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6 COVID-19 controversies in churches today

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They contact our team daily. 

They want to make the right decision, but it seems that any decision gets them in trouble. 

Pastors in churches around the world are, like all of us, navigating a new reality. It’s not a new normal; it is truly a new reality. 

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These pastors, of course, have never been confronted with these types of controversies. They love their church members, but the church members are not always loving them back. 

Here are the six most common controversies we are hearing from pastors as they contact Church Answers. The list, of course, is not exhaustive nor is it mutually exclusive. 

  1. Mask vs. no mask. This one is by far the most common. Members get mad if masks are required. Members get mad if masks aren’t required. Masks or no masks for some members become a sign of political affiliation.
  2. Social distance vs. no social distance. As an introvert, I have been practicing social distancing all my life. But some members don’t like it. Yet, if you don’t practice social distancing in the church, some members don’t like that either.
  3. Change vs. no change. Of course, this debate is not new. But the pace of change has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Some members don’t understand why the church can’t get back to the way it’s always done it. Other members think it’s time to move rapidly before the blank slate becomes cluttered.
  4. Same personnel vs. change in personnel. One church discovered during the pandemic it really did not need a full-time receptionist. Relatively few people came in the church facilities pre-COVID, and the number dropped to almost zero from the quarantine to today. The leaders deleted the position. Some members are really mad.
  5. Zoom vs. no Zoom. Just like a number of employees liked the digital opportunity to work from anywhere, so did many church members who connected with other church members through Zoom or some other video technology. This debate is particularly evident in the ministry of small groups. Some want to keep the ministry digital. Others want to meet in person. The pastor wants two ibuprofen.
  6. Regather vs. don’t regather. For many churches, this season of regathering is in its early transitional stage. As more members return and regather, a number of members are choosing to remain digital. We are now hearing about divisions of members between the regathered and the digital.

It seems the one area where we need to focus more powerfully is grace. We need to show grace to pastors and other church leaders who feel like they are making lose-lose decisions. We need to show grace to members who are not ready to regather. Some of them are elderly. Some of them have young children and are not ready to expose them to crowds. Some have underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable. Some of them have loved ones who are sick or who have died. 

Maybe our focus for this season should be more of a focus on grace. After all, we have been shown grace by a Savior who died for us.

The least we can do is to demonstrate grace and an attitude of humility to those with whom we may have different opinions.

Originally published at Church Answers 

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Rainer has written over 30 books, including three that reached number one bestseller: I Am a Church Member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, and Simple Church. His new book, The Post-Quarantine Church: Six Urgent Challenges and Opportunities That Will Determine the Future of Your Congregation, is available now.

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