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The State of the Church

Church leaders globally are wrestling with what “The Church” will look like and what the future will look like. However, before we can look to the future, we must understand The Church of today. One thing for sure that we can stand on is “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrew 13:8).
As we begin this conversation, I know it will lead us into a deeper collective discussion about the challenges facing many churches today.
The first point for our consideration is that The Church is in “mourning.”
Today, our COVID numbers are much lower than in 2020 and 2021. Some churches opened their doors and expected people to come flooding back. The reality is that many of our senior members and some young adults came back slower than we anticipated. This issue is more complicated than we have space for, but one of the reasons why some are not coming back is because the people they formed relationships with have died.
In some cases, their leaders died, family members died, and church members died. Let us not forget that churches were restricted in the number of people attending funerals. The typical methods for dealing with grief were interrupted. While church leaders expect to have The Church full, let’s remember that some of our people are still mourning and may not be coming back yet. We, The Church, must pay attention to the mental wellness of our congregations.
The second point of consideration is the language we used during COVID.
This is a subtle point, but it needs to be included in our conversation. During COVID, “The Church” went digital! We tried conveying to our perishers that this digital reality is just another method of having Church. We used language like, “Your home is an extension of the Church.” We said, “We are having Church, we are going, house to house.”
Some brought into this ideology. Now, we want the people to come back to the physical Church. We want them to leave their homes that we spent time telling them that their homes were an extension of the Church. If they are going to leave the comfort of their homes (the extension of The Church), we need to redefine our language. We must use a language that makes The Physical Church sound interesting.
The third point for our consideration is “Membership Indifference.”
Our communities face many challenges, such as affordable housing, food insecurities, economic and budget shortfalls, compassionate fatigue, etc. Many in our congregations are overwhelmed. Some of our congregants are empathic about all the issues around them, but they are burned out. These factors may explain why giving is down in many of our churches. Our churches, communities, and nation suffered losses in many areas of life. Some people are suffering from the effects of long-term COVID-19 symptoms. Some people are just not willing to go back to the physical Church.
As many of our young folks say, “Life be life-ing.” No matter how life is affecting our congregations, God is still sovereign! According to the Pew Research report, November 16-27, 2022, “Black Protestants have experienced a substantial bounce in physical attendance, from a low of 14% in July 2020 to 41% in the recent survey.”
Hebrew 13:8 is still correct, “God is still God-ing.”

 

— By Bishop Trevor D. Alexander, True Vine Church, San Antonio

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