“These are weird times.”
“Nobody alive has ever experienced anything like this.”
“Should we be scared or are people just over-reacting?”
These are a few things each of us have probably said in a conversation or overheard a hundred times over the past few weeks, and especially over the past few days. The impact that the coronavirus is having in the world is unprecedented. It has consumed every conversation, shut down some of our favorite restaurants, affected the economy, forced churches and sporting events to be cancelled, and has created mass hysteria over… toilet paper.
How is this affecting our country? The CDC has recommended as of March 15th that all gatherings of 50 people or more be cancelled or postponed over the next 8 weeks. And the following day on March 16th, the President recommended no groups over 10 should gather, even in homes.
This means that this past Sunday millions of people, instead of attending their local churches in person, joined online for pre-recorded sermons in their homes, desperate for truth and connection. The church was scattered and instead of being in auditoriums, they were found around TV’s, in circles on couches, trying to adjust to something that is appearing to be our new norm, at least for the next few months.
The reality is, these are weird times. No, we have never seen this in our lifetime. And whether people are over-reacting or not, people are afraid. Uncertainty is a feasting ground for the enemy to instill fear and kill peace in God’s people.
But Jesus is the keeper of peace. And peace is a promise He keeps.
So in a time of so much uncertainty, how are the people of God to respond? In a time where “social distancing” is encouraged (for good reason), how does the Kingdom of God reach beyond the social distance through prayers, radical love, and small gatherings?
A look at the early church…
In today’s western church culture of big auditoriums, blaring speakers, and moving lights, we are tempted to believe it has always been this way. That this is the best way for God’s kingdom move forward and people to come to know Jesus. If we look at the early church, the first church established after Jesus, we see something different that should offer us hope in this confusing and unprecedented time.
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to the fellowship, and to sharing in meals(including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.”
This is immediately following the day of Pentecost (when the Holy Spirit filled believers) when Peter preached a sermon that 3,000 people chose to put their faith in Jesus. These 3,000 people needed to learn what it looked like to be a Jesus follower, and the model they chose, looks really similar to the model we are being forced into today.
There are 4 things the early church did constantly that I believe God is trying to bring his church and his people back to:
1. Devoted to apostles’ teaching
With the current digital age we live in, solid Bible teaching is not hard to find. Between podcasts, church sermons, and IGTV there is an abundance of teachings to listen to. Though “apostles’ teaching” is not just listening to a good sermon, it is also being taught by the apostles’ firsthand. In other words, the Bible. In a time where we are basically being encouraged to not leave our house, friends, can we determine to not waste our time with distractions and just watching Netflix, but instead, DEVOTE ourselves to reading God’s word?
What would it look like if we gathered all around the country in groups of 10 to worship, open God’s word together, and pray? Small settings can feel unnatural and exposing when we are used to worshipping with thousands, but do not miss out on this opportunity to be seen and loved right where you’re at. Lean into this precious time by gathering a few friends and worshipping together! The early church did it, so can we. We encourage you not to isolate yourself during this time –
Call people. They may really need you.
Post words of life on your social media as you feel called. People are scrolling for hope right now.
Gather together if you can. For we were created for connection.
Continue to create. The world needs your gifts.
Write letters. Sweet words are honey for the soul.
Don’t stop singing. Your voice is an echo for God’s abundant hope.
Pray together. For where two or three are gathered together, God is there.
3. Sharing in meals
Not many of our churches probably still practice the Lord’s Supper (communion) weekly. The early church took every opportunity for communion because it served as a reminder of what Jesus had accomplished for them on the cross and establishing a new covenant. Try leaning into a time of communion/reminder this week. (Matt. 26:26-29)
If the Coronavirus has taught humanity one thing it should be this: we are not in control. And friends, let me tell you, that is a good thing. We are fragile, weak, dependent beings who need a really BIG God. Thankfully, we have one.
In times of so much uncertainty and fear, our first response should not be to intake more information from the news or social media, it should be to pray. And here’s some free advice, don’t overcomplicate prayer. Pray for more faith, health, your family, pastors, government officials. And above all, pray for God to give you a deeper desire for his Word.
The important thing to know about these 4 ways of life is that EVERY believer practiced them, not just those on a church staff. The western church model at times can allow for Christians to slip into a “consumer” mindset. I will show up 10 minutes late, sit in the back of the auditorium for worship, laugh a few times at a really gifted communicator, then jet for the car not to get caught in parking lot traffic.
God never intended for church to be a place for entertainment and amusement.
The church gathering was never meant to satisfy your desires, rather it was meant to form your desires for Christ that go on to transform your life, your circle, and the world.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” Matt 5:6
We don’t fully know the mind of God so we cannot confidently say what he is up to in this time. What we can cling to though is that small gatherings in homes is the way the church started and it is the way that God ultimately began to reach his people for his glory. We can be small, and He can can still be big.
Friends, it is time to be the church. It is time to fight fear with faith in a God who is unwavering. God is the, “alpha and the omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8.