A Pew Research Center survey conducted in the summer of 2020 reveals that more Americans than people in other economically developed countries say that the COVID-19 pandemic has bolstered their faith in God. Nearly three-in-ten Americans (28%) report stronger personal faith because of the pandemic, and the same share think the religious faith of Americans overall has strengthened, according to the survey of 14 economically developed countries. This comes as no surprise to me, because in times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, one might expect that more people would turn to religion, given the death, fear, and isolation the pandemic has generated.
My belief is that for many Christians, positive religious reframing helped to transcend stressful times by enabling them to see a tragedy as an opportunity to grow closer to God or to improve their spirituality. Described as ‘loss of fellowship’, the absence of face-to-face religious assembling is one of many impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic that have been reported by church goers everywhere. I wonder if the above research results still hold for Americans as church attendance is presently in sharp decline. Is it that the majority of church goers have resigned to attending religious events on social media? Or, are people having conflict of faith in God and consequently feel less need to affiliate with the church?
What event or period in the Christian church calendar energizes congregations? Could it be Lent? Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent--a period of 40 days during which Christians remember the events leading up to the death of Jesus Christ. Lent is meant to be a time of repentance. That’s not a feeling of shame, but an awareness that sin separates us from God and of what it cost Him to be reunited with us. This special 40-day period before Easter is a unique time for us to take inventory of our lives, commune more intimately with God through meditation and prayer, and clear out those things that may distract us from our commitment to him. Within the next 18 days the Christian church will observe Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter (Resurrection) Sunday, in that order.
We praise God that we have lived to see another Springtime. For me, Spring is a season for new life, new goals, and new beginnings. I am praying for a new surge of energy and passion for Christ amongst us. Do you have a project for Springtime? What is different this year? Many people who were once available to volunteer for projects haven’t been seen in a while at church. Notwithstanding, we have much to do. We are about to begin the renovation of our church building. How can you help move this task forward?
The truth is that COVID-19 has decimated our congregation and we need to rebuild it. We have a number of members whom we haven’t seen in church since mid-2019. I am personally praying for their return. We need to reach the unchurched people in our community with the good news of Jesus. We have been using Facebook and YouTube to share the gospel of salvation, which continues to be received by many. We will be sending out bulk mail to reach hundreds of homes in the adjoining communities to introduce ourselves and invite them to church. We need new members to rebuild the choir, committees, and boards. We need new members to fill out the pews. We need additional members to build a vibrant and impactful ministry. Just as children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127), and just as the increase of Abraham's descendants was a blessing, so also the growth of Christ’s church is a blessing from God.
The church has a mandate from Jesus to be fruitful and multiply. This may be done through personal fellowship, personal witnessing or visitation to people’s homes or places for social gathering. During this spring we will be encouraged to use our gifts and talents for personal witnessing. The most powerful tool we possess is our testimony of how God saved us and what the Lord has done for us. Our testimony can be a source of healing, and sharing the benefits of living for God can be an inspiration to many, leading them to a saving knowledge. This is a time to consecrate ourselves to the tasks ahead of us.
I encourage you to be hopeful. God always has the last word. Just look at the Easter event! On Good Friday the world of darkness had thrown everything it had on the Anointed One and buried Him in a tomb – thinking it had the final word. But the final word belonged to God. On Easter Sunday God overturned the world’s verdict, as our Savior Jesus Christ rose from that tomb and conquered the darkness of the world forever.
Rev. Dr. Peter E. Grinion, Pastor