Faith after Covid

Adrian Armstrong | Head of Bible Engagement

The pandemic has brought change and disruption to all our lives. Churches too have had to adapt. As we continue to come out the other end of Covid, what are we to make of some the changes that are reshaping our churches?  

Amidst the loss and distress of these years there are many signs of encouragement of what God is doing. One of these is the growing evidence of a huge uplift in the number of people interested in faith.

In May 2020, early in the pandemic, Tearfund carried out a survey in which 24% of UK adults said they had listened to or watched an online religious service during lockdown. Roughly half of the Scottish population identifies as Christian, so if we take those stats and apply them to Scotland, then that’s 525,000 Scottish adults listening or watching to an online Christian service. That compares to pre-lockdown, when on any given Sunday there would be 330,000 in church: a 60% increase.

In May 2020

59%

of churches reported an increase in people interested in finding out more about the Christian faith

10%

of churches saw an increase in people making first-time commitments to following Christ

(Source: Evangelical Alliance)

Revealing research

Evangelical Alliance has been surveying church leaders throughout the pandemic with their “Changing Church” research. In May 2020 they discovered that 59% of churches reported an increase in people interested in finding out more about the Christian faith, and 10% saw an increase in people making first-time commitments to following Christ.

Yet at the same time there are concerns. EA’s Autumn 2021 Changing Church report noted that church attendance is down 32% from before the pandemic, with people attending church less often or choosing to watch online instead. Churches are struggling to resource ministries, with 60% of church leaders seeing a drop on volunteering and 24% of churches who offered youth ministries prior to the pandemic no longer doing so.

The experts tell us that the pandemic has accelerated existing trends. In terms of church, these early reports demonstrate that: on the one hand, a huge increase in people exploring Christianity. On the other, lower numbers on a Sunday.

God’s mission is unchanging. He is still, “adding daily to the number of those who [are] being saved” through the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:47).

 – Adrian Armstrong

It’s important that we make the most of this extraordinary missional moment.

EA’s Autumn report said that Scotland was one of the places where churches are more likely to be seeing people become Christians. Our own work at the Scottish Bible Society has seen an explosion of interest in Bible resources. During the first year of the pandemic the number of digital and printed resources we distributed more than doubled. While digital resources have grown, particularly striking has been the demand for physical products. Our two magazine gospels Mark: The Time has Come and John: Light and Life have been extremely popular. For people exploring faith, gospels are the best place to start in the scriptures.  

A read through the book of Acts is a good reminder of the growth of the church during times of rapid change and difficulty. God’s mission is unchanging. He is still, “adding daily to the number of those who [are] being saved” through the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:47).  Jesus words remain true, “look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (John 4:35). 

The Scottish Bible Society is committed to walking with churches and leaders as we navigate these changes. Please do get in touch to let us know how we can support and resource your church as together we seek to share the Bible with Scotland.