Coming Back From the Off-Season
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:14-19; underline mine)
Let's take a hypothetical situation. Imagine a professional hockey team, full of players who excel in their craft and are used to playing skillfully at a high level. What would happen if the season ended and those players then spent the next 7 months by themselves… not meeting together, not practicing together, just playing golf and generally having a good time in life? What would happen to their hockey skills? What would happen to their skating ability? What would happen to their cohesion as a team?
Now imagine that after this 7 month period, they finally gathered together as a team and were immediately thrust back into a regular season game. How well do you think they would do? I think that they would struggle significantly. There would be little synergy, little chemistry between the players on the same line. There would be miscues all over the place. Player movement wouldn't be fluid. They'd feel rusty and like even the basics don't come naturally. Shifts would have to be short as physical fitness was lacking and guys would be sucking wind trying to play at a high tempo.
Compare this scenario to our lives and think of what would happen if you have a church that shuts down for 7 months. When the people meet back together again (if they even do come back), how do you expect that to go? Are they all fired up and ready to engage with God, throw themselves wholeheartedly into worship, and connect with each other? Probably not. They've probably forgotten how to flow together in worship, how to love on each other well, how to minister to each other and how to engage well with God. Just like the hockey team, they're out of sync and need to practice and train back into being a tight, high-functioning unit.
In sports, there are things that you can do on your own that will help keep up your skills and fitness level. You can work out by yourself and keep your muscle tone and cardio ability. You can practice stick handling and skating to make sure your movements still feel fluid and smooth. But still, those things are only one part of the equation… nothing beats being together and practicing as a team. You can't forge people to work together as a unit unless they are together and working together.
The same is true in the church. There are certain things that you can do on your own to keep up your relationship with God. You can pray, worship, have devotions, and spend time in the presence of the Lord. Those things are good. But we're designed to function as a group, as a whole. We're designed to function as a body working together and you just can't beat ministering together and experiencing God together.
You see, faith is like a muscle. If you work it and use it, it gets stronger. If you leave it alone, it atrophies and gets weaker. When a church comes back together after so long apart, at least part of it has gotten weaker through lack of use. You can also tell who's been working out their faith muscles in the off-season and who hasn't.
I believe that God is calling us all back to meeting together and strengthening each other. We're being called back to the exercising of our faith together, where we're stirred up as a group and pulling in the same direction. Whatever has atrophied needs to get brought back into shape and we need to regain the sense of team. This is a season to be engaged together with what the Lord is doing, so start coming back to meetings in person. Start remembering how to pray, worship, laugh, and love together well. The church is a glorious thing. The Lord puts us together in a family, not alone and orphaned. Let's live out church family and get that faith muscle back to where it needs to be.