The American church faces an upset like never before. The insidious coronavirus has slammed shut church doors–locking out the faithful from gathered worship. The effects may be long-lasting.
For smaller churches already dealing with offering plate malnutrition, existing week to week to make payroll, this crisis may be their economic tipping point. Their doors may not re-open after the plague passes.
For larger churches that have built their ministry, market advantage, style, and success around crowd size, these are worrisome times.
What is happening? Where is God in all of this? For insight, I asked noted minister and author Max Lucado to chime in on this week’s Holy Soup podcast.
“We don’t need to be afraid,” he said from his empty church building. “The Holy Spirit is not limited to a church building.”
We may be suffering from a “perilous pestilence” of biblical proportions, Lucado said. That may lead to an entirely different way of doing church. Will the suppression of gathered crowds forever reshape the church? Lucado asked, “Is this a form of Diaspora? Is this a form of God saying, ‘Okay, you’ve become too comfortable–in big buildings, or in nice buildings, and traditional preaching?'”
Might this Diaspora picture lead to a scattering of the faithful? (Reminds me of the questions we raised in the film When God Left the Building.) Will the church’s image move from a Sunday morning spectator event to a more relational priesthood-of-all-believers movement–a different kind of “viral community spread”? We’ll see.
In the meantime, a scared and disoriented population needs the “peace that passes all understanding” that God’s people can share. Now, more than ever.