I miss my church.
My family is continuing to meet online as our local church charts a path forward with registering for services, serving families while not offering childcare, and social distancing to best protect the vulnerable. Zoom meetings, Facebook Lives, and phone calls have sustained relationships within my small group and the wider church body, but there’s nothing like drawing near in the same space as God draws us near to His heart.
Maybe you feel the yearning to be back within the community of your local church or maybe you’re celebrating every Sunday as those who have already returned to meeting together. Maybe you have returned but feel a bit distanced as you begin to meet together again, the time apart creating lapses in relationships and a strange feeling of being a visitor in a familiar building. Maybe you have loved Sundays at home and are considering making online church your new normal and wondering how to best think about church.
So, how should we think about the church, both when we are scattered and when we are gathered? And why does it matter?
1. The Church is the unified, holy, apostolic, universal work of God; the outpost of the Kingdom of heaven.
The church is the present day embodiment of what is to come in the Kingdom of heaven. We reflect the love of God to one another, the unity and diversity of the kingdom, and the saving and sanctifying work of God as we remind each other of the gospel, call each other to repentance, and seek reconciliation with our brothers and sisters.
2. The Church is established by Christ, sustained by Him into eternity.
There is no man-made organization that will continue forever, yet the Church will be ushered into eternity as God’s holy people who will dwell with Him. We are a future hope centered people, and being with one another reminds us of this hope when we get weary. Our hope is not in today, in politics, or in medical care and vaccine development. We should pray for our leaders, pray for the needs we are aware of today, and pray a vaccine is quickly developed and an effective treatment found, but that’s not where our hope lies. None of these will save our lives. Instead, as God’s people, the Church, we lose our lives so that He may save us — we surrender to Him so that we might have life eternal in His presence.
3. The Church is the body of Christ, representing Him in their love for their neighbors and each other.
Each believer images and represents Christ individually, but we are a more full picture of God’s goodness, grace, and creativity corporately. As we come together, we then are sent out into our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and our kids’ baseball fields and dance studios to be on mission with Christ. In our current moment, these opportunities to serve those around us take more intentionality than ever before, and yet, they may also be more fruitful than ever before. The Church has the hope our world needs, and as we spend time together, however that occurs, we may spur one another in love and good deed to those around us.