Atrophy is ‘the gradual decline of effectiveness or vigour due to underuse or neglect’. During this season, my hope and prayer is that spiritual atrophy will not take hold of people’s hearts. I believe that the best days for the church are ahead, but we must be careful to guard our hearts and stand firm in our faith in this season.
Many have asked the question, where will the church at large land post COVID-19? This is after possibly 12-24 months of many not attending in person church gatherings, many watching church online from the comfort of their home for months/years or attending church services less regularly and many who haven’t attended services either in person or online since the pandemic began.
Will people’s spiritual lives erode leading to souls adrift, souls that were once firmly connected to the church? The answers to these questions are really unknown. Yet honestly, I think they are the wrong questions to ask anyway. Our primary goal is not to connect people to the church but to connect people to Jesus. If our lives are connected to Jesus, then we will be connected to the church because Jesus calls the church His ‘bride’.
Whilst I do deeply care about the spiritual health of all those who have been planted in churches around the world, I am also encouraged by the opportunity for believers all over the world to really focus on their personal relationship with Jesus at this time, to mature in their personal faith and to live it out with the kind of personal responsibility scripture requires of every believer.
The question we will all be asked when we cross over to eternity one day will not be how many Sundays we attended a church service but rather, were we in relationship with Jesus? Do we just have a ‘corporate faith’ where our lives blend thoughtlessly or do we have a ‘personal faith’ which is genuine and active? It’s that kind of faith that fuels our hearts with the mission to bring as many people as possible into that same personal relationship with Jesus, that plunders Hell and populates Heaven.
Moving the needle of responsibility from how the church can serve the Christian consumer, to instead how Christians can contribute by serving Jesus through His church really excites me. This is because when the Body of Christ functions together, with all of its parts equally committed in unity and with Jesus as the head of the church, then the church will be mobilised in a way that radically changes the world.
When people are growing in their personal relationship with Jesus, the church is getting stronger because everything the church is built on is from the foundation of relationship with Jesus. Encouraging people to attend church services is not the goal, but it’s a by-product of people connecting with Jesus.
Jesus proclaims in scripture, “I will build MY CHURCH and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”. With that at the forefront of my mind, I look confidently to the future of the church without fear or worry, knowing that if people love Jesus, they will certainly love His church because that’s what He loves and what He said He will build. This means we won’t have to coax people back to church services because they will passionately want to be part of the Body of Christ as disciples of Jesus.
The greater concern for me is that people will be entangled with a spiritual atrophy during this time, whereby their faith erodes to becoming a kind of Netflix subscription that is cancelled because of COVID-19. Then once the church subscription is cancelled, which for some could be their only connection to God, will their lives be distracted with other activities at the expense of their soul?
That’s why I believe now more than ever that it is a time to keep encouraging everyone to personally grow in their relationship with Jesus. That is the antidote to atrophy. Now is really a time for followers of Jesus to not just believe in Jesus but be disciples of Jesus. The truth is, Jesus didn’t create His church to entertain Christians, but rather to empower disciples. The church is always at its best when it’s empowering disciples to save lost souls and make disciples.
This is not a time for spiritual atrophy, drifting faith or apathy that chokes our passion for God and His purpose for our lives. This is a time to grow in God, be the church in action, and reach those that don’t know Jesus yet.
The church will come through this pandemic, but it will require every believer to take personal responsibility for their faith in Jesus.
1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?