Places of worship can be closed overnight by natural disasters, civil unrest, terrorist attacks, state decrees or negative social media campaigns. At the present time local churches are being closed to slow the devastating impact of the covid-19 pandemic, and many are choosing to self-quarantine or isolate to protect themselves and others.
How will we respond? What will you do?
If going to church, enjoying worship music, praising God, listening to a sermon, catching up with friends, and enjoying fellowship around a shared lunch has been your routine, the closing of your church for whatever reason will be a big loss.
Perhaps for you, going to church has been your weekly outing—to get out of the house, to see others. For many young adults, church has been a place to connect socially. For you, it may have been your lifeline to escape—to find support, encouragement and warmth from fellow believers. Perhaps church has been your opportunity to enjoy a safe, peaceful place—to experience God’s embrace with some who understand? For many, having church close is a disaster.
Church in the New Testament
Going to a church building for a church service was not what happened in New Testament times. All the early churches met in homes. They were small, based in households.
There were no church sermons until the end of the 2nd century after Jesus, and no church buildings until the 4th century. It was Constantine who financed and gifted the first church buildings—changing the very essence of church.
Just months before His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus used the word church—which means a gathering, without buildings or political and religious connotations. Early believers did not go to a church building, but were the church in their homes and communities. So, if your church shuts down, you can be Church.
What might it look like?
It might be very small, but Jesus spoke of church as “where two or three come together in (His) name” (Matthew 18:15-20; cf., 16:13-21). And, think of the positives of being the Church.
Here is a description of the church, just after it was birthed by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost day—
The believers, described as the church, “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (of Jesus’ resurrection), and fellowship (with each other and the Spirit), sharing in the Lord’s Supper and prayer” (Acts 2:42 NLT).
They “shared everything they had … with those in need.” At that time, they could also gather in the temple courts but they “met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people.” And, “there was a deep sense of awe”—and many miracles (Acts 2:43-47).
It will be different. There will not be the excitement of a worship team, but maybe the sense of “awe” with the Spirit’s leading in quiet prayer and Bible reflection will be more dramatic. There may not be the variety of food at the fellowship lunch, but the shared conversations with a hot drink or a little food—and the Lord’s Supper—with close friends or family who care and sense God’s presence, with fill you with peace, encouragement and comfort.
A GUIDE TO BEING CHURCH@HOME
Keep it simple and enjoyable. Some may wish to simply sit and watch a Bible lesson and/or worship service online. Others want something more interactive and focused.
Options for Worship & Bible discussion
Download a Discovery Bible Reading bookmark—and checkout the videos
1. Bible reading—using Discovery Bible Reading
Choose a Bible book to read over the coming weeks
—Mark is a great place to start.
2. Read the Gospels—using Discovery Bible Reading
Journey through the story of Jesus in sequence—reading through the Gospels.
Books: Peter Roennfeldt, Following Jesus (Signs 2017)
Plan to read one guide each week, and journey through the life story of Jesus, discussing, sharing and applying. A transformational experience.
3. Read Acts—using Discovery Bible Reading
Experience the excitement of the early church—reading through Acts.
Books: Peter Roennfeldt, Following the Spirit (Signs 2018)
Plan to read one guide each week, and journey through Acts, discussing, sharing and applying. An inspiring journey.
4. Read the New Testament Epistles—using Discovery Bible Reading
Rediscover what the early church was like—as you explore these letters.
Books: Peter Roennfeldt, Following the Apostles’ Vision (Signs 2019)
Plan to read one epistle during each week with the guide/chapter. Challenging and inspiring.
BE THE CHURCH@HOME
Here are some ideas that will enrich your Church@Home experience—
1. Meal. Plan a simple breakfast, brunch or lunch together—but try to do something a little special. Eat outside or in an open space for social distancing.
2. Lord’s Supper. Have some flat bread (or biscuits) and grape juice on the table, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper as an Agape Meal each time you meet.
3. Set a time. It could be 10 am—after breakfast or brunch. Also plan how long you will spend in worship—don’t go on-and-on. You will meet next week again. Maybe sit outside in a garden, with space to protect all.
4. Involve children, teens and youth. Engage all with age-relevant activities—stories, crafts, songs; and involve all in reading and the Discover Bible Reading discussions.
5. Plan for an offering. Encourage all to continue to contribute tithes and offerings to their churches through e-giving. But, also collect an offering to support some vulnerable people that the group knows who may be finding things tough at the moment.
Check with a vulnerable person as to what is needed, purchase the item and let them know when you will leave it at their door. This giving can meet the direct immediate needs of those around you.
6. Music. It is great if you have some—either live or streamed—but, don’t feel it is absolutely necessary. And, if you can’t sing—don’t. Maybe read a hymn or song.
7. Invite neighbors. While keeping numbers small and maintaining appropriate quarantine and social distancing, many will be needing fellowship, encouragement and support. This is a time when you can be church in your community.
8. Outdoor activities. Plan to walk or drive (in separate cars) to meet outdoors—in a forest or park, on a beach, or around a lake—to walk and share, while maintaining social distancing as required.
9. Connect with others by social media. Use Facetime or Zoom conferencing to connect your small Church@HOME with others doing the same thing.
KEEP IT SIMPLE, EASY TO DO, RELAXED AND ENJOYABLE. Be the CHURCH