 pre-COVID, I am pretty excited about that number.
So to see 90 people come out on a snow-covered Sunday, warmed my heart. But we also saw a significant increase in online viewership.
I know the local megachurch down the street cancelled its services. They had nothing, not even a stream. The other larger church near us cancelled their services as well. So between those 2 churches alone, over 2,000 people didn’t go to church!
Matthew 12:30 – Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
Meanwhile, we had 90 in the service, 41 watching on Facebook, 50 watching on YouTube, and 36 watching on our website. If we assume only one viewer per social outlet, that means we were at 217 people celebrating with us.
Imagine if we hadn’t met. Would those 90 have “gone” to church?
I think we live in a world of double standards. It is too dangerous to go out and drive 5 miles in the snow but you better not close my church for a pandemic. And I think we also have become numb and comfortable to the fact that we can just turn on the TV, the computer, or the iPad and watch a service any time we want.
And I am guilty of creating that culture.
I think as leaders we should consider our actions. Have we made it too easy on our congregations to stay at home on Sunday? Have we enabled them to simply soak but not serve? Are we training up a generation of complacency?
I don’t have the answers. That is why I am asking. What do you think?
1 Thessalonians 5:11 – Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.