It’s a strange time. Churches were empty of worshipers on Sunday all across America. This was a result of two things. First, it was an act of obedience and submission to our governing authorities who made strong requests not to gather in large groups due to the infectious nature of the coronavirus. According to Romans 13, Christians are to submit to the governing authorities whom God has sovereignly placed over us as long as they do not ask us to do something contrary to God’s Word (Acts 5:29). Second, churches were empty as an illustration of love to our communities. If indeed the coronavirus is as bad as authorities are saying, by not meeting together for a season, we are revealing that the Church is truly concerned about the people of our communities, especially the vulnerable! And because we are not experts concerning infectious diseases, we must be willing to submit ourselves to others who are the experts. If we were to disregard what the experts were saying it would definitely send the wrong message to our communities.
But with all of this social distancing being put into place, the major question is “Can we still be the Church without gathering in a building?” And the answer is absolutely yes! The Church has always been a group of God’s people who were clear about their distinctives. We are a people who 1) worship, 2) fellowship, 3) make disciples, 4) minister to others, 5) evangelize the lost, 6) give financially, 7) pray and so much more. All of this doesn’t have to stop with the infiltration of the coronavirus. Because this is the heart of the Church, these distinctives may just be accomplished in ways different than the norm. The true Church will never take a vacation from what Christ has called us to do. Following is a list of creative ways to continue being the Church in this strange time.
Livestream Worship: Many churches, including Ebenezer, are blessed with the technology to livestream our worship services. The Church is not to take a vacation from spending time worshiping. Over the next few weeks, until this crisis subsides, encourage your families to get up at your normal time, and prepare their hearts to sit in front of a smart phone or a computer and engage in worship. In this way, we continue to be connected to our local church. While we may not be able to gather in the sanctuary together, we can “gather together” virtually online. We are also providing a midweek service that will be recorded for you each week. Additionally, Pastor Mike is posting several short video devotionals on the Psalms, especially for teens throughout the week. We are trying to provide you with many opportunities to engage in worship and keep your heart sensitive to the Lord.
Don’t Practice Social Distancing with Jesus: While we are trying to keep at least 6 feet away from others, this is NOT what we are to do with Jesus. Praise the Lord that our relationship with Jesus is not virtual. Because the Holy Spirit lives within us, we have His intimate presence with us forever. Use this time away from everyone as a grace from God and spend more time in the Word of God than ever before. If you don’t know where to read, start in the Psalms which are so comforting.
Use Technology to Connect: One of the ways this crisis is going to strengthen the Church is everyone is realizing the importance of fellowship. One dear saint said she cried as she watched the midweek service realizing how much she depended upon human touch and the gathering of the Saints. In this difficult time, we must be diligent not to go into sleep mode or vacation mode. There are many ways you can continue to connect with others. Just this last week, the ladies in our kinship small group gathered via Skype on their phones for prayer. They spent an hour visiting and calming each other through prayer. While not perfect, technology does enable us to enter into a face to face conversation with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Facetime and Skype are just two of the many apps that are great for video chatting. Zoom is a great tool for larger groups who want to video chat. A simple text to others checking in on them and telling them you love them is crucial. I received an email from a church member recently just saying they missed me and were praying for me. It meant the world to me and brought joy to my soul.
Make Phone Calls: While texting may work at some level, actually making a phone call and hearing someone else’s voice is very encouraging. We can reach out to others by simply calling to check on them, praying with them, or even read Scripture together over the phone. Some of our AWANA leaders are planning on calling their students this week to listen to the children recite their Bible verses over the phone. In this way ministry continues, and love is shown.
Give Online: While the offering plate may not be passed, giving is still necessary to ensure that the ministry of God’s Church doesn’t suffer during this crisis. Surprisingly many Christians forget to continue their giving when they go on vacations. Churches often have a significant drop in giving during the summer months because finances are used for other things and as a result ministry suffers. But this doesn’t have to be the case during this coronavirus crisis. Many churches, including Ebenezer, have an online giving option. Offerings can also simply be mailed to the church like the “good ole days.” A committed member can and should find a way to send their offering. It may resort to simply driving to the church and giving your offering to the secretary. It is crucial that the Church continue to give so that the ministry will not suffer, and missionaries around the world will continue to be supported.
Let’s Continue Being the Church
I’m essentially calling the Church to continue being the Church. We will look back months from now at how we responded to this crisis. Hopefully we will be able to say that we were fearless, putting our hope in the Lord. But also, I hope we will also be able to say that we were purposeful; that we intentionally went out of our way using creative means to be the Church connecting to our brothers and sisters in Christ.