7 More Lessons Covid Taught The Church

Every Adventist should be disturbed by the article in Christianity Today yesterday. They reported the results of a massive Adventist “ health message” survey conducted by Dr. Duane McBride and other sociologists from Andrews University. The research spanned 2 years, over 60 languages, and 63,756 responses world -wide.

The research found that the health message had a clearly positive impact on Adventist members. But they also found this. “ Over 47%, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, reported the belief that if they kept the health message completely, they would be assured of salvation, though this is at odds with formal doctrine.”

I’ll be doing a separate article about what this says about the Adventist understanding of salvation, but today it’s just another Covid lesson we’ll explore. We’ve listed 7 lessons. Let’s look at 7 more.

One: Come As You Are

Maybe it’s the impact of attending online services in your pajamas, but our church dress codes have been shredded. For many the idea of attending worship services in anything other than a dress, suit and tie was unthinkable. Well, you better start thinking. Because if this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that you can worship God where you are, as you are. Should there be boundaries? Yes. Should we “ give of our best to the Master?” Yes. But I’m thinking that “best” is going to look a lot different going forward.

Two: Think Small

We have been social distancing for a year. We have been avoiding large crowds for a year. It has saved the lives of thousands, maybe millions. Despite our yearning for fellowship, it’s not likely that most will be flocking to large worship gatherings anytime soon. Some will. Many won’t. Local churches could use this season to offer multiple worship times and opportunities. It should also continue to fuel a growing church planting movement among Adventists. Small churches can have a big impact.

Three: Read the Bible

When we woke up from our 4 year nightmare with Donald Trump and his evangelical army, we realized we were missing something? The truth. We were missing the truth. When Kellyane Conway coined the term “alternative facts” she signaled the fact that truth would not only be relative, but attacked. During this Covid season we have been besieged with rumors, lies, stretches, and spins. It is driving a desire to search for truth, absolute truth. It’s in the Bible.

Four: Leave the Building

Churches large and small have discovered that they can do meaningful ministry when they leave the building. Have we finally realized that the church is the people? Have we finally realized that effective evangelism means “ Go and Tell” not “Come and See?” Have we finally realized that if we are going to find friends for Jesus, we’ll need to make friends ourselves? We’ll see.

Five: Collaborate

Many of our young pastors have been leading a new wave of church collaboration. They have been combining their virtual worship services, prayer meetings, revivals, and evangelistic campaigns. The results have been exciting. Churches in Florida have worshipped with churches in North Carolina. Large churches in Queens have conducted weeks of prayer with smaller churches in Staten Island. It combines resources and talents, creates a spirit of cooperation, and lets members know that they are a part of a movement.

Six: Rethink Evangelism

The Adventist church is the 5th largest Christian denomination in the world today, baptizing over a million people a year. But since 2013 our research has shown that we lose a third of those we baptize in one year. Many of our members have not connected to our online services during this Covid season. They have been missing for months. It’s time for us to study the difference between discipleship and membership. There IS a difference.


Back to the Christianity Today article and the Andrews research project. When nearly half of your membership worldwide believes they are saved by what they eat, you have a problem. It’s at the source of our conspiracy theories, spiritual insecurity, and time of trouble trauma. Our church continues to ignore the elephant in the room. Our greatest weakness is our misunderstanding of the Gospel.

The most valuable lesson this Covid season has taught us is that we need to go back to the basics, and that begins with the gospel, the good news. Adventists need to make our primary study the gospel. Not last day events, but the gospel. Not the health message, but the gospel. And everything we study should be understood in relationship to the gospel.

We should understand that we can perfectly eat and obey for a lifetime but we’ll never be more saved than we are right now. Because in Christ we are complete! Colossians 2:10

Well, that’s 7 more. What do you think about these 7 or the last? What else should we add?

7 Lessons Covid Taught The Church

Intro: Things have changed. It has been exactly one year since the Covid crisis officially became a pandemic. One year since the masks went on and the Lysol sold out. In 12 months 10 million people have lost their jobs and half a million have lost their lives. Things have changed.

But not only have things changed in the world, things have changed in the church. Worship services moved from in person to online. It was immediately clear that some were more prepared than others. Some churches struggled financially, others didn’t. Some churches looked right at home in the online world, others….didn’t.

But now with the vaccine level and herd immunity on the rise, things are about to change again. “Churches are going back to church.” And the thought that we will return no wiser for the experience is scary.

So what are some of the lessons that Covid has taught the church. Lessons that we dare not forget There are many. Let’s start with 7. This is just a partial list so don’t forget to add to it.

One: People need People

It’s number one with a bullet! Every survey conducted to determine what people miss most about the church says the same thing. Fellowship! We might not like each other, but we miss each other. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually we function best in community. The church would do well to repeat the ministry of the first century church and prioritize small groups as a means of fellowship and ministry.

Two: We need a Mission Reboot

The dirty little secret of this pandemic is that a significant percentage of our members never made the transition to online services. They literally left for a year. What does that say about the relevance of a local church that folk could drop out for a year and not say a word or miss it? According to Ephesians 3:10 and other passages, the church is designed to be the place where the power and provision of God are on full display. A place of miracle and mission. Before we return to the building, we need to study what God had in mind for the church.

Three: Online services are here to stay

Churches have discovered that the virtual world is the great equalizer. No matter your size or location, you can make a major impact. Some small churches are reaching more people in a week than they had in a month, and some in a year. Although online attendance and In person attendance are far from the same, those numbers do count. Why? Because they represent people. Even if they clicked on for a brief moment, they now know who you are and where you are. Online ministry is real ministry for outreach and nurture. It’s here to stay.

Four: Our worship services need to change

The surveys say that what people miss most about the church is the fellowship. What they seem to miss least is the worship service. Not the worship. The worship service. The length of the services. The formality of the services. The lack of creativity of the services. The announcements in the service……I’ll just leave this here. What do you think?

Five: We need a real Sabbath

Jesus explained in Mark 2:27 that the Sabbath was designed to be a blessing and not a burden. For many, the Sabbath had become one on the busiest days of the week. By the time folk: woke up, got up, dressed up, drove up, and sat up for multiple services, they were tired. This pandemic should force us to take a serious inventory of our church ministries and meetings and determine what is essential and what is not.

Six: Release our Young Leaders

This pandemic has demonstrated the value of fresh faces and new ideas. Young people and young pastors have been much more comfortable and creative in this virtual space. If we don’t mentor and move over for a new generation of leaders, we will continue to commit slow-motion suicide.

Seven: We need a revival

This pandemic has been a dress rehearsal for a time of trouble that we can ignore, but we can’t avoid. We have seen how quickly things can change, how vicious people can be, and how unprepared we generally are. We need to do more than return to the building, we need to return to our first love. We have seen the future.

Well those are just 7 lessons Covid has taught. Let’s name some more. What do you think?

Also, I’ll be speaking about these lessons today at 11 CST for Madison Mission at https://madisonmissionsda.org. Join us for this month of Prayer and Purpose.