Despite the 6th wave and concerns over other variants, we can say we are at the end of a long tunnel of the Pandemic, and we thank God for the resiliency he has given us. Barna group gave out a report that says over 20% of Christians left churches or stopped attending services since the Pandemic. It was a global trend caused by global issues, and we were not immune to that. We had some members who disappeared or left our community. As a pastor, losing members is great pain. I cannot help but wonder what I could have done better and why they decided to leave.
But despite the setback, I am choosing to be very hopeful. First of all, despair is overrated. Secondly, there is no fundamental issue in our church ministry. As I shared before, “engagement” is the new attendance. When I look back on our ministry during the Pandemic, many church members stay engaged. Many members took online Bible studies, joined 10 Days Early Morning Prayer and Daniel Fast and participated in online church events. But above all, many members remain engaged in their house churches.
Thanks to our shepherds hosting house church gathering every week online, our fellowship remain strong even through the Pandemic. A few pastors already told me that their churches’ fellowship suffered because of a lack of or weak small group system. But we were well-positioned to go through the Pandemic with minimal impact, thanks to house church culture. I was also able to pray for each member with specific prayer requests, which helped me get a good sense of what was happening in all our members’ lives, even when I couldn’t see them face to face. It is a beautiful ministry partnership that was evident in the early church.
One pastor said to church leaders: “instead of trying to win people back, focus on moving people forward.” I cannot agree more. It is easy for us to spend our energy trying to bring people back who left. But our focus has always been on reaching people far from God and moving people to a growing relationship with Christ. We will remain open and welcoming to people coming back, but our focus is on moving people forward. Pastor Chai said trying to manage people to stay happy in ministry is like trying not to fall on a bicycle without pedalling. It can happen for a short time, but eventually, you will fail. Only way to not fall is to keep pedalling forward.
The church is ultimately a missional community that brings healing along the way. Nothing has changed fundamentally with our ministry through the Pandemic. As Paul said, we will forget what lies behind us and press forward for the calling ahead. (Phil. 3:13-14)