The changing face of worship attendance
Barna reports that one in three practicing Christians has stoppped attending digital worship at any church during the current epidemic.
The report divides COVID-era Christians into at least three categories: (1) those who attend their own church worship service digitally, (2) those who attend another church’s worship service digitally, and (3) those who no longer attend any church worship service digitally.
Each of these three categories represents a third of those surveyed.
What should we make of the fact that one-third of those surveye have stopped attending church digitally?
First, let’s not overreact. It’s possible that some are not attending digital worship services because they are present physically. America is a large country and parts of the country are more open than others. Some churches have reamined open much of the time; others have been closed.
Second, some Christians may be choosing to worship as a family rather than being spectators at a digital event. Churches vary in their ability to produce digital worship services. Some have elected to continue worshipping in exactly the same way as prior to this epidemic. Others, my own church included, have chosen to pare down our service to around half-an-hour. Watching a digital service is a very different experience from being physically present in a sanctuary. As a result, some people are adapting to it better than others.
Third, I have no doubt that some people are simply not practicing their faith in the midst of this pandemic. Their beliefs may have changed little, but they are not engaging in the disciplines and practices that mark the Christian life.
While worship is a means of grace. It is also true that not watching a worship service online doesn’t mean our faith is questionnable. The chief means is the Word of God.
If you’ve got access to a Bible (physically or mentally) then you have the resources to survive for a period without gathered worship and without the Lord’s Supper.
Note the qualification: for a time. Gathered worship and the sacraments are very important parts of the Christian life. And we neglect them at our peril. Let me make clear, however, that there are those among the body of Christ who must forego these benefits owing to their health.
I’m convinced that, as a minister, it’s my duty–as well as the session’s–to minister to the spiritual needs of these brothers and sisters during this extraordinary time.
Online worship isn’t ideal. And I’m concerned that its easy for sessions and ministers to believe that by producing a digital service they done all they need do to care for the souls of those in their membership. In reality, we need to do more and we need to do it as a team.