The Road Back to NormalcyMark Brooks
I will always remember Sunday, March 13th, as the day the offering bucket passed by me for the first time in, well, forever! Since I moved to Oklahoma, I have seen a lot of things in church I have not seen in a long time, like shaking hands and maskless worship. So, here is my question? Have you gone back to passing the offering plate? If not, why not? This edition of the Stewardship Coach is entitled The Road Back to Normalcy. In this issue, I want to make a case for why you can and should return to at least the attitude of 2019.
My premise of this Coach is it’s time to go back to normal. It’s time to go back to open faces without masks. It’s time to go back to shaking hands and hugging necks. It’s time to go back to passing the plate. In short, it is time to do “church” as we did in 2019.
It is time to say no to the New Normal mentality that has swept through our churches, fed to us by church “experts.” For two years, all we have heard from our church growth experts say things like, “you can’t go back to the way things were.” We are being told that we must adjust to the New Normal. Well, let me ask, why can’t we go back? And, who says we can’t go back? Let me share with you a few reasons I believe you can go back.
First, the majority of Americans have already gone back. When stadiums and restaurants are full of people, tell me why your church can’t go back to the way things were? Have you been paying attention to sporting events? Those events are packed with maskless people. At restaurants, you are now handed a physical menu instead of being forced to use a QR code to download the menu on your phone. Look around, and you will see that the vast majority of Americans are done with the pandemic and the mandated restrictions. Sadly, a few still live in fear, but most have moved on. If the Super Bowl can fill the stands with people, why can’t your church return to normal?
If Americans have moved on, why is it that so many churches still do not pass the offering plate, still maintain distancing rules, and often still require the masking of children, staff, and workers? I believe one reason why is we work hard to not offend some people but then we end up not pleasing anyone. In church life, all too often, small minorities of people dictate the direction of the rest of the church. I call it the tail wagging the dog. If you are not passing an offering plate, it isn’t because of the science! That leads me to my next reason you can return to normal.
Science has changed, and so should our policies. We now know more about the spread of the virus and how to combat it. Our “experts” at the Center for Disease Control stated as far back as May of 2020 that catching the virus from surface contact touch did not happen easily.1. Then in April of 2021, the CDC revised its position on the virus to say there is no significant risk of catching Covid from a surface or object.2. So, why are airlines still passing out sanitized napkins for you to wipe down everything? And why are churches not passing the offering plate? Fear. The fear of a few has dictated the lives of the many. If I were a pastor, I would stand up, quote the CDC’s statements, and announce a return to passing the plate and a return to normal.
What about masks? Covid has brought more division in the church than any other topic in my lifetime, and most of that controversy is around the use of masks. You can cause more arguments over this topic than over women in ministry. Here is my question for you. Have you done any research on the effectiveness of masks? It might surprise you that, for whatever reason, there have been very few studies on the effectiveness of masks on C-19. One of the few studies was a Danish study that showed masks were ineffective against C-19. If you doubt me, do a DuckDuckGo search for yourself. Better yet, the definitive study on this can be found in Alex Berenson’s book, Pandemia: How Coronavirus Hysteria Took Over Our Government, Rights, and Lives. If masks worked, then why is Covid still with us?
Omicron destroyed the public’s faith in our government’s response. Triple vaxxed, double-masked people came down with Omicron, destroying the narrative that life would return to normal after we required everyone to be vaccinated. We are seeing the drip, drip, drip of data revealing lockdowns, masks, and even the vaccine to be ineffective in defeating C-19. Americans finally accept the idea that you can’t defeat a virus, so you must learn how to live with it. This is where we are today.
It’s time for churches to lead America out of the pandemic instead of allowing the pandemic to dictate life for us. How?
First, we can advocate and promote healthy living. Think about this fact, 80% of Covid deaths occur among obese people. Why is it that no one, from the CDC to local doctors, stresses healthy living as a preventative to Covid? Consistent studies show that active people do better with Covid than non-active people. Why are we not stressing diet and exercise? Why are we not stressing the importance of vitamins and supplements to combat the virus?
I fear the answer might be fat preachers never want to preach on that which they fail to follow. Pastor, the road back starts with you. Lead by example and take charge of your health. If you truly love your neighbor, you will advise them to lose weight. You can’t do that if you are so fat, you can’t bend over to tie your shoes. Set an example and get the fat off!
Then, go back to normal worship, allowing your members to decide best how to engage with your church. What I am seeing in churches that have done this is incredible spiritual growth that is being followed by physical attendance and renewed giving. Keep your online presence but shift back to what works best, live in-person interaction. It works!
The Christ Church Example – Last year, Christ Church, outside of Saint Louis, MO, increased the number of donors by 16% and increased giving by 14%. During our annual review of their giving, I inquired of Alan Prass, Christ Church’s Executive Director, about what he attributed this growth to. He said, “We feel that Christ Church has made the correct decisions by starting on-site worship services earlier rather than later and not making COVID our primary concern. We are in the middle of a revival, and it is a fantastic place to be.”
The Secret Sauce for Post Covid Success and the Road Back to Normalcy – Here is what Christ Church did that you can do.
- They hold a high view of Scripture and preach and teach the Bible unapologetically. People are looking for answers, and we have the book of answers, the Bible. Pastor Shane Bishop preaches biblical sermons that people flock to hear.
- They made connecting people to Jesus their number one priority. They did not make COVID their primary concern.
- They had a solid base of givers. Yes, giving has stabilized, but existing donors drive it. Are you building a solid base for the future and any potential crisis? The stewardship seeds planted today will bring a harvest in the future.
- They opened their doors early and allowed people to use their common sense.
Pastor, it’s past time to return to normalcy by opening your church up and start passing the plate!
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach