Thinking Out Loud

August 21, 2020

After 5½ Months Away from Church, Will They Return?

Filed under: Christianity, Church, current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:43 am

With most of the media focus on high profile churches which have been defying local and state laws on assembly, we can forget the many congregations which have been faithfully obeying the authorities and meeting through YouTube or Zoom.

With so much time away from their home church, Skye Jethani wondered if people had returned now that restrictions had eased and did a Twitter poll with 1,741 results; with most respones from the U.S. but some from other parts of the world. Here’s what they told him:

Many also added comments. Here’s a sample:

  • It was great to be in-person. But it was not normal.
  • we won’t be comfortable with in-person services for awhile anyway. And I never felt like I could get on board with virtual church.
  • I’m currently hired by a church to make their service videos, I’ve become somewhat burnt out by it. Having said that, the reason I’m burnt out is because the video follows more or less exactly the same as the service and disregards all the amazing possibilities media offers.
  • it feels like we’re herded to our seats and out the building like cattle.
  • I think we all have to just come to the realization that the old “normal” is gone forever and we have to just appreciate and be thankful for whatever semblance of normalcy we have right now
  • Our family uses @bibleproject Church at Home instead of streaming our service. The mandatory quarantine gave us the opportunity to step away from serving at the coffee bar every Sunday and reconsider church. My teenagers prefer the deeper discussion over 4 part sermon series.
  • Went to a live service for the first time in about 5 months. To be honest, I spent a lot of time wondering why most people weren’t wearing masks and how it showed a lack of concern for others there.
  • During this season our house church gathers and participates together online, we don’t “watch online” ;) – This moment seems a perfect opportunity to shift from church being a spectator sport into an actual conversation of a community.
  • Sometimes watch church online while multitasking. Used to be regular attender. Miss the in person fellowship. Huge loss in worshiping God.
  • In- person. But no where near back to normal. We ended up leaving our church and finding a new church body.
  • I’ve mostly tuned out the digital Sunday stuff and just listen to the sermon on podcast, but our missional community has continued to Zoom every week.
  • I selected that I’ve tuned out. In reality I attend when I am scheduled to run the sound board and stay home and stream services from other churches when I’m not.
  • In person with masks, limited to 30% of building capacity. I’m grateful that I was able to be there all along though – when gatherings in my province were limited to 5, I was one of those 5 who still got to go to each service to help with music etc for the livestream

And then there was this one:

  • Wish I could go, but too many people at my church aren’t taking it seriously. 1/3 singing without masks. Some showing up sick. Some even showing up with pending COVID tests. Trying to determine what faithful involvement can look like.

What about you? Comment here, or click the link if you have a Twitter account and comment with everyone else.

Churches will need to identify that 20.2% and reach out to learn if they’ve relocated or encourage them to return as things stabilize.

Photo: ABC News

March 27, 2020

Nothing Much to Add to What’s Being Said

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:22 am

“A lot of people will be home,” I reasoned, “And a lot of them will be bored.” As I have often repeated, at the ten year mark I granted myself exemption from the drive to post daily here, but I figured this would be a good time to be creating content. Unfortunately, as I tried to put pen to paper — so to speak — I found it very difficult to engage any form of creativity. I’ve thought of re-purposing older articles, which I might do yet, but again, my spirit is simply too restless. 

It seems ‘tone-deaf’ to raise other issues. I know it’s been business as usual for some bloggers and Tweeters, but try as you might, it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room. Hopefully the extremists and one-issue writers have found their concerns fading into the background at a time like this.

Christianity 201 reaches that 10-year mark next week. I think it’s going to be come a Monday to Friday type of devotional blog at that point, but instead of slowing down, I have written a rather large number of original articles over the past two weeks, instead of borrowing them as I normally do. I’ll say more about that on April 1st, our tenth birthday.

We’ve become locally focused. For the past two Saturday nights I’ve coordinated a community bulletin board letting our people here know who was having services, who was streaming services, and if so, where that content could be found online. The first week — when 2 or 3 churches were indeed still gathering — the service was found to be quite valuable, but last week people were settled into the new normal routine. I probably won’t bother this week.

I never realized the degree to which Sunday worship sets my personal rhythm. I wrote about this last week, but it’s truer now than it was then. We won’t be gathering this week, and as God’s people, it’s part of our DNA to gather.

We own a Christian bookstore which has been forced to close. We have an enormous rent payment due on April 1st, and the landlord has not replied to any request for rent relief. I don’t talk about the store much here because I have a separate publishing-industry blog, and furthermore, I don’t see it as the epicenter of who I am or what I do. But right now all those resources are just sitting there, literally gathering dust, and many of them would be most helpful to people at a time exactly like this. Unlike your local church — which is probably very thankful that so many of you set up pre-authorized giving — we have not one cent of revenue coming in and won’t until the day we reopen. Easter sales are lost. We were heading for a record-high month in what has started out as a strong year, but now that’s lost.

I am not bearing this time well. I find I have an undercurrent of restlessness. I spent a half-hour yesterday afternoon reading selections from an old NASB New Testament which was my father’s, but the calm it brought didn’t last. By evening, I was in full anxiety mode. I want the nightmare to end, but each item on the evening news, and each new post on Twitter seems to suggest this is going to go much longer than originally forecast. This is a particularly nasty virus.

This is how you stop a plague. I believe this works, I support the science. But it’s not easy. In the notes to an online worship set for the housebound, the band Rend Collective posted, “Social distance is good for our health and the health of others… But it’s not really good for our souls.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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