Church During COVID
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[a] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
1 Tim 4:13
13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
One of the things that I've pondered the most during this season of COVID has been the question "What is Church?" As we've moved from our familiar patterns of meeting together in-person to online and alternative forms of church I've had to get back to foundational principles and values to determine if what we're doing is actually what the Bible deems as church. Temporarily suspending what we do for a health crisis is one thing, but as the weeks and months drag on, we come to find a new "normal" way of doing things. If we're not careful, the new normal won't be Bible-based or what God intended for His glorious and beautiful church.
So what should meeting together as church look like? What are the essential elements? Looking through Scripture I find several values that need to be present:
1) Teaching - The early church thrived because the Apostles learned from Jesus, it changed them and affected them to their very core. Then they passed on what they had learned. They were disciples of Jesus, listening, learning, and doing what Jesus did. Jesus gave them not only verbal instruction but lived what He taught and encouraged His disciples to be the same. They, in turn, did the same with the entire church that followed them. Those disciples then made more disciples who were also taught and so on. Discipleship-style teaching is crucial to the foundation of any church.
2) Fellowship - Jesus told His followers that He called them friends. We sometimes have a religious view of Jesus being dour, stuck-up, and formal, but the Bible argues against that. This group had a good time together, they were lively, and they shared the joys and trials of life. The early church met together regularly in each others homes, enjoying meals together and basically "hanging out". Fun and friendship is essential to church. Contrary to popular belief, the church is not tied together because of a common belief structure (anyone who has ever seriously gone to church can tell you that isn't the case!), but it is tied together because of relationship… relationship with God and with each other.
3) Prayer - The church should pray together with faith. We are called to partner with God and His purposes in order to release His values onto the Earth. We do this through both our actions and our prayers. Whenever we realize that a situation is too big for us (COVID anyone?), we know that it's not too big for God and so we pray. Sure, individuals can pray and make a difference, but when the church prays together there is exponential increase of effect… a people petitioning God for His power to move across the world. Angels get released on assignment through prayer, God's heart gets moved by the heart of His people through prayer, and God's people get fundamentally changed through prayer.
4) Worship - We were created to worship. It is part of our nature. When the church comes together to worship the enemy's power is broken, lies and chains break off, and we get realigned with our purpose and relationship with God. In worship, spiritual gifts flow and the whole church gets encouraged and built up. Corporate worship unites us together in who we are and why we are here together. It is a remembering of what God has done for us and magnifying who He is in our sight.
So what do we do with these values and how do we apply them? Do we stick with a church service that is online or do we meet in-person again? How can we have a service that does each of these 4 elements well?
Sad to say, I don't have any easy answers to these questions, but a couple of things have become painfully apparent to me. First, if you're looking to one meeting on a Sunday morning to accomplish all of these things, you're likely going to miss out on one or more of church values. Even when we were meeting in-person a Sunday morning meeting was pretty weak on prayer and fellowship could be sketchy at times as well. In actuality, Connect Group meetings or micro group meetings serve our values more fully than any Sunday morning meeting ever has. This realization is a call to get really connected with a small group and work out church together in that context. Also, build friendships within the church and enjoy life together. Take initiative to work out being church together without having a formal meeting planned.
Second, however we decide to meet together, it is essential that we do meet and figure this out. You work out exactly none of the values of church if you don't actually meet together as church. Your identity as a child of God will fade and slip away from your mind if you're not actively engaged with your fellow brothers and sisters in how we can fulfill God's purposes for this world. You end up becoming like so many others in our society who have rejected the idea of church… people who have a mental ideology about God but no experience of working it out. That doesn't honour God, it doesn't fulfill your purpose in life, and it's incredibly empty.
Wherever you find yourself today, let's ponder these ideas of church together and use it to bring us closer into our purpose. Let's draw together and make Jesus' church a glorious thing, a light shining for all to see.
Is. 60:1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.