What has COVID-19 exposed about the Church in North America?

By Scott Gibson

When we’re faced with trials, our dependence is exposed.

As many of our Sunday worship services and our lives have come to a screeching halt, North America — indeed, the world — is experiencing a collective trial, a corporate mourning.

These days, it seems like we have more questions than answers. How do we navigate this unprecedented season? How do we keep our momentum? What does this mean for all of us? How will this affect our new church plants, our replants and even our established churches? What has this current situation — and the removal of Sunday worship gatherings — exposed about the Church in North America?

What good things have we unknowingly placed our dependence on?


When Jesus came, He ushered in a new type of worship. In His conversation with the Samaritan women at the well in John 4, He tells her that worship doesn’t revolve around a certain location, but in the hearts of His true followers.

A lot of what we do seems to revolve around where we are meeting and less about who is meeting. The New Testament Church has never placed its emphasis on a church building, but on the men and women who make up the body of Christ. Throughout the New Testament, we continuously see a group of Christ-followers eager to meet whenever possible.

I am not against buildings. In fact, I happen to love every location our church has ever met in. However, regardless of where we meet, our emphasis shouldn’t be on the church building itself. Our emphasis should be on the people who come to worship God as fellow brothers and sisters in the faith and those who come to inquire about Him.

Right now, more than ever, we must be creative. We must use any and every means necessary to gather without gathering. We must continue to fellowship at a distance.

We must still be the church without the church building.


Many godly brothers and leaders in the faith are going to say we need to embrace technology, now more than ever, especially as it relates to online services. While this may be a Band-Aid or a temporary fix, it can never replace the assembling together of the saints. Technology is here to complement the church, not lead us to fully rely on it.

In this season, we have had to be more dependent on technology since most states have mandated social distancing ordinances. Many churches (some for the first time) are finding ways to have their worship services, small groups and staff meetings online. While these temporarily allow us to meet together, we may be tempted to use this as a solution once the pandemic subsides.

After all, we live in a culture that gravitates toward convenience and ease, comfort and consumerism. Now we can go to church and love our neighbor from the glowing screens in our hands. But again, we must never forget we — God’s people — are the church. There is no substitute for embodied fellowship.


In the midst of trials, we’re tempted to cling to what we can control by binging on the latest information about this mysterious virus, hoarding supplies and essentials and placing the bulk of our hope in the words of our government and scientists.

By themselves, none of these are bad, but if we’re not careful, as pastors, we may find ourselves and the members who follow us clinging too tightly to the things we can control. Right now, the Church needs leaders who are dependent on God. She needs confident, decisive and innovative leadership. People more than ever are looking to their leaders — and more specifically, their pastors.

They want to feel secure. They want to know that on some level things are going to be alright. They want to follow with confidence those who are leading with confidence. They want to know how we are going to move forward. They want to know how to help the hurting without hurting them.

How do we do this? We seek God! We ask for wisdom. We ask for answers. We don’t overly rely on our own understanding. We don’t just do what everyone else is doing. We do whatever our context requires. We do what we feel God is telling us to do. We follow Jesus. We look to the Scriptures. We wrestle with the darkness of this world and we never give up!

Of all the people God could have chosen to lead His church right now, He chose us! This was not random, but perhaps we have been chosen “for a time such as this.”

Learn more about the challenges and opportunities for church planters in this season of COVID-19 at this episode of the “We are Send Network” podcast, based on a live webcast.

Published April 16, 2020

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Scott Gibson

Scott Gibson is the lead pastor/planter of The Bridge in Lancaster Ohio. He is happily married to his wife Melissa. They have eight children and two grandchildren. Scott has a passion for multiplication through church planting.