COVID-19 and the inconvenient church
God didn’t cause the Coronavirus to punish us. God isn’t distant (or even absent) during this pandemic. God is however, at work. While I cannot speak for God, I do wonder what God is creating, or, perhaps more specifically, what God is creating and reimagining through us during these days of quarantine.
Churches have closed. This isn’t a vacation for us Christians, a chance to lounge in our PJs on Sunday mornings and schlep around aimlessly. This is a way to figure out exactly how to be church without being church as we knew it.
I’m not doing cartwheels over a global health crisis; it’s the opposite: I am looking at what Jesus is doing on His home turf, the church He built.
You should be, too.
When I cancelled our service for this coming Sunday, March 22nd, I heard scuttlebutt such as: 1.) I want to sing in the choir, so I think we should have it. 2.) I want to make sure our congregation gets those Easter cards signed for shut ins and those who have been away from the congregation so I’m pretty upset about this. And 3.) Jesus didn’t let the illness of others stop him. Why should we?
These voices are honest and legit. Those behind these comments (and others) should be honored and valued because these Christians care so deeply about the ministries the church does, and their allegiance—their faith—is showing. Faith seen is one beautiful thing.
So, in this time where churches aren’t gathering, how are we gathering? How are we connecting? How is faith now seen, especially in a world where panic (or at least worry) runs rampant?
I can’t speak for all pastors, but suggest what I have experienced with the pastors I have been blessed to work with firsthand. We are constantly addressing these questions. And these questions are good. And beyond these next weeks and months, these questions will not stop.
Church has suddenly become inconvenient.
Welcome to the world the first Christians faced. They gathered when and where they could in a world not just unfriendly but hostile to them.
I remember a youth advocate in an awesome program for kids suddenly stopped because what had been going so well met a sudden challenge. Church would become uneasy. And she left. During one meeting, she just stopped. She hasn’t been back.
If church had been easy, if it had been a once a week trip to Disney World, perhaps she’d still be doing a ministry she was not only very skilled at doing but also loved.
Church isn’t easy, folks. It was never supposed to be. Now yes, church feeds your soul. Church (i.e. worship) is the place to rest from the weary world; it’s the arsenal that equips you to face each day because the Word of God is never void; but it’s never supposed to be convenient, easy, or comfortable. It’s not supposed to be perfectly planned and timed—by us, anyway.
But it is driven by the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. [John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7 and 1 John 1:9 are just some verses that speak to the presence of this Spirit.]
The Holy Spirit has never been contained. Church now isn’t contained either. It hasn’t stopped. In fact, when pressed, the church finds its way to thrive.
Lead by the Spirit of God, find where you’re being inconveniently called. Let God be God through you, and the blessings of His ministries through you will show. This Coronavirus world needs God’s blessings through you now. Go and do.
This blog first appeared in The Susquehanna Independent on March 18, 2020.