We face many challenges at the moment, but one of the things that is particularly hard is not being able to meet with our church families. For most of us in the UK, this is the first time we have ever been in this position. We have always enjoyed the freedom to gather together and worship; even if we’ve been unable to leave our homes to join everyone on a Sunday, we’ve been able to have visits from members of our church family, helping us to stay connected. On reflection, perhaps we’ve taken that freedom for granted.
And now we’re separated from each other, we’re forced to ask what it actually means to be the Church. When you strip everything away from what church normally looks like for us, what is left? What does it mean to “be the Church”?
Church is God’s family. It’s His children saved and changed through an encounter with Him, welcomed into a new family. Church is about loving and worshipping our Father. It’s about serving Him by reaching out to a lost world desperately in need of Him, telling them the good news that they are loved by the King of creation and welcoming them home.
This is who we are. This is what we’re called to do. This is what it means to be the Church.
When you look at those things, what you notice is that none of them have stopped being true. No global pandemic, no persecution, no power of hell or fear of man is ever able to stop any of this from being true. We are God’s beloved children and will always be His beloved children. We are called to love and worship our Father and will always be called to love and worship our Father. We are called to reach out to His lost and broken world and are always called to reach out to His lost and broken world.
Standing in this truth, the question is how we do this in the face of the challenges in our way.
This is a question that the early Church must have asked in the dangerous, hostile environment they lived in. It’s a question our brothers and sisters across the world must still face every day in countries with no religious freedom.
Yet the explosion of the Church’s growth in its early years, the countless stories of people today in countries across the world coming to know Christ and follow Him despite rejection and attempts on their lives, shows there are answers to that question.
Challenging as this season is for us, perhaps there is purpose in it too. Perhaps this is actually an invitation for the Church to remember who she is, to go back to her roots, to get creative with fulfilling her calling. Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to not be distracted by the practicalities of our weekly meetings and events and instead focus on the heart of the matter, the reason these events happen in the first place: to love God and to love our neighbour.
Let’s be excited at what God will do in this season. Let’s use the challenges we face to press in deeper with Him, to listen for His direction by His Holy Spirit so we can find creative ways of loving God and loving our neighbour.