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Churches are Changing But Spiritual Hunger Isn't Going Away

The elephant in the room in churches these days is the PANDEMIC. This one experience changed American churches more profoundly in our lifetime than anything else, since World War II. It has introduced online worship, which is here to stay. It has added the option for hybrid meetings which is a big plus. But it has caused 40% of clergy to consider retiring early or leaving the profession. It came when churches were already struggling to keep members, and it has challenged us to our core.

In our own church I believe it has added stress we may under-estimate. I wonder if we really understand how deeply we have been affected by the pandemic. It took away time – time to enjoy our choir, time to be together, time hear Pastor Steve preach or act in a musical. The pandemic struck at the heart of religious communities and robbed us of worship as we knew it for well over a year.

As you may know, Peggy and I have interviewed fifty pastors about their experiences in the recent pandemic. With hour-long conversations, we asked about the challenges they faced, the creativity they found and the impact of the crisis on them and their churches. We met some amazing church leaders from eight denominations and twenty three states. We heard incredible stories of resilience and faith.

We also emerged from those interviews more aware of the enduring widespread cultural hunger for real spiritual leadership in communities across the country. People everywhere are looking to their churches to do what only faith communities can do – remind them of the wisdom in the Bible, comfort those who are struggling, help the poor, and protect those who need an advocate. From Florida to Alaska, we found pastors who rose to this occasion, re-defined the Church and meting the new needs laid bare by the pandemic.

That is something to be celebrated. Let’s keep seeking ways to make this church relevant to the spiritual hunger we find in our community today.

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