Updated: Apr 4, 2020
NEW NORMAL: FELLOWSHIP
As a church, one of our greatest joys is our meeting together. It is such a special blessing to gather in the same place and to share so much of our lives with each other.
On March 14, 2020, the elders, deacons, and overseers of Faith Church had to make one of the most gut-wrenching decisions possible: to indefinitely suspend all church sanctioned gatherings due to COVID-19 (coronavirus). This conclusion was not reached hastily or recklessly – it was done so with an abundance of prayer, discussion, debate, and most importantly, care.
Fellowship of the body is an essential element for a healthy church. Through a variety of gatherings, the local church facilitates one of its core benefits: relationships between people and with God. We gather in large corporate settings for worship, prayer, and the preaching of God’s word. We gather in classes to strive toward deeper Biblical understanding and spiritual maturity. We gather in small groups to encourage and edify one another. We gather in personal times to support, admonish, hold accountable, and simply do life.
In all those examples, we are together. And it has been so since the beginning of the Christian church, as seen in Acts 2:
44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
TAKING A WRONG VIEW
It is a temptation to view this time of being separated from each other, this season when we cannot be together physically, as an overwhelming trial. It is critical that we frame this current environment properly and not allow it to stifle us from being the church that God has called us to be.
Faith Church of Linden is in Michigan, a state in the United States of America. Unlike many places in the world, we live in an essentially free society. In stark contrast to some countries, our ability to gather for any purpose (including religious activities) is protected. None of us have walked into our building on Sunday morning or Wednesday evening in fear of being arrested for doing so. None of us has hidden in the shadows, spoken in whispers, or met in darkness in order to gather with fellow believers. Countless global followers of Jesus Christ risk everything for simple fellowship in His name. The persecuted churches of today have more in common with the first church in Acts 2 than us.
A TIME FOR THE EXTRAORDINARY
With that perspective, let’s view this extraordinary time as exactly that: a time for the extraordinary.
So, what does that look like? How do we fellowship if we can’t gather?
1. Understand that it is not unlike close relationships separated by distance. The grandparents who move south during the winter. The sibling who lives out west. The child at college. The best friend out east. The spouse who travels regularly for work. While none of those relationships physically meet during those times apart, they still connect.
2. Utilize every means available to facilitate connection. Modern technology can be a tremendous assistance.
a. Video (like Facetime or Marco Polo)
b. Text (direct or in groups with apps like Vox)
c. Web conferencing (free services like GoToMeeting, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts)
d. Voice (many phones allow for multiple calls to be merged together)
3. Keep the rhythm that already exists. Our church will continue activities at the regularly scheduled times of Sunday 11am and Wednesday 7pm. Gather everyone in your household to participate remotely. The Sunday morning routine now offers a tremendous opportunity: finish all the routine items (get out of bed, get ready, have breakfast, etc) then come together a bit early for prayer and Bible reading prior to the beginning of the broadcast. When it finishes, spend a few minutes discussing it, asking and answering questions, and talking about how the message or teaching applies to your daily lives.
4. Seek out occasions for additional fellowship. Make that phone call. Send that text message. Take advantage of the freedom to connect virtually anytime from anywhere.
Perhaps fellowship has become routine. It is possible to be attending regularly but not be truly engaged. Or maybe recent circumstances have shifted focus away from real connections with fellow church members. Spend some time to truly assess your situation. The current environment requires us all to make changes – use this time to make any necessary corrections.
While we may not gather physically, there is no reason we cannot fellowship as the body of Christ. We must be intentional, we must act with purpose, we must truly live out our covenantal relationship as adopted sons and daughters of the King.
At least for now, this is the New Normal. This is an extraordinary time with extraordinary opportunities. Let’s meet these challenges together with enthusiasm and eagerly look to Him at all times.