According to Christianity Today, 85% of churches are dying. That statistic was given before COVID. Imagine after COVID! We won’t know the full impact of this season for some time but we can see it unfolding before our eyes.

I’ve said it before, “I LOVE THE LOCAL CHURCH.” Yes, all of them (that preach the Word of God). It takes many kinds of churches to reach many kinds of people!

Unfortunately, many churches continue to remain closed or hold services outside or not at all. And frankly, according to national surveys many churches will simply not reopen whenever they may be “allowed” to.

I was talking to a pastor friend of mine (whom I had encouraged to open when we did in June) who, 14 years ago, started his church. He shut down his church as Covid hit and has not reopened. During these past 9 months of closure, he’d been calling some members to see how they were doing and found out most of them have been going to churches that are OPEN! He has just made the difficult decision to close down his church permanently. This is a very common story across the spectrum of churches in the United States.

One thing we know God hasn’t said is, “Church, sit back, relax, wait for this Covid thing to pass, don’t worry about my mandate to meet together, (Hebrews 10:25) just wait until your Governor says it’s OK to meet again. People can go to Hell while you wait for permission to obey my instructions.”  So how can the church actually grow during this season? We have to remember the power of an hour together on Sunday! 

During these unprecedented times, we need to be MORE loving! We need to be MORE courageous as Churches. Learning to love and accept people where they are is how we will grow Christ’s church. People need hope. And, let me tell you, people are looking for churches who will follow God over Government. We cannot forget the power of an hour together on Sunday!

During this Covid season, 199 people have taken the step of outward obedience to Christ and have been baptized at Skyline Church. 

While I continue to receive hate mail, phone calls, and text messages from pastors and their staff whose churches are closed or meeting minimally, I can tell you, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s sad, but when lives are being changed during a season like this, keep the hate mail and calls and texts coming. It’s only affirmation that they may be feeling a sense of conviction from the Lord and perhaps they’ve forgotten the power of an hour together on Sunday.

They’re not going to get me to do what they’re doing, which is, in my opinion essentially hiding. I want them to open fully and do what we’re doing because, as I’ve said before , we all benefit when all churches are open. The kingdom grows when we’re all in it together. 

One pastor told me, “We’re watching you guys, letting you take the hits from the county, you’re the tip of the spear we want to see what happens to you.” Well, bro, we’ve been fully open for six months and I can tell you that what is happening is lives are being changed. 

People need their church to be fully open! Suicides and mental health issues continue to rise. We need to help people. An open church helps people. An online or even outdoor service has minimal to NO effect. I’m not saying if you’re having outdoor services that it’s useless, it’s just not helping as much as some churches may think. It’s a constant reminder to people that things are crazy. People need a sense of calm and even an hour to escape. When they sit outdoors week after week, it’s a reminder of how depressing things are. And this weekend there’s a 90% chance of rain in San Diego. What are you going to do, shut down the church because of rain?  Don’t underestimate the power of an hour together on Sunday. Go ALL IN.

People need some sense of normalcy even if it’s just an hour on Sunday INSIDE their church building.  The church should be leading, especially in these moments. 

While some churches sit back and wait for their marching orders from “NebuchaNewsome,” we will continue to storm the gates of Hell! THAT gets me fired up! Think about it. Every single one of those 199 people who were baptized experienced Jesus and made a decision not only follow Him, but to announce it when they weren’t supposed to according to the Governor!

Along with that, we’ve had 1,337 decisions for Christ and Commitments to join the church! All during a time when we should be shut down due to a supposed virus that has a survival rate of 99.998%! Are you picking up what I’m putting down? The flu kills more people year in and year out. You’re more likely to die from a lightening strike than Covid. I could go on and on.

Every one of those people who made a decision for Christ has a story that matters to God. We say it all the time, “Every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story matters to God.”

We want them to know that their story matters to us too. And as a church we want to love people BEFORE they make a decision for Christ. Just like you and I, newcomers are NOT perfect. They have fears and concerns and hang ups and habits and need the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.  When churches are open, they are more likely to receive this love and power. Don’t underestimate the power of an hour together on Sunday!

I can’t imagine missing out on these life-change stories had we listened to the Governmental mandates to not hold services. If you’re a church leader who happens to be reading this, don’t you see how this is the devil’s perfect plan? To have you not hold services, not impact people, not have salvations and baptisms, not give the Word of God in the House of God? 

Remember, Scripture tells us that we are not unaware of the devil’s schemes. He’s always operated with the same game plan. Page one of his playbook has always been to divide and conquer, isolate people, give them a sense of hopelessness, make them feel lonely and depressed, then he can really go to work.  Think about it, if he can get the church to stay closed, his job is so much easier. And, just look at the statistics, he is really going to work on people. 

When we get to Heaven, I’m convinced God is not going to say, “Did you obey your Governor during the 9+ month lockdown while people committed suicide and fell into relapse of drug and alcohol abuse?” Or might He say, “Did you have the courage to continue to follow me and focus on reaching the lost, helping the hurting, and giving people hope during a hopeless time?”  

It has always taken courage to be a pastor, but perhaps never more than in these days and times. Don’t underestimate the power of an hour together on Sunday. 

As we hear about churches shutting down, remaining closed, and struggling to survive during this time of COVID, we grieve the continued lack of understanding of the importance of being FULLY open as a church, regardless of what the Governor might say. 

There are a couple of things that are certain. Churches will not grow if they remain closed during Covid. But, churches may indeed experience growth if they decide to walk in obedience and courage and be fully open. Don’t underestimate the power of an hour together on Sunday!