I love my church family. I really love them. And I miss being with them terribly. I am eager to worship together again soon...I wait with hope.
Every pastor I have talked with over the past few months feels the exact same way I do about their congregation. Every one.
My guess is that if you are a Christian, you feel the same way about your church as these pastors and I do. At least I hope so.
A local church family truly is one of God's greatest gifts to us this side of heaven. There is nothing quite like it.
And while the large majority of Christ followers I know understand this, believe this, and celebrate this, I'm afraid some of us may have forgotten (or are beginning to forget) this is true.
Here's why I say this.
After talking with a large number of pastors and church leaders from different parts of the country over the past month, as well as reading of some concerning trends regarding "Christians" abandoning their congregations (congregations that are not yet prepared or ready to open for legitimate reasons) in order to attend other churches that are opening more quickly and "better meet their immediate wants and needs", I have a few thoughts I want to share, for what they are worth.
If you claim to be a Christian, I have to believe that you truly desire to honor the Lord, to be faithful to His Word, and walk in accordance with what He wants, more than anything else in your life. You have been born again, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and you are now a new creation...with a new heart and new desires! God has made this so, all by grace alone! It truly is amazing.
If this is true of you, if you are indeed a Christian, in this time of pandemic, loving your local church, being sold out and committed to your local church, must be a top priority. And a joyful one at that! It should never be burdensome to be "all in" with your church. You chose it for a reason, right? Because of it's theology, it's convictions, it's leadership, it's love? These things are still true.
My concern is that perhaps some of us have forgotten this in just a few short months.
It is sad but true.
My question is this: For a true Christian, a biblical Christian, what should being committed to your local church look like in this season? After two months of this pandemic? What about the next two...or four...or six...or?
How do you and I love our church well in this time? Let me offer a few ways...
You do this by praying for individuals and individual needs in your congregation, this includes praying for wisdom for your pastors and leaders.
You practice patience with your church, especially if you want things to be moving more quickly than they are.
You do this through being as involved as you can with the different opportunities your church is offering in this time.
You do this by intentionally encouraging different folks in your congregation whenever you get the chance or think about it.
You put your faith in God and His sovereignty over all things...this includes ALL things.
You do this by actually trusting your pastors and leaders, those who love you and are doing the best they can to lead you in this time. Follow them as they seek to follow Christ.
You look for ways to serve practical needs of those who are struggling in your church family.
You make worship a priority, with joy and thankfulness, even if you are still unable to meet in person on Sundays at the physical church building.
You are quick to show grace to your church family, assuming the best and not the worst of them. You do this because you know that the same Holy Spirit who is at work in you is at work in them.
You look for opportunities to share your faith with those who don't know Christ and invite them to get connected to your church, even now.
You share wisdom and insight that you have, which could potentially be helpful for your pastors and leaders in this time. Remember, they want to serve you well and they recognize they do not have all the answers for this unprecedented situation.
You continue to joyfully and faithfully give your tithes and offerings to your church, knowing the mission of making disciples for the glory of God continues to move forward in this season.
You thank God everyday for your church family...praising God for blessing you and allowing you to be part of this congregation.
For what it's worth, I do need to mention this. The worst thing you can do in this time is threaten to leave, or actually leave your church family...abandoning your congregation for another, simply out of impatience, pride, anger, arrogance, or flat out pragmatic reasons.
There are legitimate reasons to leave a church.
In the words of a dear old deacon friend of mine, "These ain't them."
Friends, let me encourage you to love your church in this tough time.
Be mature. Be godly. Be humble. Be biblical.
The Lord wants to grow us up.
Let Him have His way.
For your joy, the good of others, and His ultimate glory.