Kenton Anderson, President of Northwest Baptist Seminary and Professor of Homiletics at ACTS Seminaries of Trinity Western University.
We are now in our sixth week of COVID-caused isolation. Like you, I have listened to multiple online sermons from my pastor, along with a variety of video-recorded attempts to replicate our normal expectation for church and Christian community. I don’t know about you, but it leaves a lot to be desired. Don’t get me wrong. I love my pastor and I have deep appreciation for everything that he and his colleagues are offering. It’s just that video is a poor substitute for human presence.
There has been a lot to be encouraged about in these early days. I have heard numerous anecdotal reports of meaningful ministry and of people awakening to a new interest in God and the things of the Spirit. Most churches are reporting surprisingly high “view counts” for their online sermons. For this we are grateful and give praise to our God.
That said, we are all beginning to realize that we will be in this reality for a very long time. It is hard to imagine how governments and health departments are going to allow us to gather in large numbers until such time as we have a widely accessible vaccine. That will likely take us well into 2021. View counts are notoriously limited as a metric, given that the average YouTube view length is less than 2 minutes long. Distraction levels are much higher at home than they are at church. Can we imagine sustaining our church ministries in this manner for another 12-18 months?
I suspect we are going to have to rethink the nature of the church, and that might not be such a bad thing. For a long time, we have conceived of the church in terms of our large group Sunday gathering, and while that will always be true, this might give us a chance to reset the church as something less consumeristic and something more meaningfully engaged.
I don’t yet know exactly what that might look like, especially when we are not allowed to be physically present to one another. But I am confident that we will find a way. God will preserve his church. It will be interesting to see what shape of church he is going to lead us toward.