Many of you will remember teaching a child the simple hand motions to “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors, and see all the people.” That’s one illustration that definitely doesn’t ring true in this crazy time as we weather the virus called COVID-19. It’s a time when we’re challenged as a church not only locally but really globally as everything we have come to expect from church is disrupted. Everything we find comfortable, normal or even sacred just isn’t the same. It’s times like this that should cause great reflection not only in regards to the moment we’re in but also when everything that is normal is stripped away…what’s left of who we are? As a church, what’s left of who we are? From there, we have to ask, is what we see after everything was stripped away what God desires of us as individuals and as the church or have we been exposed?
While we’re still in the midst of COVID-19 and none of us honestly know exactly when things will go back to “normal”, I think everyone realizes it’s events in history like this that alter life, that alter focus, that alter what we do. This is a time when as the church, we can bemoan what we’ve lost or ask the Lord what we could be. This is a time when as an individual, we can throw a pity party about our current quarantine situation, or we can ask the Lord how He might want to dramatically change us. If we’re honest with ourselves, some of us have been exposed…not to the Coronavirus…but exposed to the reality that God needs to do some work on you during this time.
I think the biggest thing to remember right now is that the church is still the church. You remember how many times you’ve told a child or maybe others that the church isn’t the building, it’s the people. That’s always been a true statement and it rings true more than ever right now. By virtue of the Coronavirus, the church can’t be a building. I fear that for some of us that we feel like we’ve lost our church right now. While gathering digitally can’t replace…and shouldn’t replace…the physical gathering of the church…that’s not all that the church is. We can’t tell people we’re “going to church” anymore. We can’t invite someone and give them a ride to church anymore. We can’t have big events where people will hear the gospel anymore. We can’t physically serve people in our gatherings at the church anymore. But if everything that the church is ends when the building is gone…were we really a church to begin with? Were you really the church to begin with? If you were called by God to do something…you weren’t called to how to do it, you were called to do it. We have to continue to be the church, even in creative ways.
There are multiple facets to what God has called us to be as a church. All of that hangs under the umbrella of the greatest commands to Love God and Love People. For some of us this has been a time to refocus our relationship with the Lord. Praise God for that time to learn to love God more than ever before. At the same time, it’s created a massive challenge to how we typically love people. We can’t even get near them right now. So the question becomes, how are we going to love people? We can’t just stop loving people. To stop loving people would be to say God has made it impossible for us to do exactly what He told us to do. That’s not consistent with who He is. In our efforts to strengthen our own relationship with the Lord we need to plead with Him for direction on how to love people right now…not after restrictions and Coronavirus are gone. Don’t take that as instruction to violate the government’s restrictions related to social distancing and gathering size. We have to get creative, we have to improvise. Maybe one of the best things God could do to His church is to break all the normal that we have, break all our ministries, break all our traditions and get us to rethink what it looks like to Love God and Love People.
The last thing we really need to put some thought into as the church is that the gospel can’t be quarantined. The gospel needs to go out more than ever before. It’s a time when people are in fear, when they’re losing their jobs, when they’re sick or potentially going to get sick, a time when they can’t go to the grocery and get what they need for their family, a time when sports are gone and when all the clutter of our calendars is gone. The gospel must go out now! I think one of the biggest questions for all of us as we reflect on our lives right now is who do I know that’s lost that I can I pick up the phone and call that I have enough of a relationship with to bare the weight of the gospel message? For some of us, we quarantined the gospel in a church ministry or in our houses long before Coronavirus. If we’re going to be the church, the gospel can’t be quarantined. What a great opportunity to evaluate how intentional we are being in our “normal” lives to develop relationships with the lost in hopes of getting the gospel to them.
I don’t believe God wastes moments. I don’t believe for a second that this crazy time in our history was unexpected to God. I’m confident that God didn’t just allow this to happen to inconvenience us. Do I know specifically what God is trying to do through all of this…no! At the same time, during this time when we’re all so concerned about being exposed to the Coronavirus let’s take time to reflect because for some of us we’ve been exposed as Christians who aren’t really acting like the church in certain areas of our life.