One victim of Covid-19 seems wholly unaware of its real symptoms. And that victim is the Christian church. At least, this was my recent impression, when we decided we were finally leaving a church in our area to find another. And you may have noticed this disconnect too. While your congregation’s leaders are sanitizing their hands yet again, their churches appear to be rapidly dying from a self-inflicted wound.
Take our modest house of worship, for example. Since the end of lockdowns, attendance has been cut in half. During any normal time and under sane leadership, that fact would be cause for extremely sober concern. And some real talk. However, in 2020, Christians simply shrug their shoulders. And go about their atomized lives, masks and all.
“We’ll just stream it on Facebook and reach the whole world!” they naively say.
But most churches, I suspect, are quietly dividing into two types of people. On the one hand, you have the conformers of various types. They cite Bible verses about submitting to authorities or claim to be acting in an abundance of caution. In any event, they line up, get their temperature checked, and never get too close to too many other members. Oh, and they make sure they’re seen in their masks.
What might be the true symptoms of this ravaging disease of conformity?
- A hollowing out of fellowship when churches were already struggling to engage people
- A disconnected, creepy evangelism that disappears into the blackhole of Facebook
- A loss of trust in discipleship from elders who lack any discernment and courage
- A forfeiture of moral authority from a church that cannot live apart from the world
This is what church looks like in 2020, in the time of the Covidians.
On the other hand, you have the second type of member. They remain keyed into being set apart from the world. And maybe they’ve noticed that Covid isn’t all it was cracked up to be. All the same, they’re less concerned about fear or the optics of fear. They also seem to remember something about a guy named Paul, who apparently illegally converted gentiles to Christianity.
The first side views the second as rebellious; the second views the first as lukewarm. But the affliction has undeniable consequences.
Still, for us, leaving a church isn’t to be taken lightly. But when another family in our congregation said they had had enough of de-humanizing masks, we tactfully took our concerns to leadership. Around that time, I wrote about the many families across the country expressing similar concerns to me. Sounds fine, right?
Then our church had one single asymptomatic positive case. So, they shut down the church for weeks.
How do you say goodbye to a church that won’t even open?
It’s not unlike teachers who refuse to go back to school. In a sensible era, schools exist to educate children, not to simply employ people on a payroll. If someone is afraid to teach kids, perhaps another profession is in order? Conversely, you wouldn’t expect people not to openly question your intentions or your abilities.
Yet, many churches believe you can have church without tangible fellowship, discipleship, or evangelism.
In the end, the email we received back merely confirmed the zeal of the Covidians. Sanitized and devoid of spirit, it felt more like something you get from a customer service department. And this from church leadership.
“Sorry to see you go. This is a difficult time with the pandemic.”
Yes, indeed. The concern is palpable and obvious.