While there hasn’t been a lot of time to spend in reflection amid attempts to faithfully adjust to this season as a family and a church, I did happen to squeeze out a walk today and, with it, the following reflections:
I miss our physical gathering
At the same time I thank God for the means He’s given for us to continue having edifying face-time, I feel compelled to say what I hope you all are feeling—virtual’s not the same. In an church age when virtual church is all the rage, I’ve grown stronger in my conviction that such a rage only betrays an impoverished ecclesiology (understanding of the church). We are the church most brilliantly when we gather or assemble, face to face, in that foretaste of heavenly fellowship.
As I mentioned at the outset of last week’s sermon, there is an incarnational blessing to be had in Christian worship, communion, and ministry that simply cannot be had through a set of screens between shepherds and sheep that hardly know each other. Just think about our normal gathering on Sunday mornings. How many graces occur that we simply take for granted until they’re no longer occurring for lack of gathering—how many holy smiles, hugs, encouragements, alignments, affirmations, assurances, how much heightening of prayer, of music, of truths sung, preached, received, and discussed?
It’s significant. I hope you feel it. I hope this season is refining your ecclesiology, the importance of the gathered assembly of Christ in your life. Learn by social distancing to long for corporate worship on the Lord’s Day (Heb 10:24-25), like a festival of resurrected souls after a week out and amongst the spiritually dead.
I’ve been floored by the service of your elected leaders
Your deacons and elders and staff (and others) have worked remarkably behind the scenes in an effort to serve our joy and confidence in the Lord in this strange time. George and Marshall have put in hours to make sure we maintain a regular diet of the Word preached. With George, Derek and John have done an exemplary job, much in secret, of managing the TMC household to peace and edification.
Bronson and Amy have made sure that the facility and a host of other things having to do with our day to day operations have received due care. Rodney and Stephanie have continued to give up their Saturday mornings to preserve the ministry of our clothes’ closet. David Conley has kept an able-eye on the songs we sing in this season. Shane has been steadfast in keeping our grounds well-manicured.
And I’ve spoken to others who, more distanced from the church’s life by this present trial, have expressed their longing to find ways to serve her still! It’s a beautiful thing for this needy pastor to see. No better air to breathe than the one that’s filled with the aroma of Christ, the church aromatic in self-sacrificial service.
Your generosity has been overwhelming
In my initial letter concerning our direction in view of this pandemic, I challenged us from 2 Corinthians 8:1-9. There, we find a church undergoing great distress, impoverishing trials, who were yet doing what we might not expect given the circumstances. Their extreme poverty plus their extreme joy overflowed in a wealth of eager, cheerful, self-sacrificial generosity. Paul calls it a work of grace. Christian giving, rooted in what Christ has done for us, as well as our love for Him and His people, is supernatural in nature. It’s a grace in which we’re called to be excellent. And to date, you have been excellent! Let’s continue to excel in this grace of cross-beholding generosity. A thought in practice:
No need to dive into the details, but our government has approved a stimulus package in light of a sharp economic recession. As I’ve maintained, if the pandemic has crippled your familial income and any stimulus monies you receive can offset that loss, by all means, offset it. Provide for you family (1 Tim 5:8). A challenge, though, (not original to me) for those who are essentially fiscally unaffected. Trust the Lord, and receive it to give it (Acts 20:35; 2 Cor 9:6-15) to those entities that need it.
As one example, I have a pastor friend with five children and another in the womb who was just forced to resign his post by members of the church who rebuffed at the biblical ministry he was bringing. And then, even in the pursuit of a normal job, this pandemic hit. They could use the support.
I’m sure you know of others in the service industry, etc. who have lost their jobs. They could use the support. Or you could simply donate it to the church’s ministry of the Gospel, entrusting it to the body, in the vein of a mercy fund, for the alleviation of needs in the church and/or community. But the point is, provided financial solvency, it’s hardly the time to receive for self, but to give to others (1 Jn 3:16-17).
It’s as good a time as any to recover family worship
Sadly, family worship, assumed in the Bible, cannot be assumed in the church today. For various reasons, gathering together as a husband, wife, and kids around the Word and prayer and song is no longer a prioritized item on our daily schedules. But it should be, at least a couple times a week. One wonders the difference it would make in marriages, in families, in the lives of our children, in the life of the church, in the success of the Great Commission for generations to come if we were to recover a passion for the ministry of the Word in our homes.
In my home, I’ll let you know this happens about 2-3 times a week, not including the Lord’s Day where we gather with the body for corporate worship. These times are very informal. In fact, it often looks counter-intuitive to learning. That’s okay. Try to tame the wild things, but don’t get discouraged if you can’t. The simple act of attempting to sit the Word in the midst of your day and family teaches. As far as teaching, we just completed the Psalms. It only took 3 years! But it builds. We and our kids retain more than we might imagine at first. Keep it at.
As far as practice, we pull out the Oreos. I open to a text. I read said text. I then ask each child, very simply, what stuck out to you in the text? What do you think is God’s main point? If application rears its head, we do that. But the tangents are equally valuable. It’s amazing what the Lord will bring up for conversation. Address it. Follow the rabbit trails, then bring it back to the text for prayer. Pray.
And if you have time and attention, Youtube a song or two. Sing. It takes 15-20 minutes, but has an abiding impact. If you’d like to talk more about this, I’d love to have that chat and offer further resources for equipping. When we can’t gather together for worship, it’s a good time for families to do so, and the church will prove stronger for it!
Church life updates
In that initial notice to the church, we said we’d be suspending services through Sunday, March 29. That’s tomorrow. You may now assume we will be suspending services until further notice. Lord, let it be sooner rather than later! Small group studies will continue to meet, assuming all acts of prudence.
Lastly, we tried live-streaming the sermon last week. The feedback we’ve received from you suggests that’s not the most user-friendly or edifying experience. So we will return this Sunday to pre-recording the sermon and posting it on all our social media platforms by 11:00 a.m., pending the internet’s cooperation.
The goal remains the same. It’s our desire that we continue to gather together mentally for corporate worship, that we keep our rhythms of grace as a church, that while we’re apart, we’re yet with each other, around the Word, before the throne, in heart and spirit. So I’ll be sending out the bulletin today for ‘service’ tomorrow. Please make every attempt to assemble with and as the Body at 11 a.m. for this ‘family meal.’
Longing to see each of you, healthy and healthy in the Lord.
Brian (on behalf of your elders)