I want to say with a loving heart ... there are a lot of pastors right now that are not opening their churches due to COVID. I want to encourage you to open your church! Almost eight months is long enough to be closed. It's the responsibility of shepherds to take care of the flock. In California, statistically, experts are predicting 65% of California businesses will not reopen due to the Covid restrictions. These lockdowns have crushed businesses. Listen, it may very well be the same with the Church. Many churches will NOT be able to reopen. And, the longer they stay closed, the more likely their people will not return or are going elsewhere. I hate to hear when churches close. I love the local church. It is why I pastor. I have seen more life change in the local church than anywhere in the world.
At Skyline Church, on both our local campuses in San Diego, we are seeing many people from other churches come to Skyline because their church has been closed or their church is only doing outside services (it's been 100 degrees or more in East County San Diego over the last few weeks, come on...). We have people driving from three and four hours away just so they can get in church. While our target has never been other people from other churches, we have welcomed them with open arms and we will shepherd them if you won't.
Pastors, my suggestion is you stop listening and stop getting your cues from the Government and from Andy Stanley. Andy Stanley has long been seen by many church leaders as the de facto voice of the Contemporary Christian Church in America. His Catalyst leadership conferences have encouraged thousands of pastors including myself over the years. Northpoint Church in Alpharetta Georgia (Pre-Covid) was running somewhere north of 20,000 people, maybe even 30,000.
However, his approach to Covid is off the mark. He stated early on that his church would not open until, at earliest, sometime in 2021. His church has been closed for almost 8 months. And, he stated that "an hour on Sunday shouldn't make a difference in your Christian walk." His comments cut to the heart of the biblical mandate to gather together (Hebrews 10:25). Not just for gathering sake, but for encouragement, fellowship, teaching, growth, mutual edification, the list goes on.
An hour on Sunday has made ALL the difference in my Christian walk over the years and millions of other people can testify to the same. For so many people they equate the House of God with their relationship with God. It is a foundational piece of their faith experience every week, it makes a difference in their lives, it energizes them for the week, bottom line, IT MATTERS! It may not matter to Pastor Andy Stanley, but it matters to millions of Christians all over the world.
This is the same pastor that said in one of his messages you can "Throw away the Old Testament"... His comments and his actions reveal a path he is taking that has nothing to do with accurate biblical exegesis or biblical practice. He has lost his right, his ability, and his responsibility to care for the flock of God. And, way too many pastors are waiting for him to say it's OK to open their church.
Now, understand, I love pastors, I understand the struggle of leading a church. I'm not interested in dividing pastors and churches, but I do want to challenge pastors, especially in San Diego to open their churches. We will all be better for it. While I'm glad to keep receiving people from other churches, I am well aware that this is not Kingdom growth. At the end of the day, when we're in Heaven facing our Lord, we don't get credit for Skyline growth, but we do get credit for Kingdom growth. If more churches are open there is more opportunity for the Kingdom to grow. It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.
I have been especially disappointed in the lack of leadership from some of the long time larger churches and pastors in the San Diego area that have national ministries. They are cowering behind the facade of a virus that has a 99.9% survival rate. I suppose since their books are selling and their TV audience is solid, their local church responsibilities are being ignored. Pastor, SHEPHERD YOUR FLOCK!
Many pastors have said, "Well, we've got online church." And I'm so glad we have our online church community, but if you've been watching online for almost eight months now, YOU KNOW it's just not the same. Nothing compares to gathering in person to worship the Lord! We've got to get in church to worship in the house of God.
National researchers are predicting that less than half of congregations will come back when things open up again. Why? A new normal has been created, one of the reasons is because people are out of habit and have begun to believe they don't need church. This is only exacerbated by Pastors who continue to refuse to open...they are telling their people, "You don't need church." Now, half the attendance might work for Andy Stanley and his church of 30,000, he'll still have 15,000 people to come back to. But, it does not work for the vast majority of churches in America that are less than 100 people.
When we have many thriving churches in the area, everybody wins. A rising tide lifts all boats. Pastors, open your boat. If you're concerned about the reaction of some people and you need statistics and proof in your pocket, go to my other blogs titled "Face the Facts" and "I'm Done." Face the Facts was written a couple of months ago and the statistics are even more in favor of opening your church than they were back then. "I'm Done" was written on May 3 and is proving even more accurate with each passing month.
We can protect the most vulnerable in our churches and open. You don't have to open without caring for those who have underlying health conditions. You can open and care for those people. It is Both/And not Either/Or. We have a whole re-opening safely protocol list that I'd be glad to give you. If you need anything, please call our offices and we would be glad to walk you through our conversations with the County Health Department, our Do's and Don'ts, our protocols, and our trainings. Being a pastor has always taken courage, perhaps, in this day and age, the depth of our courage is being tested.