How Does the Shut-Down Affect Being a Christian?
Can the Church still be the Church without a church building? Adam and Eve didn’t have a church building, nor did Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Joseph. In the New Testament church, the early believers worshiped in homes and by the riverside (Acts 16:13). Scripture says we should not neglect to meet together (Hebrews 10:25). The early apostolic church met together regularly for prayer, study, food, and fellowship (Acts 2:42-46). In Africa, congregations of hundreds, and sometimes thousands, worship outside under trees or other shelters. We here in the States are probably spoilt compared to many other parts of the world. We have church buildings even for small churches with only a handful of members. This would be deemed a luxury in some places.
The question is, “What can this teach us about being church or doing church in the face of a shut-down pandemic?” How can we 'do church' during this time? Here are a few of my thoughts.
1. Prayer: A church that prays together stays together. Personal prayer is easy, but corporate prayer has been challenging. Virtual prayer meeting on Wednesdays has been a blessing, but being online is not the same, and not everyone is able to connect virtually. We need to be more creative with this one. I need help with this one.
2. Worship: We have been livestreaming our worship services for the last five Sabbaths. Many have expressed appreciation, but that too is not the ideal. This Sabbath we will be adding an in-person outdoor church service, which will also be livestreamed. It will bring us together, and it will be good to see everyone again. The challenge will be to not hug or shake hands. I will miss that closeness and support. I will also miss those who are not able to negotiate the outdoor challenges. Do you have any creative suggestions for how we can improve on this, too?
3. Outreach: The sad news is that we have had to postpone our reaping campaign until next year. The good news is that this has not stopped us from continuing to witness. I have heard from a number of you who have witnessed to a neighbor, a stranger in a store, in the workplace, or on social media. People seem more receptive to talk about God and spiritual things. There is a sense in the air that we are living in the time of the end.
4. Social: A church that plays together stays together. This has perhaps been the hardest, especially for the children, youth, and young adults, although I bet some of our seniors have also missed their Saturday board game night. Kudos to our Kindergarten Sabbath School leaders who have been doing a home Sabbath School each Sabbath. I have been encouraged to see some folk visit and enjoy a veggie barbeque outdoors. I also think that it may be a good thing to start arranging for group outdoor activities, like hikes and picnics, while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
5. Bible Study: Virtual Sabbath School has been a great blessing to those who’ve participated, but once again, it is not quite the same, and not all are able to attend. I trust that our Reopening Committee will be working on getting us back to in-person classes with social distancing, etc. as soon as is responsibly possible. I’ve been delighted to hear that there are a number of Triads that have been meeting at homes and outdoors. I’ve heard some very positive comments about how encouraging and supportive the Triads have been through this period of isolation.
I have shared some of my thoughts. Now it’s your turn. I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions. How can we be Christians and do church without a church building?