The Re-Emerging Church of 2021

A Helps Word To All Pastors and Church Leadership

The Church of 2021 and into the year of 2022 is shaping up to be Church a bit altered from what we may be able to recall from just a few years ago.   The manner in which worship services and even special gatherings are offered, most often utilizing a social media or other delivery platform such as Zoom or live streaming is considered as common place.  Church has been adjusted to meet both the changes and needs of the time.  With the vast majority of worship services now available to be received in the comfort of every parishioners’ home, many congregations are experiencing challenges with return of attendance for in-person worship.  

American author, researcher and founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions offers thought on how good may be seen amidst post-quarantine drop in attendance. 

Five Reasons the Post-Quarantine Drop

In Worship Attendance is Good

Thom Rainer

To be clear, church leaders and members should not seek to lower worship attendance.

After all, that would result in fewer people worshipping together and listening to biblical preaching.

But not all losses in attendance are bad. We have heard from church leaders several ways the decline can be healthy for the church. Here are the five most common reasons:

  1. Pruning of negative influences. One pastor described the impact of COVID as “pandemic-induced church discipline.” In a somewhat humorous way, the pastor was repeating what we have heard from many church leaders. A number of the divisive and angry members have left the church. Though their departure led to a decline in attendance, it also led to greater joy and unity in the church.
  2. An opportunity to re-focus. Several of us have referred to the post-quarantine era as a “blank slate.” During the pause of the quarantine, church leaders were able to think about what matters in their churches. For most of them, it meant focusing more on the most critical issues while eliminating some of the less-than-meaningful activities.
  3. Clarity on the core membership. The pandemic has given many church leaders a clear picture of who the healthy and contributing church members are. They now know more than ever those upon whom they can depend. They know who their “go-to” members are.
  4. A move toward simplicity. The simple church is being discovered or re-discovered. Many pastors and other church leaders have dared to eliminate many church activities. And, in doing so, they have led their churches to develop a clear and robust process of discipleship.
  5. Returning evangelism to its rightful priority. Jesus’ last words in his earthly ministry were commands to be witnesses and to make disciples. Evangelism mattered to Jesus. It should matter to our churches. Unfortunately, many churches have little to no emphasis on reaching their communities with the gospel. The pandemic has given church leaders a fresh start on leading their churches to Great Commission obedience.

At the risk of redundancy, let us repeat it. We should not celebrate worship attendance declines. There is too much at stake for fewer people to join the gathered church. But the pandemic has changed things. Among those changes is a decline in attendance in most churches. At this point, the median reduction is about 20 percent.

Now, we have the opportunity to build on a new and more robust foundation. In God’s power, we have the opportunity to lead our churches to be stronger and healthier than ever.

Posted on August 9, 2021 (

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America. 

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