How to “do church” when we can’t gather together

The Bible teaches us that church isn’t a building and isn’t a place, but a people. Followers of Jesus are the church. There is what we call a “universal” aspect to this–every believer from every age of history and every location on earth. We are one big family, but we won’t all be together until Jesus returns. Then there is what we call the “local” church–a particular group of believers who regularly gather in a particular location.

The command to not neglect to meet together (Hebrews 10:25) speaks of our local gatherings as we anticipate the day we will join with all our brothers and sisters in the universal gathering.

But sometimes circumstances happen, like with the current pandemic or a winter ice storm, that temporarily hinder our ability to gather. In such cases, we don’t stop being the church, because the church is us. So, what can we do to still keep some sense of our regular gathering when we can’t meet?

Here’s some ideas, in no particular order:

1) Read the Bible together as a family. If you’re married and/or you have children, then use Sunday as a special time to read God’s word together, focus, and reflect on what it says. If you keep sermon notes, you could potentially go back and reread a recent passage and discuss it as a family. If you use a Bible reading calendar, such as this one: 2020 Bible Reading Calendar, then you could read that day’s passage together, talk about it, and pray about it.

If you have young children, you might find a Bible story book useful. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones is an excellent resource you can find on Amazon in both print and kindle additions. Also of note are the Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible and the It’s All About Jesus Bible Storybook.

2. Spend extra time in prayer. You can do this by yourself, or again as a family. This would be a great time to think about others in the church or your Sunday School / Bible Study Class and pray for them specifically by name. You can read through a Psalm, song, or hymn line-by-line, pausing to pray whatever comes to mind after each line. You can also spend time praying for the spread of the Gospel in our communities, nation, and world. This would be a great time to pray for other community churches as well as unreached people groups–Joshua Project is a great resource for that.

3. Spend time singing. We sing when we gather as a church. Chances are you also sing in the car, when you’re cleaning, or in the shower. So why not set aside some time on Sunday, again as an individual or with your family, to sing praises to God? If you have a hymnal, you can use that. Or you can put in a CD or fire up the music player on your phone and sing along. You can also find many great Christian songs, often with lyrics, on YouTube.

4. Read. You might set aside some time to read a good devotional book or other book that points your heart and mind to God.

5. Watch a livestream of a church service. Even if they don’t regularly livestream, many churches are using this time to do just that. We’re going to give it a try with info before hand on our Facebook page about it. You can find a lot of streams from a lot of good churches.

6. Contact your fellow church members. We’re hearing the phrase “social distancing” a lot in recent days. I did see a person comment that maybe “physical distancing” would be a better phrase to use. After all, though we want to keep physical interactions down for a few weeks, we still have plenty of ways to socially connect. Text some people in church. Give them a call. If they want, maybe spend some time using Facebook Messenger or another app to video chat with them or have a group chat with several people, again like your Sunday School or Bible Study.

We can’t meet for the moment, but there are still plenty of ways to connect.

silhouette of photo of person standing near tree during sunset
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com
Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-of-photo-of-person-standing-near-tree-during-sunset-3804947/

Good Reads 01.18.17 (on: the cost of following Jesus, parenting, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On community and the cost of following Jesus: Church, This is a Call for Familial Friendship by Christine Hoover

We certainly can’t lay out the benefits without the costs for the unconverted, but perhaps even more so we must be careful about this within the church. We must talk about the cost of following Christ with one another. What does the gospel cost you, unmarried Christian? What does the gospel cost you, Christian businessman? What does the gospel cost you, Christian mother pregnant with a baby the doctors tell you to abort? What does the gospel cost you, faithful pastor? What about you, college student studying at a public university antagonistic to faith? What does the gospel cost you, widow or widower? What does it cost you, dear reader? (click here to read more)

On reading the Bible: Why Do We Give Up on Bible Reading? by Bryce Young

What do you do when Bible reading produces no obvious application — when you walk away from your Bible reading with no fantastic insights, no deep revelations, or even any profound experience of awe or wonder? This happens more often than any of us would like to admit. It unnerves us. I just heard from God, and nothing seems different.

What do you do when your Bible reading seems insignificant or irrelevant? (click here to read more)

On praying effectively: How to Get Your Prayers to Work by H. B. Charles Jr.

Hypocrites pray! But their prayers are a performance for other people, not worship to God. They do it to be seen by men. And when other see them praying, they got want they wanted. God does not owe them anything! Your prayers won’t work if you heart is more concerned with what man thinks about you, rather than what God knows about you.

Jesus commands, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who sees in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). The secret to prayer is secret prayer. Secret prayer does not mean you should not pray corporately or publicly. It means that you must guard your sinful heart from praying to the wrong audience! (click here to read more)

On parenting: Be a Parent Worthy of Honor by Tim Challies

First, make your own godliness your foremost concern. As parents, there is the tendency to expect more from our children than we expect from ourselves. We have great expectations for them but only modest expectations for ourselves. A life of honor before others begins with a life of honor before God. As we pursue God, we will long to be who he wants us to be, to put on all the noble characteristics associated with godliness and to put off all the ugly characteristics associated with ungodliness. We will want to behave how God means for us to behave, to put aside any actions that are unfitting for a Christian while emphasizing all those actions that are worthy of a Christian. In these ways we will model mature character and behavior, extending and displaying love to our children, even when they exasperate us or push us to the brink of despair. We will live with a clear conscience before God, man, and our own children. (click here to read more)

What Child Is This? (an advent meditation)

What Child is this
Who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap, is sleeping?
Whom angels greet
With anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ, the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring Him laud
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

The Christmas song What Child Is This? asks as question that the world has pondered since the birth of Jesus. Who is this child-turn-man that claims to be Lord and Savior of the world?

Jesus once asked his first disciples what others said about him. They answered: “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, speaking for the group: “You are the Christ [Savior-King], the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16).

In his book Mere Christianity, CS Lewis said that when a person looks at the claims of Jesus in Scripture, one must conclude he is either Lord, liar, or a lunatic. Some may go a step further and say that the Jesus of the Bible does not exist; but if we start with the historical existence of Jesus as detailed in Scripture, then only those three options remained.

Jesus claimed to forgive sins (Matthew 9:1-8); accepted Peter’s claim to be the Messiah/Christ, Son-of-God King (Matthew 16:13-19); claimed to preexist Abraham and at the same time took for himself the name of God (John 8:56-58).

With what he claimed, Jesus was no mere good teacher or religious prophet. He either lied about himself, had delusions about himself, or was the Lord he claimed to be. The Christian faith is built on the latter, as the song affirms: This, this is Christ the King!

So, this Christmas, who do you say that Jesus is? May you celebrate, worship, and follow him as your Savior-King!

Good Reads 09.21.16 (on: friendship, being ordinary, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On the needed wounds through faithful friends: Find a Friend to Wound You by Greg Morse

Praise God then for the faithful wounds of true friends who protect us from ultimate injury. They tell us plainly, “You’re flirting with destruction!” Or, “Spiritual sloth is unacceptable!” Friends who ask us hard questions, who crush the whispering lizard on our shoulder, who are for our eternal soul above our momentary feelings — these are true friends. (click here to read more)

On the goodness of “ordinary”: Stop the Revolution, Join the Plodders by Kevin DeYoung

Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul. And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with the kids, buy the same groceries at the store, and share a bed with the same person every night. Church is often the same too—same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people. But in all the smallness and sameness, God works—like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21). (click here to read more)

On sex and grace: Sex Under the Law, Sex Under Grace by Tim Challies

As a pastor—one who has performed weddings and counseled many couples—I know how many struggle mightily in the early days and months of marriage. So many couples quickly learn that sexual intimacy isn’t immediately as simple, pleasurable, successful, or fulfilling as they had expected, as they had wished, as they had seen modeled in a hundred Hollywood movies. For some this is the case for a short time and for some it is a lifelong struggle. (click here to read more)

On our big God drawing small people into his big mission: Why We All Want to Do Something Bigger by Zach Bradley

Wherever you land in the Scriptures, it’s hard to miss that people are small and God is big. Yet, it was not until I ventured out on mission that I began to own my tiny stature. Serving cross-culturally helped me realize that though God invites me to be part of his monstrous task, it doesn’t so sorely depend on me. In light of being a little one with a great big Father (1 John 2:14), I was invited afresh to “draw near to God with a sincere heart and full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). That, my friend, was a greater high than any summiteer has ever known. (click here to read more)

Speak Out! (a meditation)

Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! ~Psalm 107:2 (NLT)

Almost everybody loves to hear a good story. Even better if the story gives us hope that people or things or situations can change. We crave that light in the darkness which points toward better days.

God intends his people to be such storytellers.

The stories we tell aren’t farfetched myths of lofty, unachievable goals. No, our stories are about how Jesus changed our lives and brought us from our darkness into light. These stories of redemption are what we call testimonies.

A testimony at its core is a simple thing. It doesn’t have to be long or dramatic (though some, properly, are). It just has to be about Jesus and you. Before you came to know and follow Jesus you were a person who thought and did things in a certain way. Then you realized that way could not sustain you and give you eternal joy. Someone told you about Jesus, you believed in him, and everything changed.

For some this change is as dramatic as what Paul experienced in Acts 9 where he was knocked to the ground (literally) and went from being a man who hated Jesus and Christians to being a man who loved Jesus and identified with the Christians. For others, the change is more subtle but still as real—just as the two disciples of John the Baptist in John 1, who upon hearing his pronouncement of Jesus as the Messiah began to follow Jesus.

In both cases the need for Jesus was real and the change evident though most of the other details stood on opposite ends of the spectrum.

If you are a follower of Jesus, then you have a story to tell. You were lost in your sin, but Jesus rescued, redeemed, and forgave you. Now you have new life. Maybe you reveled in sin and partied hard before that or maybe you generally tried to be a “good person.” Either way, you met Jesus and he changed you.

You were redeemed from your former life. And the psalmist said of the redeemed: Then speak out! In other words, tell your story of how you met Jesus and how he changed you for his glory.

Think through these questions: Who was I before I knew Jesus? How did I learn about Jesus? What made me realize I needed Jesus? How am I different now that I have begun following Jesus?

Put the answers to these questions together in the way that only you can: It is Jesus’ story but it’s also your story. And then go and find someone to share your story with.

Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

Awana and Youth (2016-17) begins 9/14!

Wednesday night kicks-off our Awana and Youth programs for the 2016-17 school year. Both start in the gym at 6:30pm and finish at 8:00pm. As always, adult prayer meeting and Bible study gathers at 7:00pm.

For more information, check out, like, and follow our Facebook pages:

awana-facebook-profile-wed

Click *here* for our Awana Facebook page.
or
Click *here* for online registration.

youth-profile-pic

(7th – 12th grades)
Click *here* for our Youth Facebook page

Good Reads 09.07.16 (on: marriage, God’s loving discipline, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On growing your marriage: Your Marriage Is Either Growing or It Isn’t by Melissa Edgington

But, I think after seventeen years I have finally begun to learn that no marriage will grow deep and strong unless we are both firmly planted in God’s word, letting the words of life sustain us as individuals and as a couple. I am not a “good” wife. But, when I turn to Jesus and ask Him to make me the kind of wife He wants me to be, when I ask Him to give us a marriage that is a brilliant picture of His love, then I start seeing that our roots can grow deeper that I ever thought possible. Our little marriage sapling can grow as tall and as wide as God’s will allows, if only we rely on Him in our weakness and let Him be the good and faithful gardener that He has proven Himself to be. (click here to read more)

On Bible reading and devotional life: Simple Ways to Spark a Lukewarm Devotional Life by Tim Challies

The phenomenon of daily, private devotions is relatively new to church history and there is something to be said for reading the Bible in community, perhaps as a married couple or as a group of friends. If you are struggling to read the Bible, why not allow yourself to feed off the habits and self-discipline of someone else? Ask your husband or wife if you can join in their devotions or ask your friends if you can get together with them to read and to pray. The biblical mandate is not to have a daily, personal quiet time, but to be steadily, consistently taking in the Word. (click here to read more)

On encouragement (especially for men) to get help fighting against porn in their lives: Why Men Don’t Get Help in Their Battle with Pornography by Brian Liechty

You see, even though Jesus was the perfect man, He didn’t suffer like one. Instead He suffered as one who was unclean. He faced punishment as if He had rejected God. He died like an outsider. And He did these things to remove our shame! In other words, Jesus became as an unclean, unacceptable, outcast so that we could become clean and accepted and welcome before God!!!

When men start to realize and believe that God has removed their shame in Christ it changes the way they face their struggle with pornography.  It leads them out of the darkness and into the light. It moves them from concealing their sin to confessing their sin. It challenges them to get the help they need instead of being paralyzed by their fears. (click here to read more)

On God’s discipline of those he loves: When God Graciously Makes You Miserable by Matt Moore

God laid a heavy hand on David because of his sin, leaving him miserable and desperate for relief. Why? Was it because God is a short fused tyrant who delights in inflicting pain on his creatures, as many critics of the Christian faith suppose? No—it was because “the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:6). It was not God’s hatred that descended upon David; it was God’s love. Knowing the destructive nature of sin, God refused to allow David to continue down a path that would lead to either great temporal suffering (at best) or even eternal demise (at worst). When he saw his beloved child veering away from the Springs of Eternal Life and sipping the poison of broken cisterns (Jeremiah 2:13) instead, he unleashed his disciplinary love to jolt his slumbering son awake—and it worked. (click here to read more)