About 30 years ago I had a friend in rural Virginia who claimed to have three churches and she participated in all three each Sunday morning. She attended 9:30 Bible Study with the Baptists. She attended 11:00 worship with the Presbyterians. And she attended 12:30 coffee hour with the Episcopalians.
I remember feeling semi-outraged by this, thinking she lacked commitment and was taking advantage of those congregations as a mere consumer.
Today the pandemic has made this kind of relationship with multiple congregations not only possible but preferable.
I now know multiple people who attend the Bible Study on Wednesday nights at one church, Sunday worship at another church, and perhaps a book study at a third church. And they tend to be very committed and very generous to all three gatherings. And these congregations might be located in three different states.
This might continue as a feature of the Post-Pandemic Church. When once we were siloed, we can now be more connectional. When once we were devoted to a single church congregation – perhaps to the point of perpetuating an institution first and foremost – we can now become more devoted to becoming a disciple of Jesus first and foremost.
Here are the common questions though:
- Will people participating in several congregations be willing to support each of those congregations financially? (i.e. Who’s going to pay for all these great events in all these great congregations?)
- What if somebody from “our church” likes that book study over at the other church to the point that they leave us and join them?
We have been all about Attendances, Buildings, and Cash for so long in our congregations (the ABCs) that we have forgotten about the Neighbors, Organizational changes from what no longer works, and Paradigm shifts needed to be a Church for Post-Pandemic times (the NOPs.)
I’ve been preaching about this for a while now, and the pandemic has blessed us by accelerating the need for these shifts. This is good.
Do not be surprised when “strangers” – and perhaps people who do not even self-identify as Christian – call your church “their church” because they’ve been attending your Bible study on Genesis and they feel connected. Do not be surprised when a person nobody knows in Colorado starts pledging to your church’s ministry in Georgia because they’ve found community. It’s a new day. And all this is very good.