A crisis doesn’t create character, it reveals character.
This is true in life, marriage, business, church . . . everywhere.
If the fundamentals are strong, a crisis will reveal that. If they’re weak, it will expose the cracks.
In recent months, as we’ve been anticipating the end of the COVID-19 shutdowns, I’ve noticed this distinction in the churches I work with.
There’s no middle ground.
During the pandemic, healthy churches got healthier while unhealthy churches were much more susceptible to splits, scandals and closure.
These trends are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.Very few churches will be able to sustain themselves while muddling along in traditionalism, trend-chasing or any other business-as-usual state. Click To Tweet
Very few churches will be able to sustain themselves while muddling along in traditionalism, trend-chasing or any other business-as-usual state.
There’s a great division in the works. An ecclesiastical version of “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”. But this time it won’t be about finances or attendance. It will be about the resilience of being healthy and the unsustainability of ill-health.
Here are five trends that have been exposed by pandemic lockdowns that will likely continue for a long time.
1. Healthy Churches Will Keep Getting Stronger
Perhaps the biggest post-pandemic surprise is how many churches are doing exceptionally well. Numerically, spiritually, financially, in every way.
And it’s not necessarily the churches that were already on a numerical growth track. It’s healthy churches of all types and sizes.
Going into the pandemic many expected that if lockdowns lasted long (which, of course, they did) they would have a mostly negative effect on virtually all churches. So why are so many congregations doing so well?
The difference is health.Churches that had a long-term focus on the essentials before the pandemic were far more likely to have grown stronger during it. And they're gaining ground as we come out of it. Click To Tweet
Churches that had a long-term focus on the essentials before the pandemic were far more likely to have grown stronger during it. And they’re gaining ground as we come out of it.
When times are difficult the essentials really are essential.
This is not a short-term trend. There’s a growing appreciation for churches that have done the hard work of building a strong foundation in faith, prayer, discipleship, worship and outside-the-walls ministry and evangelism.
2. Adaptable Churches Will Become Even More Resilient
For many years churches have used innovative methods to keep up with the pace of change.
During the pandemic lockdowns change was no longer how we stayed fresh and innovative, it became a matter of survival.During the pandemic lockdowns change was no longer how we stayed fresh and innovative, it became a matter of survival. Click To Tweet
These lessons are likely to stay in our hearts, minds and muscle memory for quite some time.
As we return to in-person church we need keep adapting. The crisis is changing, but we won’t see an end to the fallout – or the need to adapt quickly – for a long time.
3. Majoring On the Minors Won’t Just Be A Distraction, It Will Be Deadly
There was a fascinating and often heartbreaking conglomeration of issues during the pandemic lockdowns.
We weren’t just struggling through a health crisis. It was overlayed with multiple issues including political upheaval, racial strife and abuse of authority. This contributed to our growing distrust of all major institutions – the church included.
The strongest, healthiest churches are those that operate with integrity while focusing on the essentials of the faith. Especially during seasons of upheaval.
Churches that emphasize important, but nonessential issues may get pats on the back and gather crowds for a while, but they won’t see long-term growth – numerically or spiritually.Don't build your hopes for the future on how well you respond to the hot-button issues of the day. It won't sustain. Click To Tweet
Don’t build your hopes for the future on how well you respond to the hot-button issues of the day. It won’t sustain.
4. Church Size Is Becoming Less Important
Bigger isn’t better. It never was.
Smaller isn’t better either. But as we come out of a crisis, obsessing over numbers feels old and tired.
Quality over quantity is about to make a comeback.
There is no consensus about what newer generations are looking for. They’re too individualistic and independent to be categorized. But there is a significant number of them that won’t just be ambivalent about church size, they’ll prefer a smaller, more intimate setting.
More home-grown. More cross-generational. More hands-on. And more accountable.
Again, this doesn’t mean small churches are better. But they are coming back on people’s radar again.
5. The Next Crisis Will Accelerate And Amplify These Differences
Yes, the next crisis.
We live in a broken world. It’s not a matter of if something bad is coming, but when.
No, I’m not a pessimist. And I don’t live in fear. And I’m not making any predictions. But bad things happen. Hurricanes, floods, fires, tornadoes and pandemics come and go.
Healthy churches need to be ready to help people get through the next one without hoarding or panicking.
One of the likely outcomes of our next crisis, whatever it may be, is that it will continue to accelerate and amplify the current changes, just like the Covid-19 crisis did.Healthy churches will keep getting healthier. Divided and partisan churches will erode from the inside-out. Click To Tweet
Healthy churches will keep getting healthier. Divided and partisan churches will erode from the inside-out.
Some churches that look strong will have their weaknesses exposed, while many churches that seem to be struggling or stuck will rise up as giants of the faith.
Now more than ever it’s essential to emphasize the essentials, enforce the foundations of our faith, and bring the hope of Jesus to a hurting world.
(Photo by Joe Pearson | Unsplash)