As congregations return methodically to in-person services, something else will be taking place. It will be obvious to some churches; it will be more subtle to others. Simply stated, churches will have an incredible window of opportunity to make substantive and positive changes.
We have been watching closely the responses of congregations and their leaders during the pandemic. We have surveyed thousands of them during our webinars. There seems to be little doubt. God is using this difficult season to prepare churches for unprecedented opportunities.
Why is the window of opportunity opening right now? Of course, the correct answer and perspective is that God is opening the window for our churches. But it is fascinating to see specifically how He is working in our congregations. I see at least five reasons for this new and exciting opportunity.
- Church members are more unified in the midst of the challenges. This crisis has brought our congregations together. Nitpicking and self-serving has transitioned to praying and serving. More of our members are focused beyond themselves. God is preparing them to move in greater passion and obedience to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
- Our congregations have been exposed to a variety of worship experiences. Have you ever seen a church member’s perspective and attitude change dramatically for the better when he or she went on a mission trip? That church member becomes aware of a world and cultures dramatically different from her own. Our church members have been exposed to hundreds of streaming worship services. Many of them look and sound nothing like their own. Their world has expanded for the better.
- Many church members have already made changes. I received a comment from an older church member who made the transition to digital giving during the pandemic. His words were likely meant to be humorous: “I swore I would never give online because I was certain it was the abode of the devil.” His willingness to change to digital giving is but a microcosm of the changes many church members have already made. They will likely be receptive and prepared for even more change.
- The community is more receptive. In most communities, those who don’t attend church have been watching streaming worship services. Many of the residents of these communities have requested prayer. Many churches have been highly intentional to reach out to members of the community. The window of opportunity is wide open in these communities.
- Church members are anticipating and celebrating re-gathering in person. They are more in the mood of joy and celebration rather than complaining and nitpicking. They are not nearly as focused on themselves. This pandemic has made them realize that their churches, as imperfect as they are, truly are blessings from God. They are not taking their churches for granted.
It is indeed a window of opportunity. If past major events are indicative, this window of opportunity will remain open for several months to a year.
God has given us an opportunity.
We cannot and must not let it go to waste.
Posted on June 21, 2020
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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I so enjoyed our Priest Father Elliot of St. Peter’s, Birch Cove, Halifax, he did a super job of bringing our service to us on a Sunday morning at 10 am via You Tube. I have spoken to many in our congregation who are looking forward to returning to our Church Home. Years ago someone said to me, Sylvia do you always go to church on a Sunday,? my reply of course he is with me all the 6 days and I visit him at home on a Sunday.
Thom S. Rainer.
Thanks for the very good Work you doing and continually doing according to the Grace God our Lord accorded you.
In is true that many Church were planted with ease many year ago. Some were Church of God, yet some were Church of Man (pastor’s).
So, followers that are not strong in the Lord were carried away with winds blowing from the ‘pastor’s) church wrong doctrine which does not put God first.
Actually, and in the light of truth many of such Church will go parking!
The good and God-spirited Churches suffer GREAT setback for people who are not spirituality mature finds it difficult to understand which is the true Church.
We cry for help and real help to fund the latter Church. And is only God’s led People who knows where the cries are pointing to can HELP.
We, crying in the Street with our Lord Jesus’ voice early morning and any other time. Need True, undelayed support; making us firmer in this end- times move. We are slim but happy we could be encouraged and used as a channel to reaching to encourage the failing good Churches of God.
Who can help, that wants to help? There is a need today in Nigeria – the Church of God must not Go down even in the light of COVID-19 PANDEMICS.
Pst Isaac GODSO
It has been amazing to me how our offerings have grown during this pandemic. We used to have a “hit and miss” our weekly budget needs, but during this pandemic, our offerings have been more than our budget needs almost every Sunday. We had a locked offering box in the Secretaries office for people that wanted to bring theirs in, and many people mailed their offerings in to the church. It was amazing how well the people responded! We started out with only a radio service (which we have had for many years). We, Pastor and I, recorded our announcements and prayers to be inserted with sermons that were recorded from past years. That was only for about 4 Sundays. Then, we progressed to having Pastor and the praise group (small choir), which I also participated in and was able to do the announcements and offertory prayer live for the radio service. Then we opened up for worship services, with open doors so no one had to handle them, social distancing, and wearing masks. Then our first communion with the Deaconesses preparing the cups using plastic gloves and wearing masks. We have the communion plates on the communion table and a Deacon on each end removing the empty ones as people come forward and take theirs, returning to their seats. Then we take communion together. The communion cups (loaf in bottom cup and grape juice in top cup, stacked together) are spaced every other position so they can be taken without having to touch the other ones. It was a new experience to see people coming up to take their communion cups, but we had several positive comments about that process. Our attendance has grown slightly every Sunday (Praise God for that!). We continue to “ribbon off” every other row, sitting six feet apart from other family groups, and recommend social distancing with wearing masks when approaching each other. We have had a few new families attending who heard us on radio, and that is a blessing. Our State (Indiana) is currently in Stage 4 of opening up with Stage 5 scheduled for this 4th of July. Restaurants are now open at 75% capacity which makes life seem more normal. We have started some of the summer baseball games for kids and that is great! Of course, still trying to conform with social distancing except for family members. We will all get through this strange time, hopefully not in the too distant future. The most disheartening now is the riots and destruction of property and historical statues. Our country sure needs Jesus! Thank you for your words of encouragement with your e-mail program. God bless you for your help in times of need.
Thom, I come from a liturgical Church and many were clamoring to get back to the corporate rituals that feed their personal and private prayer ….and scriptural studies during the week. I am not sure how ‘unified’ they are but what I have been preaching and speaking (phone ministry) to them about is how they have become the Domestic Church when regulations prevented them coming to the church building. I agree with #4…people are receptive to new opportunities as long as they are faithful to the tradition. I speak about us wanting to be both “being bold and faithful.” With #5, initially we added extra services and we found that we did not need them. Only about 20 % have returned. We cancelled the extra services. We are back with the government allowing 25 % capacity. In our service I am always “encouraging” those watching via live stream but never shaming or coercive. We have 5% more people watching the live stream than we had sitting in the pews before Covid hit. I am trying to be invitational to see if they will move from seeker to visitor and then eventually to member. Its about proposing not imposing.
Thank you for the great update. Keep us in the loop. Some of the churches that were fairly effective before the pandemic are indeed working on plans to move people strategically from digital anonymous to digital known to in-person + digital.
Interesting the comments on these 5 points. Number one appears to be most questioned. I agree that many have been isolated and that creates emotional and health issues. I am becoming more away of that issue for our senior adult in the assisted living and nursing homes. But over the last few months many of our fellowship have stepped forward to weekly call, write notes and pray for are more venerable members. In that movement I have noticed positive growth in awareness of others and a desire to serve in new ways. I have been amazed at how so many of our seniors adults welcomed Zoom meetings and online services. Our online giving growth has blown us away with the generosity of our members. Our eyes have been opened to so many new avenues of reaching people and new ministries never explored before. Church may never look the same but it wan’t supposed to stay static. Maybe God knew we needed a kick to move forward to reach a very dying and lost world.
I fully agree that these five reasons are valid however, I fear this virus and the ramifications of it have made online church services more convenient to so many, getting them back into church may be difficult.
I have not found these observations to be correct. In fact, I have found the opposite to be true on many of them, especially #5. We have experienced more division during this time than in much of my ministry. As for #1, I think many people on our community have been at home alone for an extended period of time and have been inwardly focused. That is just my experience, but I don’t think that we can count on these opportunities to be as readily available as this article predicts.
Based on what I am seeing in our church and those in our area & state, I’m not sure about #1. I hope and pray it will play out that way in the long run, and I have preached about it. However, the polarization of our culture has impacted God’s people. Mask wearers vs. “never-maskers;” people upset about having to “sign up to go to church;” and then we have the varying (often generational) views of the racial tensions in our culture. Satan is hard at work trying to destroy unity. I pray God’s people don’t give him a foothold!
Thanks for all you’ve done to help in these days, Thom.
My prayers for you and your church, Bill.
Thanks, Thom. There is a long history of unity here, but we don’t take it for granted. We’ve survived several situations that could have spit the church during my time here, but by God’s grace they did not. As a result, I’ve been surprised at the level of angst over “lesser things” like masks. Just before COVID hit, I was preaching thru Romans and we spent time on chapter 14! If I were doing it today, I’d say, “Meat = masks!” 🙂
You give Satan too much credit. It is easy work to have disunity. All that is required is for leadership to see nothing wrong with the person on one end of the pew not being polite to the person on the other end because of that person’s lot in life or opinion. I know there is more to Christianity than “be nice” but “love your neighbor as yourself” is one of the basic tenets that has been tragically forgotten.
This is beautifully optimistic and great for some churches who are seeing and engaging these. Unfortunately as I read through it I was stung deeply to realize my congregation is going the opposite direction in each of these – despite my best efforts to embrace each one. Most are staying home still, due to the fear mongering going on. Many, including elected leaders, who live only blocks away, go out most, or all day, in recreation inside and outside elsewhere but stay in Sunday morning “to be safe.” I really do celebrate churches who are doing these things or seeing them come to fruition. I can only hope ours will wake up.
I pray things will get better for your church, Walter.