Today marks the tenth day of what seems like a weird new normal here in South Carolina and across the country. For many people on the other side or our globe it has been a much longer journey. The COVID-19 pandemic has literally turned the world upside down. Before now very rarely were words used like, pandemic, quarantine or social distance. There is much anxiety, fear and confusion swirling around our town, on the news and on social media. So, how do we as the church respond? If your church is like ours, you’re probably starting to settle into the fact that this may last longer than we had hoped. So, what do we do now? If we can’t gather as “the church.” How do we BE the Church?
Scripture teaches us that the church gathers and scatters. We are called to gather often for cooperate worship, small group discipleship and authentic community, but then we scatter throughout the week to do the work of ministry and mission in the world. In recent days there has been alot more scattered than gathered. And to be honest, it’s ok. Though I love the opportunities we have to gather as a family of faith, we are not without hope simply because we can’t “go to church.”
I’m convinced that during these days of being scattered we will learn more about God’s purpose for us as his children. We can’t be comfortable simply being in the four walls of a church building. We’ve been given a unique opportunity during these weeks to BE the church and spend extra time in our homes and neighborhoods? How can we use these days to take ownership of our faith? How can we leverage this gift of time to glorify God, grow closer to our families and point others to Jesus?
Here are a few suggestions:
- PRAYER – I’m guilty of finding lots of time for “ministry” and not enough time for prayer. If you’re like me – maybe you find that prayer too often falls at the end of your list. These days of shorter to do lists are a good opportunity to flip your list. Use this extra time to pray. Let it not just be at the beginning or end of your day – but as part of every aspect of your new routines. My hope is that as we pray more during these days in isolation – we will continue that habit long after this virus is gone.
- HOME ISN’T CANCELED ( #homeisntcanceled ) This is a hashtag that was sent out by FamilyLife this week. What a great reminder that though nearly every event and activity is canceled – home is not canceled. How can we as husbands, wives, parents, siblings and grandparents leverage this free time to grow together and grow as disciples? Isn’t this what we always wish for…more time? How many times have you said, “If we had more time, we would eat supper as a family at the dinner table.” or… “If we had more time, we would do a family devotion.” Well, now is that time. Never before have we had so much free time. Don’t let it slip away scrolling Facebook. Home is not canceled. Take time away from devices to engage with those closest to you. Talk with each other, read God’s Word together, memorize scripture and talk about your personal relationship with Jesus. Do other fun things together like: playing together in the backyard, cooking lessons with the kids, reading a good book together, playing a board game, even practical skills like learning to do laundry or home improvement projects. We’re called to train up our children – now we have nothing but time to do it. Seize these days for your family and your faith.
- NEIGHBORING – Though many of us live in neighborhoods, most of us are far too busy to really know the people that live next door. Depending on your level of quarantine it might not be possible to go visit your neighbors, but you can still make contact. Write them a letter, stick a note to their front door or even make them a meal. Even a simple act of kindness like rolling the trashcan to the street for an elderly neighbor could mean the world to someone. So often we see missions as something far away – but it begins in our own backyard. Use this time to be a good neighbor. Share love and share Christ with those who live closest to you. In addition, because we live in a world where people who are very far away are just a click away online – use this extra time to reach out to them too. Create a prayer list of your Facebook friends. Pray daily for them. Make a list of friends who need to know the Lord and set up a virtual lunch date to share your testimony and the Gospel. Pick one person per day that you could FaceTime or meet in a Zoom meeting to share your journey together. Be creative and use the time wisely.
One day very soon this whole COVID-19 ordeal will be behind us and things will return to “normal.” The question is, what will that normal look like? My prayer is that we will have used this time to recenter our lives on the things that are most important. Rather than seeing all this social distance and isolation as bad thing – what if it’s a fresh opportunity. An opportunity to begin again in our faith, our family, and community. Being scattered isn’t a bad thing. It’s part of our calling as disciples. The church “gathered” is a great blessing – and we should gather often, but it’s not our only purpose as the people of God. Church was never meant to simply be a place to go. It was meant to be a people to be. Lord, teach us to scattered well. …and, when we get to worship together in one place again – may we never take for granted the gift of the gathered church.