We have all been turned upside down by the events of the last six months. Straightforward things like haircuts, shopping and grabbing a coffee have become expeditions to a slightly strange world of face masks to protect, floor stickers to distance, and pre-booking to limit numbers.
Hazel and I returned from our sabbatical in March never dreaming that we would be unable to meet physically with our church family possibly for the remainder of the year. Every so often we come across someone in the town who smiles and says, ‘this is the first time I have seen you face to face since December 2019!’ Strange times!
So is church finished? Has the gathered people of Christ had its day? Has a tiny virus managed to shut down the Father’s gift of transformation and life to the world after 2000 years of flourishing success and growth?
Last Monday we met as a Staff Team for our weekly morning meeting. Often we catch up, talk over the previous week, and look at the week ahead. This time was different: this time we put on our armour and went to war! Here are some of our thoughts and prayers…
The rocks cry out
As Christians our lives are forever changed. Jesus has found us and saved us – we cannot stay silent. How can we contemplate meeting together as the people of God and not sing? I would physically burst if I stayed quiet about my Saviour’s love – I have to sing praises and thanks to my Heavenly Father who has saved me.
Luke 19:37-40 ‘As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
Characteristics of the devil
There are some people we are naturally drawn to because of their welcoming smile and their radiance of life. There are others we want to steer away from because of their wrong behaviour and unpleasant speech.
We know the devil comes to ‘kill, steal and destroy’ and see his handiwork across the world. What are the characteristics of the Covid19 virus? So far, it has killed thousands; stolen loved ones, time, freedoms, and normality; brought destruction to jobs, businesses, and some communities. We must recognise the handiwork of the devil appeal to our Almighty Maker and Lord of the heavens and the earth, and make a stand against the works and tool of Satan.
Have we become passive? Have we retreated to a Covid19 mental bunker of resignation? Or do we take a stand and resist with the armour of God supplied by the resources of heaven?
A Gathered People
Wherever Jesus went, people gathered. Jesus builds and bonds relationships and community. This current situation has directly attacked our ability to gather as the ekklesia, the ‘called out ones’, the chosen body of Christ.
It is vital and essential that we are responsible and safe in our behaviour and lifestyle during this time of potential resurgence in the Covid19 virus – our choices can save lives. Those vulnerable and at risk must protect and shield themselves.
However, it is also vital that we find ways in which the body of Christ can gather in Jesus’ name. Matthew 18:20 encourages us, ‘For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.’
Something dynamic occurs when we gather together. We are encouraged, we are reminded of who we are, faith is released, miracles take place, individuals are inspired, fading coals become bright again – all in the presence of Jesus Christ.
We thank God for zoom and connections made possible by the internet, but we have all found there is no substitute for gathering physically together.
Have we become passive? Are we sitting back and allowing circumstances to dictate our lifestyle? Are we willing to fight for our core values and beliefs?
For a few hours the room in which the staff team meeting took place that morning lit up with prayers of warfare and authority – requesting of the head of the church that the people of God should flourish and grow, and resisting the onslaught of the devil using this foul virus.
As a church leadership we are looking at how we can be church effectively during the next period of time as the virus and its associated restrictions remain in place. The Bible gives a way forward while keeping safe and acting responsibly – gather together in small groups.
During August we are building up to the launch of prayer triplets in September. We will meet weekly for a period of around 8 weeks to pray for specific things. Consider who could be in your triplet? There is such power when we meet in Jesus’ name to pray for others.
I have also written to one of our local Members of Parliament asking for advice on two things: how can we meet as a church safely with singing? And how can we meet safely as small groups in homes with autumn approaching?
We will let you know of the response. Please pray for the church around the world, that we actively pursue Christ and resist the devil; and that we have wisdom how to be church effectively during this time.
The church is NOT finished and Jesus will return to an overcoming and glorious bride.