Anyone who has ever tried to coordinate a family reunion knows what the biggest challenge is. Trying to find a time that works on everyone’s calendar is the kind of logistical puzzle that only an experienced air traffic controller can handle. In our family, we have five children, their five spouses and now ten grandchildren to account for. We typically work 24 months in advance trying to lock down a date that works for all of us. Even then, schedules can change or unexpected events can derail the best laid plans.
We have (gratefully) been able to be with and spend time with all of our children, their spouses and our grandchildren at one time or another this year. Those are special moments for us. But we really cherish those times when the whole family is able to be together. Nothing beats that.
The same is true for our church family.
The last 18 months have made it impossible for all of us to be together regularly for corporate worship. There is something special that happens when our worship center is full, our singing is loud, our fellowship is warm – when we can hug one another and smile at each other. I miss that. A lot.
Here in Arkansas, we’re seeing a hopeful decline in the Delta spike we’ve been living through for the past few months. We’re not back yet to the very low infection numbers we were seeing pre-Delta. But the trend line is encouraging.
|I was reading a post for pastors this week that told us to prepare ourselves for a new normal. Over the past year and a half he says “church online went from novelty to universal… People found a new way of life, and while not wanting to stay there, they’re keeping the parts they like. The post-pandemic world is something like air travel after 9/11. People will fly again. It will just never be the same.”|
His encouragement to all pastors is that we need to see the church of the future as hybrid – what he calls “a seamless oscillation between digital and physical.” Just as some people much prefer shopping online to traveling to Walmart, so we can expect some who used to show up regularly for Sunday services to make the virtual service their new default option.
That may be what some are choosing. But I’d argue that ordering from Amazon and gathering for corporate worship are two different things altogether.
Think about it this way. In spite of the fact that you can watch a Razorback game in the comfort of your living room, tens of thousands of die hard fans spend hundreds of dollars and travel for hours to be in the stadium and call the Hogs. They don’t want to just watch the game. They want to be there.
Gathering to worship the Living God is not intended to be a spectator event. It’s not something you tune in and watch. It’s something you do. I’m glad the digital option has been available for all of us, especially over the past 18 months. It’s been a spiritual lifeline. But a lifeline is something you toss out in an emergency. It’s meant to keep you tethered for a time and eventually pull you back to shore. Dane Orlund observes that “a virtual worship gathering is one-way participation, not two-way. You’re receiving, but you can’t give.”
That’s just one of the reasons why we gather for worship. A family meet up on Zoom is nice. But it’s being together that we long for.
Let me be quick to add here, lest you’re reading this and thinking “he’s trying to guilt people into coming to church,” that’s not my purpose. While the threat of COVID remains, there are good and legitimate reasons for some to stay away and stay safe. Every person and every family has to assess their own risk level and decide what is the right decision for them.
My point is this: don’t get comfortable with virtual. Don’t settle into a new routine where livestreaming a worship service becomes your default. It’s not good for your soul and it’s not good for the rest of the family. In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says “the physical presence of other believers is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” He’s right. And Dane Ortlund again adds “the mere presence of other Christians has a fortifying effect on our souls, beneath what we’re even able to consciously recognize.”
To the church consultants who are telling pastors to adjust to the digital trends of the 21st century, I say that offering a meal replacement food bar to someone who needs a banquet needs to be seen as an emergency measure, not as a new normal. People may be “doing church” online more and more. But I would argue that what they’re doing isn’t what their soul needs.
When it’s safe for you, begin to reestablish the habit of being present for corporate worship every week as your default pattern. Don’t decide week to week whether you and your family are going to church this Sunday or staying home to watch it on the computer. You have 50-yard line tickets to worship the Living God of the Universe every week. As soon as you can, start re-building your weekend plans around that.
Men – two things this week
First, the Gun Lap Group will meet this Friday at 9:45am at church to begin going through Alistair Begg’s book Brave By Faith, talking about what we can learn from the first seven chapters of Daniel about how to live out our faith in a post-Christian culture. If you have any questions about the Friday morning group, contact Jim McMurry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second, the men’s First Tuesday meeting is less than a week away. Next Tuesday night, October 5, we’ll meet at church to hear from Dr. James Anderson, the Carl W. McMurry professor of Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary’s Charlotte campus. We’ll be talking about how we can think biblically about modern ideas related to gender and sexuality. Maybe you know someone you can invite? Any questions about Tuesday, email me at email@example.com.
There are four other special events on the calendar that I want to make sure you have noted.
FIRST…. for parents of kids age 5 – 5th grade. October is RCCKIDS CONNECT month for your children, and it all starts a week from tomorrow, Here are the details.
LADIES FALL RETREAT | Oct 15-17, 2021
|Next, for all ladies. If you’re not already signed up for the Fall Women’s Retreat, now is the time to register! The cost is $100, and that includes two nights lodging and all the food for the weekend. Scholarships are available for those who might need one. |
Registration is simple. Click here and you’re ready to go!
|Are you signed up yet for the Grandparenting Summit on October 21 and 22? Have you invited anyone to come with you?|
And mark your calendar now for the last Friday night in October. As we did last year, we have some fun and games and candy planned for our kids and our neighbors’ kids at our Trunk or Treat event in our parking lot.
|You can plan now to donate a big bag of candy for the event. Or think about the simple quick game you can set up from your trunk. Or just plan to come and |
join the fun that night. More details coming soon.
When Judas left the Passover meal, the disciples didn’t know where he was going. But Jesus did. And as we’ll see this week as we return to John 13, Jesus was still offering Judas an opportunity to be rescued from his diabolical plan right up to the very end.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!