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Spring 2023 · Vol. 52 No. 1 · pp. 41–54 

Then and Now: A Traveling Preacher’s Observations of the Post-COVID-19 Church

Brian A. Ross

“Nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light.” – Jesus, in Luke 8:17 1

“When it was over [the 1918 Influenza pandemic], people didn’t talk about it. There were very few books or plays written about it. Roughly 675,000 Americans lost their lives to the flu, compared with 53,000 in battle in World War I, and yet it left almost no conscious cultural mark. Perhaps it’s because people didn’t like who they had become. It was a shameful memory and therefore suppressed.” – David Brooks 2 {42}

Those communities that prioritized the dissemination of classical spiritual practices found a hungry audience.

I am a preacher. Though, officially, I make my living as an associate professor of Pastoral Ministries, I am regularly preaching somewhere. Churches of thousands. Churches of ten. I have preached in Mennonite churches, Pentecostal churches, Presbyterian churches, African American churches, and Russian churches. I preached plenty during the height of COVID-19. I prerecorded sermons in my home. One week I preached in two different churches, in two different countries, on the same Sunday. I preached outside. I preached in a mask. I preached in churches that met inside, when maybe they were not supposed to, with people who said they “didn’t believe in masks.” If you preach a lot, you see a lot.

It has been said that COVID-19 was the great revealer. I think the disease revealed much about the contemporary American church. Plenty bad, some good, and all a reflection of who we are. It can be a common occurrence to hear church parishioners remark on the irrelevancy of academia. At best, some claim, we become quite skilled at micro analyzing something once it is already past and no one cares about it anymore. Higher education as nerdy Monday-morning quarterbacking. With this critique in mind, my aim here will not be to name what was revealed about the church over the last couple of years, but what the pandemic uncovered about North American ministry at the present. These are a preacher’s observations about the macro-church, during the worst moments of the COVID-19 pandemic and right now.

Observation 1: Jesus’s healing focused on the whole human being. The contemporary ministry of healing tends to be one-sided.

Jesus . . . touched their eyes . . . And their eyes were opened . . . A demon-possessed man . . . was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out . . . The Pharisees were saying, “By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.” – Matthew 9:28–34

A healthy church movement is able to hold onto two sides of a tension, valuing both, without giving either up. – Vineyard USA 3

In a sense, these few words from Matthew’s gospel says it all: Jesus healed people physically (blindness), Jesus healed people psycho-spiritually (exorcism), and for this ministry he suffered attack. The pandemic revealed that most churches fully embrace one form of healing or the other, but rarely both. Some congregations care for hurting and sick bodies, some for confused and painful inner lives. It is usually one or the other.

“I am so angry that any church would be open right now. It is wrong. It is against Jesus and the kingdom. Jesus would not want any of us gathering and getting some old and immune-compromised {43} people sick, likely killing them, just so we can feel good about singing our songs in person. I am convinced that Jesus is against all of this. If we are literally risking people’s lives, how can we say that we love them? This is what is wrong with Evangelicals.” – Anonymous Pastor A 4

“Several people in my church called me and begged me to begin our services again. My people are working people, people of color, who are not sitting at home on a laptop. They still go to work every day. Some who have been clean for years and are relapsing. Some have children who are returning to gangs. Some are losing the little bit of money they had saved. They tell me that if we cannot have church right now, during the most difficult time of our lives, there is no point to Christian faith.” – Anonymous Pastor B

Observation 2: The early church ran towards plagues and urged one another to avoid arrogant leaders. The contemporary church has isolated itself in quarantine and tolerated brash personalities.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.” – Jesus, in John 12:24–26

The Greco-Roman world trembled as . . . family, friends, and neighbors died horribly. No one knew how to treat the stricken. Nor did most people try. During [a previous] plague, the famous classical physician Galen fled Rome for his country estate where he stayed until the danger subsided. But for those who could not flee, the typical response was to try to avoid any contact with the afflicted, since it was understood that the disease was contagious . . .

As for action, Christians met the obligation to care for the sick rather than desert them . . . Christians believed in life everlasting. At most, pagans believed in an unattractive existence in the underworld. Thus, for Galen to have remained in Rome to treat the afflicted during the first great plague would have required far greater bravery than was needed by Christian deacons and presbyters to do so. – Sociologist Rodney Stark 5

For we shall incur no slight injury, but rather great danger, if we rashly yield ourselves to the inclinations of men who aim at exciting {44} strife . . . so as to draw us away from what is good. Let us be kind one to another after the pattern of the tender mercy and benignity of our Creator. – St. Clement (c. 35–99 AD) 6

The dissonance between this aspect of the early and contemporary church is striking. One of the largest jewels within the crown of early church history was the clearly attested record of the Jesus disciples running towards the plague while the pagans fled. Much of the contemporary church has hunkered down instead. Surely it is to be acknowledged that we have modern medicine and health care systems that the first century did not. One could argue that church members simply needed to wait for a vaccine and then they could resume caring for people in person. While for first century Christians, no vaccine was coming, so the only choice was to physically care for the sick. Still, the comparison and the contrast are quite interesting.

Additionally, the noted fascination that many contemporary American Christians have with big, angry, public figures who proudly tout individual rights, is strikingly different from the strong admonitions from some of the earliest leaders of the faith. Even more, at least the toleration, if not outright support of strong political views within key church lay leadership, has led a number of the clergy to reconsider their call. Anecdotally, I was called to a church to preach on short notice in the midst of COVID-19, due to the pastor having experienced an emotional breakdown. I was told that it was based on political pressure he was receiving from particular board members. Alongside this, three people I went to school with all left the ministry within the same week in 2021.

Pastoral burnout has worsened during the pandemic. A Barna Group survey . . . found that 38 percent of pastors are seriously considering leaving full-time ministry . . .

“The change that has been accelerating in the last 18 months has left a lot of pastors with their heads spinning and their hearts spinning as well,” said Joe Jensen, Barna’s vice president of church engagement.

All the chaos, all the pressure . . . the pandemic, the politics . . . it makes sense that you have a lot of pastors saying, “Is this really what I signed up for? Is this what I was called into?”

Back in 2016, 85 percent of pastors rated their mental wellbeing as good or excellent, according to a previous Barna poll. In the October 2021 poll, it was down to 60 percent. 7 {45}

Observation 3: As a byproduct of the internet, the larger culture continues to fragment and silo. The contemporary church is echoing the same processes.

“Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” – Jesus, in John 17:11

A significant majority of survey respondents are now comfortable with their child marrying someone of a different race (75%) and a different religion (60%). . . .

Only 39% of Republicans and 33% of Democrats in our survey were comfortable with their child marrying someone from the other party.” – Harvard Graduate School of Education 8

Times of stress, turmoil and anxiety bring out the worst from within people. Or at least, they reveal what we truly believe and truly trust showing who we truly are. The varied responses of the churches to the pandemic formed a continuum from not meeting publicly all the way to meeting continuously without social distancing or masking practices. This revealed the lack of unity between the people who name the name of Jesus of Nazareth. But even more, the pronounced political differences and debates that occurred in churches mimicked the larger cultural fissures.

Marketing guru and cultural commentator, Seth Godin, says, “The internet is not a mass medium, it is a micro medium.” According to Godin, television, radio, and most forms of mass communication in the twentieth century were designed to appeal to a general middle. There were few channels and so by necessity they needed to work hard at connecting with everyone. The internet is the opposite. It is limitless, and therefore, everything that appears effective is designed to appeal to a small slice of the population with very specific, nuanced interests. The internet, as a technological tool, by its nature, divides us. Much of the church is being formed to the same pattern.

“The average voter believes the U.S. is two-thirds of the way to the edge of a civil war.” – Georgetown University, Institute of Politics and Public Service 9

Observation 4: The early church and early Anabaptists were reticent to trust societal rulers and their proclamations. The contemporary church is also weary of trusting leaders, but there is disagreement on which ones.

“You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.  It will not be so among you, {47} but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.” – Jesus, in Matthew 20:25–26

“I just was overconfident. . . . And because I was healthy . . . if I did get it, I thought it would just be a nothing issue. And in that, I was deeply, deeply wrong.

“I’ll tell you and your listeners today I will get vaccinated . . . I’m encouraging my church congregation to do that.

“[The] first sermon [I preach when I get out of the hospital] . . . I’m going to lay out lessons that I’ve learned. And certainly, I’m going to talk straight to our people about who we can and should be as God’s people and what it really means to love our neighbor.” – Pastor Danny Reeves, speaking from a hospital bed with COVID-19 on NPR’s Morning Edition 10

“We must not act selfishly . . . get your act together.

“If you are not complying, you are risking other people’s lives, not just your own . . .

“You are risking the health service collapsing. Do it—stick with the rules.” – Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, March 2020 11

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted he ‘got quite a few things wrong’ on the closure of churches during the first Covid lockdown, saying he was ‘too risk-averse.’ ” – Journalists, Gabriella Swerling and Victoria Ward, April 2021 12

It has long been a value of Anabaptist Christians, believers’ church radical reformers, to maintain a healthy distrust of leaders and those in authority. Coming out of experiences of persecution suffered at the hands of both Protestant and Roman Catholic ecclesial and civil leaders, Anabaptist disciples have understandably proclaimed that allegiance is only reserved for Jesus Christ. Anabaptists inherently are on the lookout for those in power who too quickly seek to push their agendas on others. Here again, due to the social and spiritual fragmentation that the online world has birthed among us, ours is an age where few trust any authority. Or at least, every person and every group has an authority figure that they specifically do not trust. But what happens in a world in which no one seems to get it all right? Or no one is exactly sure of what to do? Or when so many leaders are offering so many different opinions?

“An elder in my church called me because we were not holding in-person worship services. He yelled that I was power hungry and told me to F-off and hung up on me.” – Anonymous Pastor C {47}

“Intellectual Anabaptists often teach that we should not submit to the powers because we are called to follow an alternative kingdom. But if the powers are led by scientists with PhDs, they think we should all submit to them without question.” – Anonymous Pastor D

Observation 5: Limiting themselves to a particular mono-perspective can appear to work for some churches, but there are real downsides to ignoring other perspectives.

“Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Jesus, in Matthew 28:20

“The king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.’ ” – Jesus, in Matthew 25:40

“Residents in rural California counties with low vaccination rates died from COVID-19 at significantly higher rates during the summer Delta coronavirus variant surge than those in better-vaccinated regions.” – LA Times, October 2021 13

“I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to science. Science has in many ways helped ease the suffering of this pandemic, which was more than likely caused by science . . . This is the problem with science. Science is incredible, but they don’t know where to stop.” – Jon Stewart, on The Late Show, referencing the Wuhan Coronavirus Lab Leak Theory 14

As stated above, ours is a day and age of divisions, of siloes and mono-perspectives, an era of extremes. Increasingly, the way that people find us, the way that we find community, possibly even the way that we find and build a distinct identity, is through becoming a specific something online. This and not that. Prioritizing this and not that. Considering this voice and not that one. But if it’s true that the living Christ is “always with us” (Matt 28:20), and that the way that we treat the “least” and marginalized is the way that we treat him (Matt 25:40), it only stands to reason that the Spirit is omnipresent, that our Creator is in and through (and yet beyond) all things. And therefore, living in contact with reality, by necessity, means living in integrated contact with all of reality—with all facets of life.

When the worst of the virus was ravaging us, making us sick and taking too many lives, our instinct was to hold to the “one” perspective that mattered most. Varying voices vied to argue for what that “one” true voice should be: scientific research, our local pastor, economic and {48} business interests, psychologists and therapists, the bible, the best practices of sobriety and the twelve steps, etc. The battle in the larger culture, and within many churches, came down to this question: who should be trusted the most? Could it be that all of our congregations and our larger communities could benefit more from learning from various perspectives? Spirituality and psychology. Science and economics. Sociology and religion. Communal values and individualistic ones. Admittedly, this way is messy, but it might also be the way to God’s fully orbed Reality.

“That God created all, means that He is in all . . . Nothing of all that exists . . . exists of itself . . . Divisions are the result of the sin of man. But for the Fall there would have been no separation . . . All differences of quality and quantity, of space and time, are also the result of evil.” – Henry Bett paraphrasing theologian Johannes Scotus Eriugena (c. 800–877) 15

Observation 6: In a tumultuous time, only highly committed faith thrives. Hip Christianity and overly enculturated churches seem to struggle more than others.

“Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it.” – Jesus, in Luke 17:33

“By demanding higher levels of stigma and sacrifice, religious groups are able to generate greater material, social, and religious benefits for their members. . . . for a religious group, as with any organization, commitment is energy.” – Rodney Stark 16

“Is one of the takeaways, for a mainline church, that it is not a good strategy to position yourself as further on the left? . . . I would not do that at all. I don’t even know how you would survive if you were a liberal church today. That is a death sentence in a lot of ways.” – Sociologist and American Baptist minister Ryan Burge 17

There was not one right Christian response to the pandemic, at least when it came to how churches operated. A case could easily be made that the loving and responsible course of action was to close up for the sake of the safety of others. This defined being a good neighbor. But a case could also be made that being open, in an attempt to facilitate experiences of transcendent meaning and hope and to help others find God in a most uncertain time, also fits a biblical mandate. As much as we finite human beings might always demand clarity in the midst of chaos, wisdom recognizes that there are not always clear paths through the midst of historical unpredictability. Acknowledging this proviso, some types {49} of churches seemed to thrive and others appeared to stall out during the pandemic. But either way, none were easy to lead.

Churches that positioned themselves as the opposition to governmental control and shut-downs, largely, did well. Attendance increased, sometimes dramatically, and the coffers overflowed. Taking this approach, these more right-wing churches carved out a niche for themselves that could not be found in many other sectors of our society. Admittedly, these pastors have had to deal with parishioners running to the right of even them, sometimes in ways that they cannot always control or respect, but these churches certainly did not shrink.

Congregations that also took a more moderate or “third way” approach, whilst still displaying clear commitment to the Way, also seemed to do okay through COVID-19, though not without pain. If a church was angled as passionately committed to Jesus and the Bible and the path of the kingdom above all and yet took a moderate response to the pandemic—closed, but highly active personally when regulations demanded it; open as soon as permitted, albeit with masks; and meeting outside when there was no other option—its leaders usually had to deal with pushback from both the right and the left. But the overall church tended to be okay. There are certainly groups of church goers that would prefer a more centrist approach to life if it is clear that their leaders are committed to the biblical Jesus above all else.

Yet, experience has proven that the most cautious churches, and the most vocally progressive churches, have suffered the most. To be clear, I find there to be plenty of reasonable arguments for why a church would side with an abundance of caution and/or believe that Jesus’s vision naturally leans towards the left on various social matters. My comments here are intended to be more observational and less judgmental. But churches that stayed closed the longest, and went the furthest to the left, have suffered.

Why? I think the best explanation is that in a world of a myriad of choices, in a world where everything is available via the internet, church is largely only attractive to those who trust Christian faith above everything else. These individuals long to feel like they are experiencing the “real thing” that cannot be found anywhere else within our culture. It may very well be the case that the American age of cool-headed, sensible, educated church members, majoring on following the latest trends generated by coastal mavens, may be winding down. There are easier, more direct avenues to experience this way of life than through an organized sophisticated religious community. But admittedly, the same could be said for larger, entertainment-driven churches. The whole world is now in our back pocket. Other avenues can more quickly deliver excitement than a megachurch.

Observation 7: The physical gathering of a congregation matters incredibly; it serves as the social imaginary that incubates faith.

“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. . . . For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” – Jesus, in Matthew 18:18 & 20

“Conversion to . . . religious groups occurs when, other things being equal, people have or develop stronger attachments to members of the group than they have to nonmembers.” – Rodney Stark 18

The late social researcher, Rodney Stark, made a compelling argument that our official beliefs, our spiritual and religious commitments, arise from aligning our formal worldview with what we have been experiencing over a period of time, communally. In effect, we catch faith. If we have more and closer friends who believe, eventually we will too. If we have more and better friends who don’t, eventually, neither do we. The implications of this insight, which Stark discovered while embedded doing field research with various religious groups, are potentially legion. It might also be one of the simplest explanations of why many churches “lost” people, permanently, over the pandemic. Again, especially ones who kept their physical doors closed the longest. Once people were enmeshed within a context where only their immediate family, and Netflix and YouTube were their primary social experiences, it became quite easy for faith to fade away.

The strategist (and ethnic Mennonite), Roger Martin, commented in various spaces on what has been dubbed “The Great Resignation.” This is the term used to describe the large amounts of people who resigned from their place of employment as the world began to reawaken from COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. The reasoning he uses to explain mass turnover of employees can also easily describe what has happened with church participation.

The key to understanding the Great Resignation is the power of habit . . .

The mind is wired to love automaticity. It makes sense. If we can do many things without thinking—driven by unconscious habit—we can save the mind’s available energy for times when we really need to think. If we had to think very hard about how to drive from home to the office—thinking about every turn, thinking about how much we should turn the steering wheel at each corner—we would be exhausted by the time we get to work. {51} But most of that driving is done unconsciously—driven by habits that enable us to save brain energy.

The mind . . . would much rather be guided by our subconscious, which whispers to our conscious: “Just do the thing that we know works and is most comfortable. For heaven’s sake don’t make us think consciously about this choice, please . . .”

What was interrupted by Covid . . . ? For tens of millions of American adults: going to their place of work . . .

When a habit is broken—in the case of Covid, forcibly broken—its privileged position disappears. And a new habit takes shape—in this case working from home. And pretty quickly, the subconscious gives privilege to that new habit. It . . . is the new default habit.

Yet, the general narrative in business is one of “going back.” I.e., now that Covid is under some semblance of control (fingers crossed) employees can go back to their normal place of work. . . . But that is a logical fallacy. For the workers’ subconscious, it isn’t going back. It is doing a completely new thing. 19

“All pastors have become church planters. Many of us invested years in building a congregation, and thanks to COVID-19, it feels like we are all starting all over again. To be sure, there are people who are open to the gospel and who are finding Jesus. But we are starting over with fewer committed people, fewer volunteers, and systems and structures that are no longer working. And all with literally different people than before it all started.” – Anonymous Pastor E

Observation 8: What did/does seem to be gaining traction in nearly every participating church? Thick engagement with formative spiritual practices.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Jesus, in Matthew 11:28–30

“What matters . . . is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us.” – Philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre 20 {52}

Despite the pain of the last few years, the hundreds of thousands of lives lost, the permanent disability of some who had been infected, the cultural tumult, and the economic devastation that the virus wreaked upon us, I have witnessed numerous signs of the inbreaking of the kingdom in a host of congregations. Spirit-filled work was revealed in people banding together and organizing ways to feed the hungry and visit the sick, checking in on each other and communicating the inherit worth of all people through various channels, waking up to numerous social injustices and seeking to be a part of the solution. The Way of Jesus is always taken up by some. But what stood out to me most, what seemed to be clearly “working” in every context that sought it, was the offering and facilitation and experiential teaching of historical spiritual practices and traditions. To be sure, the masses were not flocking to spiritual formation groups. But everywhere, in all sorts of contexts (evangelical, mainline, large, and small), those communities that prioritized the dissemination of classical spiritual practices found a hungry audience. There were plenty of people who experienced personal change and even transformation.

In my humble opinion as a ministry professor and preacher who has now worshipped in ninety-eight different congregations of all sorts and sizes, practically and experientially teaching people how to take on the Ways of Jesus may just be the most important offering we can serve up in a post-COVID-19, post-everything, world.

We can try offering the right doctrines, the right view on controversial social issues, Sunday entertainment, divine power to make our lives go better, and organized efforts to socially change the world. All of these have their place. But I fear that in a world where everything is available, there will also be another intelligent and charismatic person who can refute our ideas and positions, another promoter who can offer a better show, another pandemic that can once again threaten our health and happiness, and another corrupt movement that can stifle anything resembling positive social change. But I am not sure there is anywhere else where open-hearted people can go to find out how to engage the Spirit and form their souls towards virtue in the way of Jesus other than in congregations that have been apprenticing themselves to this path all along. This was true then. This is true now. This will certainly also be true as we move into the unknown future.

NOTES

  1. All Scripture references are taken from the New Revised Standard Version, updated edition (National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America, 2021).
  2. David Brooks, “Opinion | Pandemics Kill Compassion, Too,” The New York Times, 12 March 2020, sec. Opinion, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/12/opinion/pandemic-coronavirus-compassion.html.
  3. Vineyard USA, “What Is the Vineyard? Our Uniqueness,” March 25, 2016, https://vineyardusa.org/library/what-is-the-vineyard-our-uniqueness/.
  4. Anonymous pastor quotations are summaries of conversations that the author had with various pastors during the throes of the pandemic. These statements are anonymous to protect the identities and reputations of various local church leaders. These statements are approximate quotations, based on the author’s memory. Admittedly, the reader is being asked to trust the author that these statements are consistent with the original conversations.
  5. Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion (New York: HarperOne, 2011), 114–19.
  6. “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, vol. 1, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979), 8.
  7. Kate Shellnutt, “The Pastors Aren’t All Right: 38% Consider Leaving Ministry,” News & Reporting, November 16, 2021, https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/november/pastor-burnout-pandemic-barna-consider-leaving-ministry.html.
  8. “Bridging America’s Political Divide,” Making Caring Common Project Report, Harvard University Graduate School of Education, November 2020, https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/reports/bridging-americas-political-divide.
  9. “NEW POLL: Voters Find Political Divisions so Bad, Believe U.S. Is Two-Thirds of the Way to ‘Edge of a Civil War’,” Institute of Politics and Public Service, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University, October 23, 2019, https://politics.georgetown.edu/2019/10/23/new-poll-voters-find-political-divisions-so-bad-believe-u-s-is-two-thirds-of-the-way-to-edge-of-a-civil-war/.
  10. “Pastor Who Suffered through COVID-19 Regrets Not Getting Vaccinated,” Morning Edition, NPR, Fresno, CA, KVPR, August 24, 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/08/24/1030561804/pastor-who-suffered-through-covid-19-regrets-not-getting-vaccinated.
  11. “Church Providing ‘Hope and Comfort’ during Coronavirus Crisis, Archbishop Justin Welby Tells ITV News,” ITV News, March 25, 2020, https://www.itv.com/news/2020-03-25/church-providing-hope-and-comfort-during-coronavirus-crisis-archbishop-justin-welby-tells-itv-news.
  12. Gabriella Swerling and Victoria Ward, “Justin Welby Regrets Not Fighting to Allow Prayer in Church during First Lockdown,” The Telegraph, 8 April 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/royal-family/2021/04/08/royal-like-serving-life-without-parole-says-archbishop/. {54}
  13. Luke Money, Sean Greene, and Rong-Gong Lin II, “Vaccine Alters California’s Coronavirus Path: Urban Areas Improve, Rural Parts Suffer,” Los Angeles Times, 9 October 2021, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-10-09/california-death-rates-higher-least-vaccinated-areas.
  14. Stephen Colbert, “Jon Stewart on Vaccine Science and the Wuhan Lab Theory,” YouTube video, 8:37 minutes, June 15, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSfejgwbDQ8.
  15. Henry Bett, Johannes Scotus Erigena: A Study in Mediaeval Philosophy (New York: Russell and Russell, 1964), 32, 56.
  16. Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), 177–78.
  17. Jason Micheli and Teer Hardy, “Episode 318: Ryan Burge—The Nones, Myths about the Trump Voter, and the Shrinking Sliver of Progressive Christianity,” August 13, 2021, in Crackers & Grape Juice, Tommie Marshell, podcast, audio, 1:07:41, https://crackersandgrapejuice.com/episode-318-ryan-burge-the-nones/.
  18. Stark, Rise of Christianity, 18.
  19. Roger Martin, “The Great Resignation Should Be No Surprise,” Medium, February 14, 2022, https://rogermartin.medium.com/the-great-resignation-should-be-no-surprise-d6dff7712866.
  20. Alasdair Macintyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 2nd ed. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 263.

Brian A. Ross is Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministries at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, and oversees the MDiv, MA in Christian Ministries, and the MA in Ministry, Leadership, and Culture (online) degree programs. Over twenty-five years, he has served as a church planter, senior pastor, teaching pastor, youth pastor, and ministry consultant. Ross is the author of The Practical (and Indispensable) Pastor’s Handbook (2021), and editor of Signs of the Times: Pastoral Translations of Ministry & Culture in Honor of Leonard I. Sweet (2016).

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