We know the horrendous cost of the pandemic through death, bereavement and serious sickness. However, there have been other consequences too. I recently ran a twitter poll in order to get us thinking about some of these things.
First, I asked about how the pandemic has affected your relationship with God. I’m assuming that the majority of my readers/followers are Christians or have an interest in God and faith
Encouragingly, quite a few people have indicated that they feel that they have grown closer to God and learnt to depend on him more. I think this has been an important part of the testing and refining of the pandemic. However, some have struggled and feel more distant from God. 12.5% of respondents admitted to really struggling through the pandemic. It’s important that we pay attention to those people as well. Church leaders will want to take time to understand why some are particularly struggling and how they can help them.
The second question attracted the biggest response and seemed to divide respondents almost 50-50.
Some people have observed that the affect of the pandemic has been to make them more aware of and more thankful for the Lord’s return. Others will be expressing some fear and apprehension of death. Christians will want to talk more about the eternal hope we have but also about redeeming the time now and numbering our days aright. However, we should also be curious about why a significant number of people are saying that the pandemic hasn’t particularly confronted them with their own mortality. This may link a little to my argument that fear of death isn’t the biggest cause of anxiety and concern through the pandemic.
I then asked a serious of questions about how the pandemic has affected people’s relationships with others
Notice that for many, the pandemic has drawn them closer to family, friends and neighbours. Our own experience has been of checking in more on those closest to us, taking more time to keep up with people that live a distance away and a growing sense of community as we and our neighbours have faced the pandemic together.
However, the pandemic has also created strains. There has been a polarisation between those who are most frightened of the virus and those who are most frightened of authoritarian measures and vaccines. Like with Brexit, I suspect the polarisation has contributed to strain in friendships and relationships.
Of particular concern to church leaders should be the significant number of people who are describing a growing distance between them and their church. We will probably return to this in a little more detail for a podcast and maybe some more articles.
The pandemic has also affected people’s attitudes and priorities to things such as work and health.
I am not surprised to see so many saying that their perspective on work has changed. This will reflect awareness of their own mortality leading to a change of priorities towards friends and family.
Unsurprisingly too, the pandemic has pushed questions about health, both physical and mental up the agenda. Many are saying that their health has taken a knock through the pandemic. It’s not just the virus itself that is the danger. Lockdowns, social distancing and other measures have an impact too.
Again this, particularly the mental health side should be getting pastors and elders thinking about the implications for pastoral care, counselling and discipleship.
Finally, the number of people saying that the pandemic has lead to greater gospel opportunities should be an encouagement
I carried out this poll to encourage further conversation about where our priorities need to be as churches as the world comes out of the pandemic. I’d encourage church leaders to be asking similar questions among their own church family and wider community. Perhaps these questions might provide useful prompts for discussions among staff and church leaders.
The responses I got back highlighted to me that there are both Gospel opportunities in terms of opportunities both to share our faith and to see growth in the lives of believers and real challenges because of the pain people are experiencing.
How will we respond?