As I sit here this morning, putting the final touches on this blog post, it’s beginning to settle in just how strange these days are becoming for our world.
I wanted to share with you some thoughts on this Sunday morning. They aren’t organized in any particular order. Some are related to others, though some are not. Let’s dig in.
1. The church is built for this.
All churches are greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of us are concerned about how this will impact the church moving forward. Looking back to its origins, the body of Christ wasn't built on the basis of some organizational structure. And I don’t mean to say structure was absent from the church, because it wasn’t. (That’s actually a series we’ll be discussing later this year.)
The church was a movement of the disciples of Jesus. In his high priestly prayer, Jesus commissioned his disciples to be sent to the world, just as he himself was sent to the world (Jn. 17:18). In the book of Acts, the church was growing daily through believers meeting in their homes, breaking bread, learning from the apostles’ teachings, praying, serving others, taking care of those who were in need, and God gave them favor in the eyes of the communities around them (Acts 2:42-47). From that point forward, the church has grown through dispersion, suffering, persecution… and it can continue to grow through pandemics.
The church is built to withstand what we are experiencing today because God’s presence is in the midst of his people, wherever they may be. Our identity is summed up in the one who could not be defeated, even by death itself.
2. How this is going to change the way we view church?
A conversation I’ve been having with several folks is how this pandemic is going to alter the way we see the church. Make no mistake about it, we are getting ready to learn what we truly believe about the church and the gospel.
An honest question: does it feel like we are no longer a church because of our gathering restrictions? “The church isn’t a building; it's the people”, was the quote I often heard growing up in church. Well… we now get to see if we truly believe that. If we are not careful, our systems of how we do church can take over our identity as the church. Jesus spoke most harshly to the religious elite because of this very mistake. The ways we worship can become the object of our worship.
One question that I have been pondering: what are we going to say about the COVID-19 pandemic five years from today? How did it impact the church? How did the church move forward? It is going to be incredibly interesting to see the impact and trajectory of the church for the years to come.
3. The pandemic is changing the way I see how our actions impact others.
I was at the grocery store on Friday. I’ve seen panic with hurricanes. I’ve seen people clear shelves and stock pile food and toiletries before a snowstorm. But I’ve never seen anything quite like this. All rice and pastas were sold out. TP and paper towels were long gone. The freezers were emptied by the sections. UNREAL.
I fortunately was able to get one last small pack of diapers for our youngest two who still need them at night. At the register, I was conversing with the employee that was scanning our items, and he commented: “Man, I’m so glad you were able to get these diapers. I have a 3 month old at home. I literally work here, and I can’t find baby wipes. People will wait for the shelves to be stocked and they clear them out before anyone else can get them.”
Many people are driven by fear right now, and their actions aren’t considering the situation of their neighbors. That conversation has made me reflect on how our actions—both positive and negative—affect those around us. For me, this raises the bar for why the church must be so intentional to love people well. As Jesus told his disciples, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
4. I’m beginning to pray that the church would spread the good news of Jesus as easily as this virus is being spread.
Not much more needs to be said about this one. Just imagine disciples of Jesus being so infectious to those around them through their servant-like posture, their hospitality, and their devotion to making the name of Jesus great in all that they do. Wow!
So whether you are with friends or family or are by yourself this morning, I invite you to join us all in reflecting on these questions:
I’d love to hear your response to the above questions, or any creative or innovative ways of being the church during this season of social distancing and quarantine! Text, email, post on our facebook group what you’ve been doing or planning to do. Let’s be encouraged to mobilize and act by hearing how others are being diligent in loving and serving those around them!
For starters, Sarah Landis organized an effort to gather independent activities like puzzles, coloring books, crossword puzzles, markers, and candy for different senior centers and care facilities—raising over $550 and counting! As far as I’m aware, this effort is ongoing! You can contribute by donating at this link: https://thewellde.churchcenter.com/giving/to/covid-19-individual-activity-resources
Here are some things we can pray for together:
I’ll leave you with these lyrics at the end of one of my favorite songs, “In Christ Alone”:
"No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.”