A recent study shows that the only group that hasn’t mentally suffered during COVID-19 has been regular church-goers.
Largely, what Christians have discovered from the Great Coronavirus Panic of 2020 is that most churches don’t believe they offer essential services. And I’m likely to agree with them.
In total, 93% of churches recognized the Civil Magistrate as the head of the church and surrendered the keys of Christ’s kingdom to elected and unelected bureaucrats. Proving their Lord & Savior is the government, the happily rendered unto Caesar that which belonged to God the Son.
At the time, we – the other 7% – warned them. If they want to send the message that the state can order around the Body of Christ (and by extension, Christ himself) to meet when, where, and how the government chooses, that many in their own congregations won’t return to church at all. After all, if the church leadership doesn’t believe that people need corporate worship on the Lord’s Day, members will certainly follow the line of thought to its ultimate conclusion; they don’t need church.
Our predictions have been fully realized, rendering basic Christian discernment more efficacious to predict the future than an entire School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding. According to Lifeway Research, only 10% or so of churches have a weekly attendance at their pre-COVID numbers. Likewise, it’s estimated that up to a quarter of American churches will never re-open. And, as I predicted, the initial spike in “online church” participants faded within only weeks after the novelty wore off.
There were lots of arguments that we contrarians made back in March and April during the initial closures. Chiefly, these revolved (1) a responsible and carefully exegeted reading of Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 that – if understood correctly – do not constitute a blanketed command to submit to any random person or establishment that claims authority over the life of the believer. And secondarily (2), we provided arguments regarding the plain truths of eschatology. If we are told that in the End Times that pestilence will kill a great many (Revelation 6:7-8) and simultaneously we are commanded not to forsake public assemblies during that plague (Hebrews 10:25) that makes special mention of the Eschaton, then the wrongness of church closings should be evident. We’re not even supposed to closed down for the Pale Rider whose name is Death, let alone for a chest cold.
And believe me, we heard your hysterics. The brainless, mind-numbing screeches about “loving our neighbor” did not go unheard. And we listened to your predictions about causing our entire churches to die. We heard you provide an ‘amen choir’ for politicians and health department despots who fallaciously and falsely claimed that church attendance was more likely to spread COVID-19 than Wal-Mart. We heard your sophomoric non-interpretations of Romans 13, without the slightest attempt to demonstrate that corporate worship was the type of “evil” that the Romans 13 government should be punishing.
Most importantly, we watched your white-knuckled digging-in on church closures and we watched your position remain unchanged by a rapidly changing understanding of COVID’s seriousness. Even as death rates plunged to seasonal flu levels, your commitment to skipping church remained hardly unchanged as though you ignored the scientific data altogether.
But the most important argument we made at the time against your soulless compromises was that your church members need church. Sure, lost people don’t get it but the redeemed of God surely do.
When we watch the COVID-19 hysterics from the public health nurses who are downright giddy to have been given a microphone so as to catastrophize and hyperbolize the threat, surely we can all acknowledge that the health suggestions we’ve been given have been given through a naturalistic worldview that denies the metaphysical soul. Simply put, those who deny God also must overlook the full health of man as spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical creatures.
It is understandable how Dr. Fauci overlooks the spiritual needs of man; his worldview doesn’t allow it. But it’s absolutely inexplicable for why you – as Christians and pastors – also overlook the spiritual needs of men. That’s shocking.
Well, the results are in and the only demographic not to suffer mental health issues during the Great Coronavirus Panic of 2020 have been regular church attenders.
According to Gallup…
The results of Gallup’s November Health and Healthcare survey, conducted annually since 2001, reveal that the share of Americans who classify their mental health as “excellent” has reached an all-time low of 34%. The share of Americans who describe their mental health as “excellent/good” has also reached a record low of 76%. Nearly every demographic subgroup saw the state of their mental health decrease from 2019 to 2020.
They continue, “However, among Americans who attend religious services weekly, 46% classified their mental health as excellent. That figure is an increase from the 42% who saw their mental health as excellent in 2019.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t evangelicals just spend the last ten years – largely thanks to Rick and Kay Warren – focusing on the danger of mental health issues? Hasn’t that been a major talking point of the church in recent years or did I imagine it? And yet, pastors who closed their churches did so in absolute and total disregard of their parishioner’s mental health.
Shame on you.
No better verse in all the Bible reflects the state of affairs in American evangelicalism better than this one:
He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep (John 10:12-13).
Your congregation needed you, pastors. They needed the Word. They needed the Supper. They need each other. And in the darkest of nights, just when the church should be shining the brightest, you closed your doors and pulled your blinds. And you did so while Planned Parenthood remained open.
In 2020, churches had an opportunity to shine. Instead, you hid your candle under a bushel. And for this, you ought to repent.
[Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by JD Hall of Gideon Knox Group]