[Yours] will not be perfect faithfulness, but are you resting in Christ as your hope, and leaning on Him? Are you striving to be what the church is called to be according to Christ? Then that’s all you are called to do. Be encouraged! Ultimately, your hope rests in Christ, not your performance.
What does church success look like during a global pandemic? For at least a generation, success in churches was based largely on numerics, on this, we can agree. Every year in my denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention), for example, churches must fill out the Annual Church Profile (ACP), which asks churches nearly every conceivable question regarding their numbers. It was easy to get sucked into this being a type of self-reflection on whether or not you and your church were “successful” that year. Now, this is not to denigrate ACPs, they serve a purpose, of course, but it has been clear for at least a half-century that numbers purportedly told the story about the health and success of a church.
And what pastor hasn’t attended associational, state, or national convention meetings where they were asked multiple times, “Hey brother, how many you runnin’?”
Numbers are important, but they do not always tell the full story of church health and success. Big churches can be unhealthy, small churches can be healthy. We know this in every season, but this especially comes to the fore in the midst of a global pandemic.
If numbers = success/health, a majority of churches right now are likely not getting a passing grade. Churches everywhere are seeing decreases in attendance: once-a-month attendees have become non-attenders, the vulnerable cannot attend because of health concerns, and some regular attenders have abandoned the fellowship, perhaps for a different church that fits their preferences better. This can be quite disheartening until you remember that Scripture does not define success or health according to numbers. Rather, what we are called to is faithfulness, and God will take care of the results.
This is good news for pastors, churches, and faithful church members. Better still, it applies whether or not we are in a global pandemic. While saying “just be faithful” seems overly simplistic, it really does not have to be as complicated as we might try to make it. Does this resolve all questions we might have right now in terms of having in-person service versus online-only or mask versus no mask or any number of questions the Bible is silent on? Of course not.
What it does do is (1) help us keep our hand to the plow, (2) fend off discouragement, and (3) protect our hearts when criticized.