USA (MNN) — A new report from The Barna Group shows COVID-19’s impact on church congregations in the United States.
When comparing pastors’ responses from the start of the pandemic in April to now, the number of U.S. pastors concerned for the spiritual and relational wellbeing of their congregants has increased – more than the number concerned for vocational, physical, or financial wellbeing. Emotional wellbeing was another significant concern but did not see an increase over the last several months.
But why have American Christians’ spiritual and relational needs specifically increased?
Ron Hutchcraft with Ron Hutchcraft Ministries offers some perspective with a metaphor: “Floods will sometimes show that the wall wasn’t built high enough or there’s been a weakness in the materials used in the levee. Now, you could say the storm caused that. But in many more ways, a storm just revealed the weaknesses and the needs that were there all the time.
“For many, many years, I’ve talked to the people who have been silently drowning emotionally at church…. I think this storm…has revealed some things that have been in the dark that have been affecting our relationships.”
As the world continues to socially-distance, Christians are learning what it means to live out our faith with each other and with God. So it’s understandable that those areas are taking the hardest toll.
Maybe you have unresolved anger or bitterness in your family that came to light while you were quarantining together. Maybe there is sin that needs to be acknowledged or sorrow that needs to be grieved. Those things are harder to ignore when we are under pressure.
“These are all ticking time bombs inside of us that we’ve stuffed or tried to hide or denied,” Hutchcraft says. “But now in this time of almost forced vulnerability, I have to face some of these things. By facing them, I could finally be free.”
Hutchcraft says true spiritual and relational growth can take place when we are honest with ourselves and others about what we are struggling with.
“That which we have stuffed, we need to unstuff. The Bible says if we walk in the light, that’s when His healing will take place. So we need to express it…. But not just to a peer who may be drowning too. It’s hard for somebody else who’s drowning to rescue you. Go to someone who can walk this trail with you, having walked it with other people — whether that’s a pastor or a counselor [or] someone who might be a mentor.”
Then seek God’s voice in your circumstances. Ask the Holy Spirit to convict and encourage the areas of your life that require growth during this difficult year. And pray for opportunities to go beyond yourself and support someone else in your community.
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Header photo courtesy of Tai’s Captures via Unsplash.