I’m honestly having a hard time with this whole online church thing.
This last Sunday, I watched our church’s Palm Sunday service. Seeing members of our worship band on the screen (six feet apart) was a blessing, but it definitely wasn’t the same as gathering in our building for corporate worship. My pastor gave a wonderful, powerful message, but watching him on a screen lacked the connection I am used to. It’s the best we can do in this season, but I still feel like I haven’t been in church for a month – because I actually haven’t.
Since I got saved in high school, my Christianity has included church services, small group Bible studies, prayer meetings, mission trips, conferences, and retreats. Gathering with God’s people makes up the bulk of my socializing, and I’d even call it my culture. But all of that has come to a halt, and it has been quite disorienting. And I know I’m not alone. When we are used to connecting with God in a certain way, the disruption in routine can be shocking to our whole relationship with Christ. While we know it’s not the case, many of us have felt as if the absence of corporate church, worship, and fellowship is the absence of God Himself.
So what will Easter Sunday be like without the lilies on the stage? Without little girls in new dresses and boys in starched shirts arriving to church with Peeps dust in the corners of their smiles? Without grandmas in hats, without ushers in ties, without the well-rehearsed full worship band, and without the polished pastor in his Sunday-best suit? It will just not be the same.
But perhaps the church actually needs a different Easter. Perhaps what the church needs more than anything this Easter is this stripping away of everything except the plain striking beauty of the empty grave and the risen Savior.
Could this time of forced separation from our faith communities actually be a disguised gift of reconnection to the direct access we have to God? Is the removal of religious routine a recipe for revival?
Perhaps we have become so dependent on our modern forms of worship that we have diminished the simplicity of connecting with Jesus through His word and through prayer.
We are used to being spoon-fed solid messages, led into worship by gifted musicians, and cheered on by other faith-filled Jesus followers. But what kind of Jesus followers are we when we have none of that? What does our Christianity look like when there is no one else around but the people we live with, or when we are totally alone? Most of us have never had to find out, but now we will.
Paul spent a total of five and a half years in either a prison cell or under house arrest, away from the congregations he loved so much. We can be sure that he did not spend his time binge-watching TV or mindlessly scrolling through social media like many of us have done these last weeks. With nothing but the scriptures and the Holy Spirit, Paul drew near to God and advanced His kingdom while in confinement. He labored in prayer, received visions and revelations directly from God, and wrote letters of encouragement that nourish our souls thousands of years later. Isolation made Paul a deeper follower of Jesus. Oh, to have even half of that fortitude and grit to pursue Christ and the furtherance of His kingdom in our present circumstances!
The truth is, I have the same scriptures and the same Holy Spirit available, but I often lack the self-discipline and motivation to pursue Christ on my own. I prefer to be a spoon-fed consumer who can conveniently grab what I need of God and go on with my easy life. I am a lazy Christian, and I don’t think I’m alone.
Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt 7:7) Asking, seeking, and knocking are all active verbs that require me to intentionally pursue Christ. It is surely how Paul spent his time in prison, and it’s what I am being challenged to do in my own season of confinement.
So I’m wanting to repent. I truly want to get to the end of this season having spent my time exercising the spiritual disciplines I’ve allowed to get out of shape. Because of the cross and the empty tomb, I have all I need to run this race of asking, seeking, and knocking with endurance. So do you.
So let’s allow the void of our normal forms of worship to bring us to a renewed understanding of the simplicity of the gospel and an increased pursuit of intimacy with Christ. In our time of isolation, may our appetites be increased for the foundational things of our own private faith – Bible reading, scripture memorization, prayer and worship. May His word become more precious to us as we read it for ourselves, and may we expect a more intimate understanding of the heart and mind of the Savior as we redeem the time we have been given in isolation.
This Sunday, I want the world around us to watch as God’s people proclaim that Jesus is worthy of our worship - because like our churches, the tomb is empty.
4/6/2020 09:29:50 pm
So beautifully said and I am loving this close very intimate time with the Lord. It’s a time I will cherish indeed.
4/7/2020 09:08:09 pm
Thank you so much for the encouragement. So glad to hear Jesus is meeting you in this season.
4/8/2020 08:02:36 am
4/6/2020 09:44:24 pm
Absolutely, yes! God is doing some powerful things and stirring in the hearts of our family. Memorizing scripture, an hour lingering together in reading the word as a family has me feeling like I never want to go back to the way things were. We are THRIVING!
4/7/2020 09:09:12 pm
So glad to hear you are thriving!! I love that you are spending time lingering in the presence of the Lord with your family. So precious!
4/6/2020 10:23:03 pm
Love this. Really gave opportunity to look at my heart and see if I am making the best of my time in the things that increase the spirit. I have been in Psalm 141 especially verses 1-5. Really wanting to apply every part of that in my life. Thank you Nancy. 💕
4/7/2020 09:10:24 pm
So glad the Lord used it to minister to you! Those are great verses to be camping in!
4/6/2020 11:01:17 pm
This is something that has been at the forefront of my mind since the start of this whole season. I truly believe as we strip away the armor of the building, we are forced to ensure that we are always securely fitted in the armor of God. Funny how when we no longer have one physical place to meet God, we are reminded that God was never only in one place anyway. He is with us always- every moment, every day.
4/7/2020 09:11:51 pm
It is such a beautiful reminder that the church doesn't need a building to be the church!
4/6/2020 11:08:40 pm
I’ve been home for three weeks and a day now, and I’m feeling very filled up with all the extra time. My study life was often limited to just quick morning time, and prayer. Afternoon, settling back in and then scripture reading with hubby after dinner. My Saturday mornings however have been lusciously filled with studying Crown, followed by the journaling questions. I knew when I began, I wanted to take this one slowly, because I just knew there were going to be so many gems! I’ve not been wrong. Now, with all extra time, I’m slowing making all my mornings like Saturday...and relaxing into the word...prayerfully asking for direction, (online teaching is stressful and not easy with first graders) and being extremely selfish with my extra time. Thank you for the beautiful way you use words to encourage us into the type of thinking where Jesus is at the front of our minds and not just another task on our to do list. Forever grateful...
4/7/2020 09:13:13 pm
Thank you so much for the encouragement. I'm blessed to see you are redeeming the time you have been given so well!
4/7/2020 07:05:28 am
This is fabulous Nancy! Thank you for writing how my heart has been feeling. May we all pursue Him with a passion that encompasses every part of our being. May the church rise from this stronger and more Spirit filled than ever before.
4/7/2020 09:13:59 pm
Love you! Thank you so much for the encouragement!
4/7/2020 09:55:21 am
God works out all things for the good of those who love the lord,this verse gets a whole new meaning to me,its amazing how much time I have to myself and the like Lord away from busy schedules ,its really a very rewarding time ,especially when you try to be disciplined ,the danger is for many other people that lack such discipline ,those young believers ,but this is a nice piece ,thanks God bless you
4/8/2020 05:31:03 pm
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