-Rev Melissa Fain-
First: the state of church pre-Covid-19
A article in 2018 found that in 2004 only 17% of the US population attended church on a regular basis. It was a stunning difference from a Gallup poll which found the number to be 40%. The difference happened when people tried to reconstruct their life for pollsters, they saw their life as shinier and nicer than it actually was. It's called the "Halo Effect." There's an episode of Blackish where Dre and Bow believe they are church people. Only when they try to recall all the times they went to church, they were all on Easter.
Conversely, those within the walls are hyper-involved. In fact, many are turning to small group meetings over and beyond the large sanctuary worship.
A Pew Study found that the church is getting older, as in the median age of congregants have gone up from 46 to 49 since 2007. The study also saw that the churches that are growing typically have a lower median age compared to the the churches that are dying.
Throughout the years, every church treasurer at every church I've been employed to, has expressed that Easter is the biggest Sunday for offering. I also know churches are boldly expressive when it comes to the good news, and suddenly shuddered when it comes to the bad. Considering how difficult it is to find even one article about the state of the church during this pandemic, I'm prone to believe things are not going well.
Second: The Church camp effect
You can fake Utopia in small doses. Really. It's called Church camp. You take a hundred or so like minded Christian kids, and put them together for a week. You teach them the theology they already believe, and for one short week you live Christ's Kingdom on earth.
It is terribly misleading.
Yeah, I said that right. It's not real. It never is. As a Church Camp counselor and director I've seen behind the curtain. All the adults know it would all fall apart if it lasted longer than a few weeks. Youth would begin to protest the schedule, or not spending enough time with their friends. (They do that anyway, just FYI.) The cost would become too prohibitive for the lower income campers. The adults would lose it. We love the kids, but we can't be bubbles and sunshine for months on end. We also want to be adults.
We set up a facade, give the youth a beautiful week of pretend, and then tell them to make that world at home. We don't bring real. We don't explain that their abuser will still be there when they get home. We don't tell them that many people don't want to buy into Utopia because of the front loaded work it requires. We tell them there is a world without bullies, but the ones at school still exist.
So we pretend in church.
Yeah, I said that right. We create this beautiful bubble of perfection every Sunday morning. Many of these churches don't even discuss the real outside world aside from a quick skim of the surface. Outside the building good people die. Bad people win. Christ engaged those situations, yet we gloss over them. Why? Because church has turned into a pretend utopia. That's why those inside are hyper-religious, and those outside are hyper-disconnected. Church stopped caring about the reality of the outside unless it's to hand something out.
If this makes you uncomfortable, good! Discomfort can help us grow. If you are only in a church that makes you comfortable, you are doing it wrong.
Third: The Covid-19 Effect
A few things happened when an entire country went into self-isolation:
Finally: The Way Ahead
Whether it's 40%, 17% or something in between of the American population who attend some kind of worship, a majority of people are outside the physical church. A majority of funds are going into the building. Doesn't that seem wrong? Isn't it time to start seeing our own backyard in the same way we think of missions overseas? I made the conscious choice to go where the majority of God's people have gone, back when that choice was still a choice, and not a mandate.
I have to ask, why go back? Why continue that illusion, when you know what it is? Christ is real. When Christ is real, we go to reality to find Christ. See what I mean? Christ is perfection, but lives in imperfection. Why? Why not find truth, because anything else is false.