hrough the COVID-19 pandemic we have navigated through difficult times in a short season. From the initial spread of the sickness we have watched as the nation’s leaders implemented social distancing restrictions and shutdown the entire economy. This has not only drastically impacted the economic sphere, but it has likewise greatly disrupted the functionality of the local church.
Throughout the pandemic, the Christian community has been forced to make use of technology for the purpose of interaction, teaching, preaching, and worship. While this may have caused the church to think outside of the box, it has necessitated critical thinking by leaders to ensure that the church doesn’t think outside the book—the Bible.
Over the past few months, we have learned new phrases and terms such as:
- Social Distancing
- Shelter-in-place order
- Flattening the curve
- PPE or personal protective equipment
- Herd blocking
Just this past week, a Delta Airlines representative stated that they would be a “smaller Delta” moving forward. We hear people in different industries talking about the new normal of their economic circles such as restaurants and sporting events.
As it pertains to the local church, should part-time church become the new normal? In many evangelical settings, the evening church service on Sunday had been in steady decline for years. Many upstart church plants among younger populations establish their pattern for church gatherings to avoid Sunday evening services from the beginning, but now with the pandemic social distancing culture that is likely to continue through the summer, it will likely cause many churches to do away with their Sunday evening church service indefinitely.
Throughout the spread of the COVID-19 disease, data has proven to point out the need for people among the elderly demographic and those people with compromised health conditions to hold to a more strict shelter-in-place and social distancing pattern. However, as the conditions improve and shelter-in-place orders are lifted—should the comfort and safety of the home replace the gathering of the church family?
Wisdom is needed from on a membership and leadership level in order to navigate such challenges. It’s wise for leaders to be patient with the members and especially the elderly as they begin to return to a normal flow of life and ministry. However, during this process of coming out of the home and returning to normal patterns of life—the church should not be the last place on your list to return to normal.
If you can go to the grocery store weekly and have public interactions with the general public in stores that contain many different contact points, but you can’t go to church and sit in a worship environment where strict social distancing policies are in place, you should probably check your heart. If you have no desire to return to church because you’ve come to a place where you feel safe and secure in your home and believe that you can just use technology for the foreseeable future, you should check your heart.
We don’t need the President of the United States to inform us that church is essential. We already knew that, because God has made that known to us in the pages of Scripture. In Hebrews 10:25 we see clearly that we are to be gathering together and avoiding the sinful patterns of neglecting the gathering of the church. We are to stir-up one another to love and good works. All through the pages of Scripture we find the reference to fellowship and such Christian fellowship is not possible to maintain through Zoom interactions.
A temporary season of isolation may be necessary during a pandemic, but if you’re young, healthy, and restrictions have been lifted which enable you to gather and yet you continue to isolate yourself form the church, that likely points to a spiritual problem in your heart. If the pandemic has caused you to become complacent, disconnected, and slothful in your service and worship of God—you should repent.
My goal is not to shame anyone into returning to church too soon, but I am absolutely interested in exposing the idea that part-time Christianity and part-time church membership is the new normal. That’s simply not true. The goal of the church should be to return to a normal ministry pattern and reject the new normal attitude of part-time service and worship of God which is simply not God’s will for the church. Be wise, but also skeptical of any idea that seeks to keep the church from gathering and functioning the way God intends. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once wrote the following:
We must grasp once again, the idea of church membership as being the membership of the body of Christ and as the biggest honour which can come a man’s way in this world. 
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Knowing the Times, (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), 30.