Anyone ready to re-open? To get back to being together?
Yeah, me too.
I was thinking this week about taking my children on college campus visits when they were in high school. I remember telling them that 35% of their college experience would happen in the classroom. 65% would happen outside the classroom. The classroom was central and important. But most of what they would learn over their four years in college would occur outside the classroom.
I think the same is true about church.
Switching metaphors, when Sunday morning is reduced to an on-line experience, we’re getting only about 35% of the recommended spiritual nutrition we need to grow and thrive as followers of Jesus. When we are gathered together physically for our Sunday morning worship, we absorb a lot more than just what comes at us from the platform. We absorb the smiles from other people. The hugs and the high fives. The conversations that happen before and after the worship service. We experience a taste of community. And we worship together. We join together in singing. We hear each other’s voices.
Community can’t happen the same way when we worship on line. On-line worship is a one-way experience. There’s no accountability. There’s no “life on life” happening when you watch a live-streamed sermon. We’re still gathering, but essential elements of corporate worship are missing.
The reality for all of us during this season is that we’re not getting all the spiritual nutrients we need. What we’re getting may be fine. But what we’re missing is significant.
That’s part of why I can’t wait until we can all be in the same room, side by side, again.
As you probably know, our Governor this week provided us with guidance on how churches can begin start the process of re-opening, beginning next week. In addition to looking carefully at his recommendations, we are talking to other pastors here and in other cities about how they will re-open their churches. As I said last week, we know there are some who for health reasons will postpone coming back to church for a season. We support that decision. And we also want to make sure that those who are ready to come back come into an environment that is as safe as we can reasonably make it.
With that in mind, as the elders met last night, we decided that our next three Sundays will be on-line only. Beyond that, we’re still in a holding pattern. We might begin meeting together as early as May 31. Or we may postpone the re-opening, depending on what happens over the next few weeks.
When we do eventually re-open our church for weekly worship, we will not include nursery or kids church on Sundays at first. That fits with what state officials are recommending. And honestly, it would be difficult for us to staff those areas for a while. Additionally, we’re thinking and praying about how to facilitate hand washing, sanitizing, appropriate social distancing in our building, and other practices that will help prevent the spread of the virus.
In short, our re-gathering is going to look and feel pretty strange for a while.
As we think about what the rest of the spring and summer might look like for us, we are brainstorming ways to try to try to fill in some of the spiritual gaps we’re experiencing. We’re looking at how we can help make the “one anothers” of church life happen even while we’re not with one another regularly. We’re open to ideas or thoughts you might have.
A final thought for this week. We believe that a local church plays an important role in the spiritual development of our children. But it’s a secondary role. Moms and Dads bear the primary weight of discipleship and spiritual training for children. What we do at church is designed to supplement what you’re doing at home.
Right now, that supplemental role we play is diminished. So I want to encourage you to double down as parents and make sure you’re investing in the lives of your children, helping them become spiritually strong.
Deuteronomy 6:6–9 is a familiar passage that gives moms and dads guidance for how to disciple our kids”
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
What can you do? I asked Matt and Jen for a few ideas to pass along, and they put together a great list of some basics:
1. Memorize scripture together. Get creative. Revisit older verses you’ve memorized. Invent your own hand motions. Make it a regular practice as a family. Think about maybe even paying your kids to memorize longer passages or verses (like the 10 Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer or even a chapter or a book of the Bible).
2. Sing together. Find a song of the month to memorize and sing. Teach kids older hymns. Find scripture songs that connect to verses you’re memorizing. If you’re not musical, sing along to a YouTube video.
3. Spend time together. Find a way for each parent and each child to have one on one time together every couple of weeks. Do something fun. Invest in your relationship with that child.
4. Teach your children how to spend time in God’s word on their own. This has to be age appropriate of course. But start early helping them learn how to dig into God’s word for themselves.
5. Serve together. Look for ways you can bless people in your neighborhood, in our church or in our community. Make caring for others a regular practice as a family. And help your kids see how loving others can open a door for telling people about Jesus.
6. Keep your eyes and ears open for those “walk by the way” moments. Deuteronomy 6 gives us a pattern for how we can make spiritual observations and spiritual conversations a part of our everyday moments. Stay alert for how we can remind our children of the gospel in the midst of the emotions and experiences we all face every day.
If you have children at home, what’s one action point from the list above that you can apply in your home today?
I thought you’d all like the picture below.
Jeff Fehlberg recently completed his course of study in Business Administration at UA Little Rock. Of course with graduation ceremonies cancelled, he did not get to don a cap and gown and walk. His diploma came in the mail.
But never fear! The Fehlberg small group came up with a graduation ceremony of their own this evening in our church parking lot. Jeff, the lone graduate present, heard a stirring commencement address from Dr. Lawrence Whitman, the Dean of the College of Engineering at UA Little Rock.
Don’t forget that Thursday is the National Day of Prayer. As I mentioned Sunday, here in Little Rock, there is a special live on-line event planned. It’s a city wide night of prayer that will feature our Governor, our Mayor and church leaders from throughout our city. The night of prayer happens on line on Facebook at 7:00 pm Thursday. You can watch and pray simply by clicking this link.
It’s one thing for Jesus to make the claim that He and His Father are one. It’s another thing for Him to be able to cite witnesses who are able to substantiate that claim. We’ll examine the testimony of the witnesses Jesus cites as proof that He is God. And we’ll see why even with credible witnesses giving credible testimony, the Jewish leaders in Jesus day still refused to believe His claim.
See you (on line) Sunday!
Soli Deo Gloria!