A noted researcher reports that COVID, its associated restrictions – and people’s reaction to those restrictions – could mean one in five churches in the U.S. might have to close their doors.
Financial strain and dwindling attendance could shutter up to 20% of churches in the U.S., according to Dave Kinnaman of Barna Group. In a recent interview with National Public Radio, Kinnaman said pastoral confidence is sinking and virtual or online services will likely keep many attenders from returning, in person, to their church.
“In the last couple of months, more and more churches are reopening, but they’re opening up with a lot less people coming,” the researcher stated, “and they’re recognizing that the relationships that they thought were much deeper with people were actually not as deep as they expected.”
Evangelist and apologist Dr. Alex McFarland contends the Church in America had been in decline far ahead of the pandemic.
“Coupled with flat evangelism numbers, there’s just not the ethic of churchmanship that we’ve seen in previous generations,” McFarland tells OneNewsNow. “I do think that a number of churches that were just kind of on the brink anyway, regrettably, will have to close their doors.”
And the financial strain of churches that were already living on the edge will only get worse, he says. “It’s going to get really scary really quickly for a lot of these churches that have really not had a viable financial plan or maybe even lived beyond their means,” the Christian apologist warns.
On the other hand, he says, this could be a pruning of the vine, as Jesus talked about in John 15. And if so, he suggests that pastors and congregations that want to “be timeless and always relevant” must focus on “the things that are eternal and never go out of date.”
He specifies: “Things like preaching the Word of God, the authority of scripture, praying and seeking the power of God – and being willing to call out sin.”
Christian influence ‘spiraling downhill’?
A Christian attorney agrees with McFarland about the decline of the Church and its influence on American culture. He attributes it to the global pandemic as well – but also to recent socialist revolts in the streets.
Last October, Pew Research found that in the last ten years the percentage of Americans who identify as “Christian” had dropped 12 points to only 65%. During that same time, the unchurched – or “nones,” as some refer to them – has risen from 17% to 26%. The report rattled off several other markers … all heading down.
Attorney Bill Connor says it’s time to hit the brakes – hard. “It’s not just sliding down on some kind of standard slide in scale,” he laments. “It is exponentially spiraling downhill and speeding up as it goes.
Now with a socialist-leaning revolution and rioting in the streets, American Christians are being cowed into silence, he adds. “The atheists, the agnostics, the secularists – frankly, the cultural Marxists – are openly bringing their worldview in, and Christians have been taught to be very quiet [and to] keep their stuff in the closet or in the church.”
And with the pandemic and its regulations being imposed on congregations, observers may feel the church is on the ropes. Connor shares the same concern. “This has gone so fast – ten years, 12%,” he says. “If this continues, within a few decades Christianity will be dead in America.”
But the Christian attorney argues it’s not too late for a return of orthodox, biblical Christianity to save the day.