Pastor: Sharp Decline in Church Attendance in Post-Pandemic Era is "An Unprecedented Challenge in My 30 Years as a Christian"

An empty church.
An empty church.
By Essie Hu May 20th, 2021

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic at the end of 2019 was unexpected. Many work units and families were affected, including churches. During the pandemic, in-person meetings and Sunday services could not be held, so various churches, both big and small, began to adopt other strategies. Instead of on-site meetings, they began to remotely conduct praise, worship, Bible studies, and even Communion services.

"A lot of believers have been lost because of this," said Pastor Fan, the head of a church in central China. "A lot of people no longer attend meetings and church services. It's something that has never happened in my 30 years as a believer."

Pastor Fan mentioned that she had planned to have a retreat at Easter in 2021 because the pandemic situation had improved then, but because of various factors affecting the church, the Holy Communion that was initially scheduled was no longer held.

Fan said that her church holds group meetings, where three or four people study the Bible. The problem was that most of the believers were used to the old church gathering model and needed time to get used to small groups and online meetings.

She believed that churches had always held meetings on the spot, but times had changed, and it was normal to change the meeting pattern. Whether it a large gathering of 100 worshipers as in the past or a small group gathering, Christians would eventually adapt.  

"I've been listening to a church sharing recently. They no longer have on-site meetings, they just interact and study the Bible online."

In this way,  Fan found that the form of the gathering was not important. Even if only two or three people gathered, the Lord would be with his people.

She added that during these past years, the church had paid too much attention to the outside. No matter the kind of ministry, the staff were always impetuous and flabby and pay more attention to the outer appearance than the interior. Every circumstance had God's goodwill in it, now this kind of circumstance could make people calm down and think about some issues.

"During this period, we have all been reflecting, including our colleagues;" Pastor Fan said, "It is not because of the external circumstance or to complain about why the pandemic happened. Instead, we are more grateful. We discovered that there will be many problems in the church, pastoral problems. We have believed in the Lord for so many years and still have these problems. I find this kind of reflection to be very good."

She stated that this current kind of circumstance would last for a while, so church workers had to adapt to the transformation of the new church, from the whole to the individual, from the field to the network.

Referring to the transformation and prospects of the church, she said, "It is not yet clear what the road ahead will be. This is a very difficult time, I don't know what to do. But this is the transformation of the church, and it takes time. I believe, by God's Word, the brothers and sisters will not remain where they are forever."

- Translated by Nonye Nancy

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