The backdrop of the purple, pink and burnt orange hues illuminated the wooden crosses on an egg-white stage in front of the mystique mountain ranges of Oro Valley, Arizona on Easter Sunday 2020. Captivating the thirsty soul–the scene was a stark reminder that Jesus Christ conquered death over 2,000 years ago.
The service was one of two drive-in church settings (the other location was in Tucson, (both powered/sponsored by Blessings Through Action). With the Coronavirus pandemic restricting all gatherings, church on-location services are sprouting across the nation.
Believers are thinking outside-of-the-box, brandishing a sword against adversity, despite the isolation and physical constraints — with ingenuity and technology taking a front seat. The pandemic is not obstructing those seeking the Lord. There has been an unusual outpouring of people craving the Word of God. Not since 9/11 has the nation experienced such a wave of hunger for Jesus. Stores and publishers are selling Bibles like hotcakes. People who never prayed before are seeking God for healing and diving deeper into Scripture.
For example, Tyndale House Publishers increased their Bible sales compared to March 2019.
“On our Facebook page for the New Living Translation, where we post Bible verse memes, engagement was triple what it was last March and up 72 percent from just last month,” Jim Jewell, an executive at Tyndale, told the Christian Post. He shared that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “Tyndale Bible sales were 57 percent higher than October of 2000.”
Not everyone supports the no-wall church. Undeniably having community and connections with other believers is biblical and essential.
“The worship Scripture commands in places like Hebrews 10, where we are told to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, cannot be fully experienced online,” BreakPoint reported. They are “replacements for what the life of the church should be, not to mention there simply are no substitutes for the sacraments of baptism and communion.”
Although I agree with the authors to an extent, we need to navigate the virtual church with wisdom.
Let’s be real here. Church attendance is down, a Pew survey found. Many people desire to attend church online due to family responsibilities, caretaking tasks, sickness, depression, disabilities and social anxiety. Some people don’t attend. “More Americans now say they attend religious services a few times a year or less (54 percent) than say they attend at least monthly (45 percent).” Only 65 percent of Americans consider themselves Christians in 2019. This number was down from 77 percent a decade earlier, “while 26 percent identify as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular, a rise from 17 percent,” according to the Pew Research Center.
Churches are becoming virtually creative – as we are seeing throughout the nation with streaming services and Sunday church drive-ins. The power of church wherever it may be geographically will predominate.
We need to harness this moment to reconsider the way the church has been done. No longer are we brick and mortar — we moved passed this well-before the Coronavirus. Today there are online sermons, podcasts, streaming worship events, Bible study apps, Facebook Live and more.
Our relationship with God, has no walls –it never did. Now is not the time to split hairs, the Body of Christ needs to step up now with virtual services, drive-in services or not.