The Church Has Left the Building… But It’s Not on Vacation
May 4, 2020
During this time of pandemic, worship halls are empty. Ministry offices are quiet. No visitors or members who would normally come to meet, attend services and Bible studies, seek counseling, or plainly just to fellowship. Because of COVID-19, the church has left the building. But does this mean that it’s on break?
Today, most especially, Christians need to realize the importance of understanding that the Church is not a building. Regardless of our situation, we do not stop being a church because we could not go to the church building as we usually do. We do not stop being a church because there is no physical congregation sitting in the pews or in the sanctuary. We do not stop being a church because the pastor is not in his office. The community of believers in Jesus Christ remains to be His Church and it will do so until the Lord returns for His bride, which is the Church.
But this period of quarantine that many of us are forced into because of COVID-19 has in a way become a litmus test for many people who profess themselves to be part of Christ’s Church. Although many have remained to be faithful, sadly, there are some who seem to have also put their Christian life on hold and quarantined either in part or totally.
Here are a few things that we, the Church, need to remember during our extended period of stay-at-home situation and not being able to physically go to our church buildings:
1. We do not stop worshipping God
Many of us wrongly think that worship only happens when there is a group of people, big or small, singing together while backed up by musicians and are led by worship leaders inside an airconditioned hall. Although this corporate type of worship is very important, being constrained from doing it for unavoidable reasons does not mean that we can no longer worship God. In fact, worship is not confined to just singing or playing music. Our whole life ought to be a worship to God (Romans 12:1; John 4:23). But nevertheless, if we truly know God, who He is and the things that He has done, then nothing is stopping us to continue worshipping Him through singing and verbally praising Him even on our own. Paul and Silas “were praying and singing hymns to God” while they were quarantined in prison (Acts 16:25), and it led to the salvation of their jailer and his household. On her own, Hannah gave praises to the Lord for giving her a son, Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10). Mary sang a song of praise, the popular “Magnificat,” after it was announced that she visited Elizabeth after she became pregnant with the Messiah (Luke 1:46-55). Do you worship the Lord in song and in praise while you are at home or have you put worship inside your pocket until you can go back to a physical church service?
2. We do not stop attending church services
By this, I do not mean to physically attend and go to the building where the church meets every Sunday, which is not possible during this quarantine period. The great thing about technology today is that we have the facility to be able to virtually meet together as a church. Admittedly, it takes some getting used to in terms of know-how (and the internet bandwidth) both for the attendees and the ones conducting the “online service” in order to maximize the technology so that the church could actually “gather together” if possible in real-time. But the important thing is that we need to be careful in “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” (Hebrews 10:25) Even if we cannot meet physically, we have the opportunity to do basically the same things that we do in church on Sundays but online. Are you faithful in fellowshipping with believers, worshipping with them, and listening to the Word of God being preached, whether through Facebook Live, Zoom, or in whatever way, during your quarantine, or do you just “watch” these online services and some YouTube bible studies when you feel like it?
3. We do not stop doing good
Galatians 6:10 tells us, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” One of the best opportunities for Christians to do good to people is when they are in need. In this crisis, there are those who are blessed with more resources than others. Some still have jobs while others have lost theirs. There are those who are faced with the big challenge of putting food on their table or paying their bills. And if we are one who has been blessed with the opportunity, we are obligated, not by church leaders but by the Word of God, to do good to them who are in need. And this is especially true if these people are Christians. We ought to look at our situation and at the situation of others, starting with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and see if we have opportunities to do good to them. For “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40, 45) Have you actively considered doing good to those who are in need or have you stopped doing good to others?
4. We do not stop our spiritual disciplines
For many of us, we may be treating this quarantine as a long vacation. And long vacations are sometimes made as an excuse to skip praying, reading the Bible, and other spiritual disciplines that a Christian ought to be consistently doing. More time is spent on sleeping, on social media, on online games, and on Netflix than usual, but less or no time is given to spiritual activities. As a result, sin begins knocking at the door, which is more readily opened, and temptations are more freely entertained. Paul said that we ought to train ourselves for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8) and that we should focus on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,” and on any excellent and praise-worthy things. (Philippians 4:8) It’s quite unlikely that spending much time on TikTok belongs to any of these categories. Are you consistent with your spiritual disciplines while on lockdown or are you treating yourself as being on spiritual vacation?
5. We do not stop discipling and being discipled
If there is one important thing that churches ought to have learned during this quarantine, it is the importance of organized discipleship. More than ever, the church needs to virtually meet in smaller groups for discipleship, especially for bigger churches as they cannot rely on online conferencing or live streaming with hundreds or thousands of attendees and at the same time interact with them. So if a church has not been preorganized into cell groups or care groups or whatever you want to call them, it would be quite difficult to do discipleship, especially now. But this doesn’t mean that we should stop our discipleship programs altogether. Both church and ministry leaders and members ought to find ways to group themselves together and meet online regularly whether through Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, GoToMeeting, or any other such tools. And steps should be taken to reach out to as many of the church’s attendees or members out there so that they can be discipled. This may prove to be more challenging considering the logistics and the adjustments that both the discipler and the disciple would have to undergo, but “whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,” Jesus said (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23, 14:27; Matthew 10:38, 16:24). Are you a part of a discipleship group or do you consider this as an inconvenience?
6. We do not stop evangelizing
Many have a wrong concept of evangelism as bringing their friends and loved ones to the church service so that they could hear the pastor preach an evangelistic message. Although God has used preachers in powerful ways to evangelize the lost, the true essence of the Great Commission of Jesus Christ to His disciples is not limited or exclusive to preachers and missionaries. When Jesus said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…,” (Matthew 28:19-20) He didn’t mean for us to bring the nations to church but for the church to be the one to go. Notice also that He didn’t say go to the nations. He said, “go and make disciples of all nations.” And God has empowered all of us to do just that today through technology without even having to physically go to the nations. All of us can now “go,” not just missionaries. But I’m afraid that just as many Christians do not evangelize in person, neither do they do so online. We see several Bible verses as well as quotes from popular Christians being posted and forwarded around. But unless the gospel—that people are damned because of sin but they can be saved by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—is clearly communicated, those posts will only be inspirational for the most part. The world needs more than just words of inspiration. They need the Savior of their souls. When was the last time that you have shared the gospel with someone?
7. We do not stop supporting church leaders who lead well
Paul tells Timothy that “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” Then in the following verse, he quotes what Jesus said about those whom He had sent out to do kingdom work, saying, “The worker deserves his wages.” Similarly, Paul also told the Galatians that “the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.” (Galatians 6:6) Now, I know that there are many who have completely lost their income as a result of the quarantine and may have nothing to give in form of tithes and offering. But there are many who have been blessed with continuing jobs and salaries. And just as we have supported our local church through monetary blessings, not having physical Sunday services does not mean that the workers in the Lord’s vineyard have also stopped their service. They continue to minister, to teach, to preach, and to run the affairs of the local church. And for this, those who benefit from their services ought to continue also in sharing “all good things” with them, as quoted above. This is the economy that God has chosen to establish for the Church. And it is the obligation of the body of Christ to follow accordingly. Your local church will most likely have posted the ways on how you could give on their website or social media accounts or pages. Have you taken time to check them out, share your blessings, and give your tithes and offering or have you forgotten about those who feed you spiritually?
While most of the world is on hold at this time, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is presented an unprecedented opportunity to learn its true identity. It is not a building; neither is it merely an organization or an institution. It is a living, breathing organism that will live forever. It will not and should not stop functioning, because the Lord from whom its life and power comes is eternal. The body of Christ is not on vacation. Let us not fall out. Let us not be complacent. And “let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
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