Back when the Covid lockdowns started, I told a Southern Baptist friend that this crisis was going to be devastating for the churches, which would probably see a lot of people in their congregations not coming back, having gotten out of the habit of church on Sunday. I also predicted that a number of Evangelical churches, lacking a strong sacrament-based ecclesiology, would embrace online church as a normative model. Why not? After all, if you see the individual believer’s relationship to the church as primarily about the reception of information, what’s the argument against it (emphasis added)?
This idea — that we should accept online church as normative and necessary because that’s what allows us “to reach as many people as possible” — is completely impossible in a Catholic, Orthodox, and/or Anglican world. Our liturgies and ecclesiologies are built around the Eucharist. You cannot receive communion online, nor is the Eucharist merely symbolic of Christ’s Body and Blood (emphasis added).
In recognition of the new reality, Long Hollow has begun the process of creating an intentional, permanent online church ministry – which includes hiring an online-specific pastor, finding ways to facilitate membership remotely, as well as conducting the ordinances and small groups in cities hours or even states away. “The churches that are predominantly dependent upon a building are going to have a hard time transitioning into the future,” Gallaty said. “People say, ‘I just want to go back to the way things were before COVID,’ but I really don’t think that we will ever get back to that, particularly in the area of numbers … as far as in-person attendance anytime soon (emphasis added).”