COVID-19’s Long Term Effect on Church Attendance

     I was just thinking about how COVID-19, the Coronavirus, has changed the scope of American lifestyles.

     Since the outbreak of the virus in the United States, over 4.5 million have been reported as contracting COVID-19. That has resulted in over 154,000 deaths. In Arkansas (as of Aug. 3), 44,597 are reported to have contracted it, with 475 deaths. Certainly, those are disheartening numbers, but the virus has had a devastating effect in many more ways than just the areas of morbidity.

      In our state alone, thousands have been laid off from work, with others seeing their businesses temporarily closed. Still others — businesses, restaurants, manufacturers and numerous “mom and pop” stores — have been closed permanently. COVID-19 has definitely taken its toll on our state in a matter of a few months.

     Then there are the churches! I commend Governor Hutchinson for his concern for reopening houses of worship while continuing precautionary measures for the worshipers. We are blessed that Arkansas worshipers are not experiencing the heavy-handedness of a governor like the one in California.

     In the short term, churches have been compelled to adjust as never before in our state’s history. But what will be the long term effect?

     Just as the fast food businesses changed the way Americans eat, so livestreaming of church services has changed the way we worship. With 10 or more options for recording and transmitting, livestream has enabled churches of every size and locality to draw worshipers in while they sit in the comfort of their homes. Truly, during this pandemic where restrictions prevent many from attending in-person services, livestream is a blessing.

     However, in the long term, this technology may become a curse — keeping people at home rather than returning to gather with their churches. There is a reason Jesus called His church an ecclesia(a gathering or assembly). While many deride “corporate worship,” it is actually what the Lord intended.

     I urge every reader to plan to resume in-person worship. There are many aspects of being together that are so important and so needed. When people stay out, they miss out! The fellowship of believers as mentioned in Acts 4:42-47 is as needed today as it was 2,000 years ago. Those early church members devoted themselves to the fellowship — all were together, they continued to meet together and they ate together.

     The Word says we should “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19). I recently polled a few people, asking if they sang at home while watching on livestream. None was doing so!

     Please, during this pandemic be cautious, be wise, be safe. Tune in to the church services via a livestream medium. But when this passes, plan to return to worship with brothers and sisters in Christ. They need you — and you need them!

     If believers stay out, they miss out! That’s what I was just thinking!

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