How Covid Affected Our Church’s Worship

When we first became aware of it in 2020, COVID-19 had a significant impact on churches throughout the world. For some, it brought to the forefront questions about who decides when the church can gather. For others, it revealed a deficiency in our understanding of why the church meets. For everyone, it caused us to reevaluate why God calls us together in the first place. In this episode, Bob Kauflin, David Zimmer, and Devon Kauflin talk about the consequences of COVID, both good and bad, and the importance of remaining firmly planted in the unchanging truths of God’s Word.

Have a question about this episode? Send us an email at

Follow us Website:​​​​​​

#soundplusdoctrine​​​​​​ #sovereigngracemusic


David Zimmer: Welcome to the Sound Plus Doctrine Podcast. My name is David Zimmer.

Bob Kauflin: My name is Bob Kauflin.

DZ: And we have Devon Kauflin here joining us today.

BK: Always a joy.

Devon Kauflin: Great to be here.

DZ: Yeah, Bob, what are we talking about today?

BK: We are talking, well a few years ago, there was this thing called COVID.

DZ: Oh, really? I have no recollection of that.

BK: It is just making a reappearance, by the way, in case you hadn’t noticed. And in my 60, well almost 70 years, I don’t remember a season that has affected the church so significantly and so our topic today is how did COVID affect the church’s worship? Because obviously, there were a number of things unexpected that were happening in churches, not meeting, meeting with masks, finding out what live stream is, and all kinds of things. And some churches went through that time, I think ours did, went through that time, came out on the other side, and we pretty much are just doing the same thing we’ve always done, it hasn’t changed that much. But as we were talking about it, we realized that, wow, this has really had some positive effects, and I think it did have some positive effects for us, and some negative effects.

DZ: Yeah

BK: And so we wanted to talk about those to the end that we would be aware of how maybe what we’re doing as the church might have been inadvertently affected in a negative way by what took place back in 2020 and we continue to be affected by ’cause there will always be things that affect our understanding of the gathering of the church.

DZ: Yeah, and not only have we received questions about this, thinking post-COVID, but we’ve also talked to a bunch of worship leaders through our intensive or when we are at a conference.

BK: Yes, yes.

DZ: And it’s pressing for a lot of them in the negative ways of, I never knew that this would be such a problem, whatever this issue is, and in the positive ways of man, God has been able to do so much in our midst because of this trial that we went through, how it shaped us.

BK: Yes.

DZ: How it’s changed us. So I do think it has had a great effect and we hear about it a lot, actually.

BK: So let’s start there, let’s start with… It was a dark season. I can still… Sometimes I just can’t believe we went through that. I think, yeah, there were days when I was just sitting at home a lot and I played the piano a lot more. And I remember we were doing those Thursday night…

DK: Live streams, right?

BK: Music live streams which we heard real encouragement from.

DK: Yeah, but it was such a remarkable time, I mean…

BK: Did that really happen?

DK: Yeah, something else.

DZ: It’s so funny, too, when people talk about it, they think, yeah, that was like what? 10 years ago or?

BK: Yes.

DZ: Total lack of time that’s passed since.

DK: Yeah, my daughter just the other day told me that she still has the paper from… It was in the midst of everything and we meet in a school, and the school… We were told we couldn’t meet in the school, but we got together in a barn on someone’s property.

BK: Oh, that’s right.

DK: But it was only about half of our church., and so she just told me, just the other day, she was like I still have that paper that we used that Sunday.

DZ: Wow, that’s wild.

DK: But it’s just like, wow, that really happened.

BK: Oh, man and that’s like half her life, I mean, since then.

DK: Yes.

BK: Alright, how about if we look at, what did God use COVID to do positively in our lives, in our hearts, in our churches, in our ways of understanding the gathering?

DK: Let me say before we answer that, I do think at the outset, what that season has done hasn’t brought on new things, I think it’s revealed what’s already there.

BK: Yes, good.

DZ: Yeah, good, good.

DK: And so just recognize that’s what circumstances do, they don’t bring up new things, it’s like, Oh, no, this was already there, and this circumstance has acted as a light that has maybe shown in some corners that were dark before and now we see what’s there.

BK: It’s kind of like when you say to someone, I’m a lot angrier since I met you. You make me angry. Uh no, that anger was already there, just…

DK: I’ve never heard you say that.

BK: No. Oh, no, I wasn’t saying it to you, especially as you were growing up.

DK: Well, I think one of the things that took place during that time, especially in 2020, was this happened across the whole culture, but in the church in particular, just showed how precious it is, how wonderful it is to be able to gather together.

BK: In person.

DK: In person.

BK: Physically.

DK: And see people’s faces, and be physically present with one another. We all felt that loss and so that was a gift.

BK: That’s a good point.

DK: I don’t think we would feel the weight of that apart from walking through those circumstances.

BK: Yes. I will never forget the videos of people trying to visit a parent or someone in the hospital, and they couldn’t do it, they couldn’t visit them. They could see them maybe through a window, and that really was moving, but you think, wow, they can’t be together. Funerals, you couldn’t have a funeral, and be with those you’re mourning with, it’s just not the same. Mourning online, M-O-U-R…

DZ: Yes, yes.

BK: Is not the same as being together, there’s something about… There’s something God does in the way he made us to appreciate, as you said, gestures, countenance, sounds, smells. I mean, just everything that makes us aware. Well, we are embodied people and these bodies mean something so that was really, I think, something that maybe a lot of churches hadn’t been aware of, how significant it was, what a gift it was, and is for us to actually meet together.

DZ: Yeah, I remember returning back to our church, and sitting under the Word in person was so different than observing it on a TV.

BK: You didn’t like it coming over the monitor, or the screen?

DZ: Yeah, it was the difference of listening to something in my car, which can be so beneficial as well.

BK: God can use it, yeah.

DZ: But it was the attention and it was being present, and also sharing that experience, we’re talking about the one anothers a lot, but sharing that experience with each other in how people are relating it as what, to it what’s being preached as well, that just was a big… Obviously the singing, right?

BK: Yes.

DZ: Singing with masks and stuff. But just the being in the tactile experience of everything you mentioned.

BK: Well, and that points back to something we said in an earlier podcast, about how God intends our meeting together to build us together. You can’t be built together with someone you’re not near or see. But when you’re sitting under the preaching of the Word, together you realize, oh, God’s speaking this word to us, not just to me, which is really important.

DZ: Exactly.

BK: You mentioned something Devon yesterday, when we were talking about this, about how COVID just made us more aware of our weakness and dependence, do you remember saying that?

DK: I don’t right now, no.

BK: Well, why don’t you fill it out for as though you had said it.


DK: COVID made us more aware of our weakness and dependence.

BK: Our dependence on the Lord, and if you didn’t say that, maybe I did.

DK: Maybe you said it. Let me write it down.

BK: Let me fill it out.

DK: I’m sure I’ll have things to say once you start talking.

BK: It’s alright, as I’m talking you’ll probably think, oh, I did say it.


DZ: Yeah, I will take the credit.

BK: It’s alright. The reality that we could not do so many things that we normally did, like go to a Sunday meeting. We couldn’t get in our car and drive to a Sunday meeting. It just makes you feel helpless. Well, that is the most accurate representation of who we are, we are helpless. And we are prone to think we can get things under control, we can manage things, we can direct things, we can lead things, we can make things happen, doggone it! And then you have churches, leaders, all of a sudden saying, we can’t even get our people together and we don’t know what to do. And in that moment, all of us have this opportunity to receive grace, ’cause God gives grace to the humble, he doesn’t give grace to the proud, those who think they have it all together, he gives grace to the humble. So that was a rich opportunity. I remember when we were… I think we only live streamed for like seven weeks or something, but I remember just gathering together in our office and just thinking, wow, we really have nothing apart from what the Lord does.

DZ: And it’s just us, we’re the only people here.


BK: It’s just depressing.

DZ: But I do think an awareness of our weakness made us so much more grateful…

BK: Absolutely.

DZ: When we did gather together.

BK: Absolutely.

DZ: It’s like… Do you remember how crazy this was?

BK: Absolutely, so yeah, living… And I remember I went through something in the mid ’90s where, had a sin breakdown, I call it, where I just felt incapable of thinking rightly, thinking properly, anxious, panic attacks, all those things. I look back on that and I think that was God’s mercy to me, because I remember thinking at one point I feel like I’m in free-fall, and I think it was the Lord saying to me, I want you to learn to love the sensation of free-fall where you have no supports but me. You have nothing to depend on but me. “On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand, I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.” So we could have been trusting our administrative skills, the size of our building.

DK: The production skills.

BK: The production skills, the coffee we served. I mean, it’s all these things that we’re thinking, yeah, this is so great and the Lord’s taken it all away. I just thought that was such a gift.

DK: Yeah, that reminder, the tangible reminder that we are not the people who build God’s church.

BK: Yes.

DK: Jesus builds his church.

BK: Yes.

DK: We were brought face to face with that.

DZ: Yeah, I think another thing, in the positive, that it could be hard to see because, there was loss that happened in COVID as well, but an awareness of God’s sovereignty, an awareness of…

BK: That’s good.

DZ: It’s in line with what you’re saying with our weakness.

BK: That’s good. But it’s a different angle.

DZ: But I remember when we were writing songs for Unchanging God kind of around that time, and so many of those songs that came out inspired by the Psalms were songs about, God, you are in control.

BK: Yes, yes.

DZ: You are sovereign over sickness, over death, over… If we gather and we get sick or there is death in our midst, how do we trust you through this? How do we… Are we putting our faith in our health, our wisdom and all those things? Or are we putting our faith and trust in you? I think that built faith in our church.

BK: Absolutely.

DZ: In the Word and in Christ obviously, but it built our faith together, as a congregation.

BK: Thinking of Psalm 93, The Lord Almighty Reigns, “he reigns when oceans roar, this is the song, he reigns above the storm enthroned on high, the lord almighty reigns.” I forgot about that, that’s true. Another benefit is, I don’t if this sounds like a benefit but it rooted out attenders, those who were just kind of attending, they just kind of didn’t… After COVID was… After churches could start meeting again they didn’t really come back, and it’s like, well I found out you didn’t really need that. And in some senses that’s a bad thing, but in other senses it’s a good thing because you want the people who are gathering to be those that Christ has redeemed, who have trusted in him for salvation and who want to grow into Christ, wanna hear his word, want to gather with the saints, and others didn’t have the desire to do that anymore. So the church in some senses was smaller, but in other senses, churches were stronger.

DZ: Yeah. Well, and those people that were missing it so much when they came back members, it created a real sense of a need for membership, and like what Dev said earlier, these are problems that have always been there.

BK: Yes, yes.

DZ: But when you lose out on it the benefit of your membership in a local body, when you return to it, you realize, oh, there is great benefit and value of me being a member.

BK: Yes. Alright, I wanna mention one more benefit and this was kind of unusual, but to be expected. That we were able to see what other people were doing, where we never could before, and it’s…

DZ: That is true.

BK: And I know people in other countries who watched our online service, and it was just like, yeah, okay, we closed down our live stream in August, I think, of 2020, we scaled it back and then we just shut the whole thing down because we thought, this is not gathering, and we don’t want to tell people this. But during that time, there were people who emailed us saying, oh, I saw your service, it was so encouraging, it just… So that was… God uses things that we may not necessarily aim for…

DZ: Yes.

BK: To bless people. Alright, so let’s talk about some things that weren’t so good, negative things that took place as a result of COVID, that kind of broadly speaking. Devon, why don’t you start.

DK: I would answer the same way you just did.

BK: Yes, I was gonna say, it’s a double-edged sword, yeah.

DK: Yeah, it is a double-edged sword. We could see what everyone else was doing and…

BK: I was trying to set you up there.

DK: I knew you were, it was a softball. Good cop, bad cop thing.


DK: It’s like, this was great, this is such a gift, this was terrible, such a danger.

DZ: At least he’s checking, if you actually said it.


DK: No.

DZ: Did this come from you?

DK: No, God uses, he uses us to build his church. I mean, it’s Jesus who builds his church, but he chooses to use us, jars of clay, weak people.

BK: Yes. Amazing.

DK: Which is remarkable. And he uses means that are totally bizarre and you could see this throughout church history, and it’s like, and you can look around at the church today or you hear somebody’s testimony and how the Lord saved them and it’s like, really? Like he used that person or that situation to bring resurrection to your life? You were dead in your sin? And yeah, now you’re alive together with Christ. And so we always have to remember that’s all God uses because he wants to put on display his glory.

BK: Yes, yes.

DK: He wants us to know that it’s him that’s doing the work in Christ by the Spirit. And so in this time, you had people embracing and pressing into livestream and we want to serve our people where they’re at, we can’t gather, and so let’s do what we can to edify, to equip, wonderful things and right and good things, and God did that. But that also has an effect on then how we think about what the church is.

BK: Yes.

DZ: Yes.

DK: And what it means to gather for the church. And I think that’s presented… That again, I think revealed a deficiency that we have and how much we’ve adopted, the ethos and the values of the culture around us when it comes to how we think about the church, and it’s helped to foster a consumerism in the church, it was I think already there.

BK: Sure.

DK: But just put it out there all the more.

BK: Yeah, recently it’s roots would’ve been in the secret driven church, we’re just going into our neighborhoods we’re asking, what’s missing in church? What’s bad about church? Okay, we’re gonna be those things that you think are missing, you’re asking unbelievers, what the church should be like. Well, that’s not where we go for what the church should be like.

DK: And both that seeker…

BK: Orientation.

DK: Approach, orientation and evangelicalism as a whole, I think there’s this effectiveness principle that we’ll have to measure things by, and so in the case that you just mentioned, we had people from around the world saying how much they appreciated this. And I think a lot of times we take that which is God’s grace, and that’s wonderful.

BK: Yes.

DK: And those people being edified and Lord willing built into Christ. And then we say well, that’s happening, we shouldn’t stop that from happening.

DZ: It’s working, yeah.

BK: And we should make it better.

DK: So let’s pour ourselves into doing this more and more and more. And I think that’s a dangerous place to be. I think that we should be very, very careful.

BK: Why is it a dangerous place to be? Back your words up.

DK: So when we look at Acts and how the early church begins, what we see is God saving people and building them into a community. So as the church is being established, it’s expressed in people being in places.

BK: Yes, space and time.

DK: And gathering together. Yeah. In space and time, and then sharing life together outside of that gathering. And then as you go through the New Testament, what’s happening is the… It’s not even so much talked about as it is, it’s the assumption. It’s the only way this happens, but how do we grow? Well, we grow into Christ. And what does it mean to grow into Christ? Well, it means actually to be built up together, to be built into one another. And that’s how the New Testament’s written. That’s how Paul writes. That’s how Peter writes. That’s how John writes. That’s what’s happening. And…

BK: There is an assumption that there are no lone Christians. That you are part of a body of people, a church that God is building you into and building together into Christ.

DK: Yep.

BK: That’s the assumption.

DK: For his glory.

BK: Yeah, for his glory.

DZ: Yep.

DK: And, so that’s happening. And so what I think COVID did, and a lot of the practices that churches adopted, whether it be before COVID or since COVID, those practices do something to us the people that participate in them, they can do something for us. It’s can be edifying, but they can also shape how we view those things and think about those things. And so then it is, I mean, going to church becomes something that I just observe. And so I’m actually not going anywhere.

BK: Yes. Don’t have to.

DK: But I’m just observing something and I don’t have to participate. I’m participating because I’m watching.

BK: Yes.

DK: But there’s no one that I’m encouraging through my presence. And that’s not in the Bible. That idea that we are…

BK: Well, ’cause they didn’t have the internet and stuff.

DK: Observers. But we are meant to be teaching and admonishing one another as we gather together, exhorting one another, edifying one another and we can’t do that over livestream.

BK: I remember one of the dilemmas being like, when we started the meeting, Do I ask people to stand or not? I can’t see them stand.


BK: So I would say, wherever you are, your living room, you wanna stand together. It’s just kind of like, this is weird. This is so strange. Another thing well said, you backed your words up. That was really good. I found it fascinating as I’ve talked to different leaders, pastors, worship leaders, just how we realize we just gotta make our live stream just so much better. And by the way, your live stream is not what people hear on the Sunday morning. Praise the Lord.


DZ: Oh my goodness. You can say that again.

BK: You have directs mics. And you go to some live streams, it’s just horrible.

DK: Well, we were talking the other day, rewind 10, 15 years ago, and YouTube is around and you start seeing worship leader fails or whatever it is.

BK: Yeah. Yes.

DK: And it’s that vocalist singing the wrong key. Or that vocalist who’s all pitchy or things like that. Now, today it’s like, go look at live streams of churches and their services and like oh, that’s the norm.

DZ: Yeah.

BK: Yes. Yeah.

DK: People are pitchy.

BK: Yes.

DK: Yeah. And it’s not as funny anymore [laughter] because that’s normal.

DZ: Yeah. Yeah.

DK: And so that’s one of the challenges of the internet. Now we see what everybody does. But then we can have this sense of like, oh.

DZ: It has to be better.

DK: Yeah. Well, these professionals like, it sounds great, so maybe we should be using multi-tracks so that musically it just sounds better.

DZ: Autotune.

[overlapping conversation]

DK: We should start auto tuning the vocal.

BK: You can listen to the podcast on multi-tracks.

DK: Yeah. Auto tune the vocal so it’s not so pitchy. You can go down this path or let’s invest more of our money into lighting. And let’s get better cameras and better sound system. All these things, and they’re not bad. It’s not bad to spend money on those things or sinful to spend money on those things but we’re starting to aim at something else.

BK: Yes. We’re throwing all our time and resources and thought and energy into something that is not God’s main point in the gathering.

DZ: Yeah.

BK: Which comes from somewhere. So the time we spend in… I’ve again talked to leaders who they, 10 hours, 15 hours of my week now is spent in just getting the live stream or the video of our service presentable.

DK: Yeah.

BK: I think you shouldn’t even be doing that. That is not the purpose for which God has us gathering. So you can show to others and then you have people saying, Hey, join us on Sundays here or online. I got news for you, they aren’t joining you online. They’re watching you, but they’re not joining you. Joining you is being there. And yes, you can have some sense of community and community chat room, but again, that is not the same as physically gathering together. You cannot fulfill the one another’s of the New Testament by sitting in your chair in your room while everybody else is sitting in their chairs in their room.

DK: That’s a funny thing. You think about like, long distance relationships and you’ll see these stories…

BK: Oh, they are the best.

DK: You’ll hear stories they best or whatever it is. No, but you’ll have people who meet online.

BK: Yes. Yes.

DK: And they build their relationship online.

BK: Yes.

DK: And they have growing affection towards one another.

BK: Yeah.

DK: And there’s a closeness and all this stuff.

BK: So they just want to keep it permanent.

DK: But the thing is, when they actually come together. That’s what everything is building towards.

DZ: That’s a good analogy.

DK: It’s a picture of that’s how it is for the body of Christ and God’s people. It’s like, there is, that’s the thing. There’s something happening there.

BK: You never have someone saying after that saying, well, it’s great being with you, but I liked it a lot better when we were separate.

DK: You might have some people say that because it’s a whole lot easier.


DZ: That’s true.

DK: I don’t really have to deal with your presence.

BK: It’s true.

DK: And your smells, and all the baggage that you bring with you, you can just leave that over there.

DZ: Yeah. And I think it’s a misunderstanding of not only is it like… Yeah. It’s more convenient to be in your home and to watch something on television.

DK: Absolutely.

DZ: But on the other side, you’re missing out on actually what you’re bringing to the gathering as well. Like, I think of 1 Corinthians 12, and it’s like, does the hand say, well, I’ll separate myself and just watch. Does the foot say… So it’s going through all those things that we’re missing out on your presence in our gathering. And the same across the board. Right?

DK: That’s another thing that COVID revealed, and I think we need to be very careful here, is just this idea that we wanna make sure people don’t miss out on what we’re doing. And so what church leaders have done and how they’ve approached that is leaned into, well, let’s make it as… Let’s give people opportunity to not miss out. And I think there… I think we should be okay with, and even press into this reality that like, you know what, if you’re not there, you are missing out.

BK: Yes. Yeah. There needs to be that sense.

DK: There should be. You are missing something by not being here. And that’s hard. But such is life in this world. A life filled with suffering and sickness and grief and various challenges, but as God’s people, God has called us together, to not neglect meeting together. To exhort one another all the more as we see the day drawing near.

BK: Yes. Yes.

DK: And as I lead Grace Church, it’s like I do want the members of Grace Church to feel like… Yeah. Like if I’m not there on Sunday…

BK: Yes.

DK: I’m gonna miss something.

BK: Yes.

DK: I feel that. Me personally, if we’re on vacation or if I’m traveling somewhere, it’s like I do all I can to come back on a Saturday so that I can be there on Sunday morning ’cause I don’t wanna miss what God is doing as we gather together. And I think that’s the disposition we should have…

BK: Absolutely.

DK: As those who are joined together. And I think a lot of the practices we’ve adopted, through COVID since COVID, they counteract that. And they say, yeah, if you’re on vacation or whatever, we still want you to be able to participate. We don’t want you to miss out. And so here’s this other option.

BK: Yes. Yes.

DZ: Yep.

DK: But that does something to people.

DZ: Yeah.

BK: Well, it has to do with your ecclesiology, how you understand the church and what the church is. The church is an embodied group of people that are both gathered and scattered. We don’t cease to be the church when we’re not together, but we gather weekly as a foretaste of that time when we’re gathered around the throne.

DZ: Yes.

BK: That’s the closest we come to what the new heavens and new earth is gonna feel like. We don’t know exactly what it’s gonna be like, but there is that togetherness that Christ accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection that we don’t want to dismiss or treat lightly or take advantage of. And as you’re talking, I remember specifically a time we were on vacation on a Sunday listening to the Sunday meeting. It was not the Sunday, the sermon. And I had the thought, this is so good, I wish I had been there to hear it. And I see it works together. Technology has enabled us to hear messages that we were not there for.

DZ: Oh yeah.

BK: People, I know people in our church listen to it multiple times. One individual in particular, and it’s just great. But that would never be seen as, well, great. I don’t need to either.

DZ: A substitute.

BK: Yeah. It’s not a substitute. It’s a gift, but it’s not a substitute. And COVID has made it for some churches more understandable, more acceptable, almost more preferable to say, yeah, you don’t have to be here.

DZ: Yeah. Well and I think…

BK: Yeah, go ahead.

DZ: I think that… Not only all the things we mentioned singing together and reading, sitting under the word together, but sharing in the Lord’s supper.

BK: Yes.

DZ: That’s the biggest one that stands out in my mind of like, that is a corporate event. That isn’t a, by yourself in isolation event. That’s a big one that stands out to me.

DK: And Paul’s assumption in 1 Corinthians 11, he’s talking about it, his assumption. He’s pointing out like when you gather together, it’s not to eat the Lord’s supper. And his assumption is that’s what you’re gathering together to do. Just sharing the Lord’s supper together.

DZ: Right.

BK: Yeah.

DK: I like how a Puritan George Swinnock, he talked about the gathering the church as entering the suburbs of heaven.

BK: Entering the suburbs of heaven.

DZ: Suburbs of heaven.

BK: Did they have suburbs back then?

DK: He used that word?

BK: I guess So.

DK: Jonathan Leeman, he talks about, the gathering of the church is the geography of Christ Kingdom. And it’s just wonderful pictures, helpful pictures, but you’re right. It does come to down to our ecclesiology and what is the church?

BK: Yes.

DK: And what are we called to be and to do, and what is God doing in us and through us?

BK: Yes. So our prayer in even talking about this is that you would benefit from what God used COVID to help us realize. More particularly the value of the church, the value of gathering together, the value of being dependent on him, receiving his grace. And then, and recognize that if our theology, our ecclesiology has shifted, if we become more okay with focusing on the production of a meeting rather than the actual participation in our meeting, if we become comfortable with, yeah, I’m just gonna stay home ’cause I can watch it. Those are not biblical values. That’s not moving forward. That’s not what COVID was meant to do. It’s the exact opposite of what God intends for us as the church. So, just to help you think more biblically about it, we pray that this has helped you do that. I dunno if you guys have any other thoughts.

DK: Well, I would encourage, if you’re a worship leader, pastor, have these conversations, as you look back. Have them with your leaders.

BK: Watch your live stream sometime together. That should cure you.

DK: But asking that question, like yeah, what has that season revealed about what we believe and what we value and what we’re about? I think it would be helpful.

BK: That’s a great idea.

DZ: That’s great.

BK: Alright. I think that’s it.

DZ: Yep. Thank you so much for joining us.