Has the church become stronger in the last three years? We’ve lived through some hardships and major changes in our country and the world since the outbreak of COVID-19. There have been lockdowns and shutdowns all over the world. Pastors have been arrested for holding church, churches have been burned to the ground, there have been protests and riots. Much of the world started to work remotely in order to continue working but avoiding going into the office. Churches ramped up their online worship in order to not neglect meeting together. But through all of this, has the church become stronger?

“The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.” (Acts 9:31)

Back in the first century, when the Christian church was just beginning, Luke wrote that the church became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. Do you see the fear of the Lord in your church? The church of course is not a building but a people—those that gather where you worship on Sunday morning, those that lead and preach. Do you see the fear of the Lord in them? Is your church becoming stronger? We can examine that on a personal level, but we can also look at the data on a large scale. Is the church in America getting stronger?

A recent Institute for Family Studies analysis using the American Family Survey found that religious attendance has declined significantly in the past two years. Regular church attendance is down by 6 percentage points, from 34% in 2019 to 28% in 2021. Meanwhile, the share of secular Americans who have never or seldom attended religious services increased by 7 percentage points. Statistically speaking, church attendance is declining and it is obvious that our culture continues to move further and further away from God. But we do not face times as difficult as the early church did in first century Rome. Christians are not being rounded up, taken out of their homes and forced into gladiator games or tied to platforms and lit on fire. The message of Christianity has always grown under the worst of circumstances.

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7)
“Those who fear the Lord are secure; he will be a refuge for their children. Fear of the Lord is a life-giving fountain; it offers escape from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 14:26- 27)
“The Lord is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant.” (Psalm 25:14)
“‘Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’” (Matthew 10:28)

We have no need to fear what men may do or what laws they may pass, governance boards they may create, or mandates they may impose. As Jesus said, “they cannot touch your soul.” We have the benefit of looking back at the history of the church, how our ancestors kept the faith and spread the message of Christ during unprecedented persecution. The church became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. That was the key to the success of the church then and it is the key to the success of the church today. It is up to us, to always keep our eyes on the Lord and to live with the wisdom, knowledge, and security that comes with a proper fear of the Lord.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.