A disturbing trend is impacting American culture, and their challenges are problematic to the Christian Church. People are learning to live comfortably without God in their lives. This trend accelerated rapidly around the turn of the century and has not slowed down. It has even intensified because of COVID 19 and social distancing. This global pandemic has caused lockdowns, travel bans, economic turmoil, and closure of most public institutions, including weekly church services.
Because of the Coronavirus, financial institutions have transitioned and made necessary adjustments with telebanking, the health industry has mobilized with telehealth, and the retail and food industry has moved to curbside catering. Yet, the church has had difficulty pivoting to meet
the challenges that face the church. Christian churches worldwide have chosen to respond in various ways to the pandemic. Pastors, including many who have never done so, are live streaming their sermons on the internet. An online church service might include music, announcements, and
a children’s sermon, as well as the pastor’s sermon and an invitation to accept Jesus Christ into your life.
There are two vital issues facing today's church. The increasing unchurched population and a new group of Christians have discovered a way to experience church from the comfort of their private spaces. Many churchgoers have, by necessity, stayed at home on Sunday mornings for health
concerns; however, so many have found real benefits in online church service, and now staying home has become their worship venue of choice out of convenience. This new group is adding to that unchurched population. A Pew Institute study showed the following:
“46 percent of adults are now unchurched – an increase from the 35 percent in 2005.”
“62 percent of the unchurched consider themselves to be Christian.”
“59 percent of Americans disconnect from church life either permanently or for a prolonged period between the ages of fifteen and twenty-nine.”
“48 percent of the unchurched indicate they are not connected to a church because it provides no value.”
“14 percent of unchurched people said they are open to trying a new church.”
Attracting churchless people to the corporate faith will require more than a few incremental refinements in outreach strategy and tactics. To address this problem, the church must structure an evangelism initiative that may look different from previous models. No longer can the building structure lie dormant and unused during the week.
One paradigm shift could be the church building as we know it must be used differently than in the past. No longer should church kitchens be used only on Sundays to serve breakfast, dinner, or special events. Consider reimagining the kitchen, a food pantry that assist in feeding a hungry community throughout the week. Consider the church becoming a gathering place the community can utilize for recreation, meetings, fellowship
and education. Consider the church having a community garden available to the community to help maintain and share among neighbors.
In most cases, the church will have one chance at persuading the churchless community to return for another look or a “new experience.” We cannot afford to underestimate, misuse, or waste the opportunity to recapture those who have left the church.
Online church service cannot replace “the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25, NKJV). Still, it is a good way of having church, especially when faced with circumstances beyond our control that prevents us from being together. What does this mean for the St. John Baptist Church in Woodford, Virginia? With a new pastor and vision, we have an opportunity of not being afraid to take new chances. I’m asking you to join me as we turn the page, closing out a long chapter in the history of this great institution called St. John Baptist Church. Together we can begin writing a new chapter where everyone’s story has value, and every plot has a meaningful and learning message.
As we add to the rich tapestry of the church’s history, I believe with all my heart that this book we write together will be listed on God’s best seller list. I can hear the Master say, “My good branch St. John Baptist Church, you’ve done well, and I am pleased. I will bless you with more because you’ve been faithful with a few”.
Grace and Peace be yours in abundance,
Rev. Dr. Tony J. Craddock, Sr., Pastor