Why come to Church? Why not stay at home online? Why not just listen to your favourite preacher’s podcast? Why do we not just send out sermons as emails? What is the point of gathering for worship if we can’t sing?
Some of these questions have come to us purely from COVID. Some of them have existed since the birth of the Church (probably not the podcast or online one).
Let me give you four simple reasons why our leadership is committed to getting back to face to face gatherings
1. We Learn in Community
Here is a little secret: our preachers are learning in the community as well.
Our preachers have trained and they research for every sermon but the real value of sermons is applying scripture to our lives. The goal is not simply knowledge, the goal is heart transformation. This happens best in community together. We open God’s word together, we wrestle with deep biblical concepts together, we are reminded of the simple and profound truths of the gospel, we are pointed back time and time again that Jesus needs to be our first love, and then we keep each other accountable by sharing life together. From the casual conversations about how our week was to the deep outpouring of our hearts in more intimate moments. These things happen when we gather together. You may not see it happening every week but look back over a year or two. Do you remember each sermon? No. (I’m a preacher and happy to acknowledge that.) But I guarantee that God is doing a remarkable work in you as you learn in community.
We are delighted that this has continued in our Lifegroups, and we look forward to this resuming with a return of physical gatherings.
2. We serve each other
One of the greatest things I grieve as a pastor during COVID isolation is the limited opportunities I have had to empower the saints to serve each other. I know it has been happening in many different ways, and I love that, and at the same time I see how much is has been limited. Through online services, a small team has been able to continue to serve our Church, through lifegroups many have been able to continue to serve each other.
Come back to Church and let’s once again serve each other, from a genuine smile, setting up chairs, leading music, to morning tea and kids programs. Saved people are a serving people.
3. We welcome seekers
Is the Church for committed Christians or visiting seekers? The answer is ‘Yes’. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and calls us to “go and make disciples”. At the same time, the author of Hebrews encourages Christians to “not give up meeting together… but encourage each other”. When we gather we renew ourselves in the gospel and in doing so we proclaim and share the gospel to others.
When we welcome seekers into Church, we offer a welcome into God’s kingdom. Most Sundays we welcome guests. From experience we have found at least half those guests are either people seeking faith or people disconnected from Church and seeking to return into Christian community.
4. We worship together
One of the great questions we face in returning to Church is “What will worship be like when we can’t sing?” To that I offer a few answers of which the first is “We don’t entirely know.” because we plan on trying a few different things. The longer answer comes back to our theology of worship. For years we have reminded people “Worship is more than just singing.” Now we have to put “our money where our theology is”, or something like that. We will of course continue to worship in the many ways we usually do, through prayer, submitting our hearts to God’s word, sharing gospel community together. When it comes to music we will need to be creative (which in itself expresses the glory and beauty God and how he made us in his image). We will need to consider making other joyful noises like clapping, tapping our foot(for the more conservative), humming and “singing under our breath” – though I don’t know if we are allowed to endorse such things. We can spend time listening to others sing and reflect on the lyrics. We can read Psalms together or watch videos which express God’s glory and our devotion to him in other creative ways. We can express our worship and solidarity by standing together while music is sung over us and to God, or even raise a hand (or two).
All of that is to say Christian’s have always gathered to worship and we will continue to, even in COVID, still gather to worship(as the government permits).
Let me finish with this:
Many times through history things have happened that seemed to threaten the spread of the gospel and limit God’s people gathering in worship. Yet the gospel prevails. God’s kingdom keeps growing like a mustard seed to a tall tree. We have kept gathering online and now as we are permitted we will gather face to face. We are the Church and we live to glorify his name.
Over the past few weeks, our evening service has had 50 people gather for Church while we live-streamed and it was truly an exciting experience to share the joy in gathering in the name of Jesus together.
We look forward to seeing you face to face over the next few weeks.