A strange year of struggling with the arrival and continuance of COVID-19 is near its calendar end; and I’m sure few of us will be sorry to see 2020 go. There have been countless experiences this year that none of us will forget—including changes in how we gather as a church.
Church-at-home has become the new normal for countless Christians this year, especially those at high risk of infection. As we get closer to returning to church in increasing number, it’s helpful to reflect on what we’re learning. Here are four insights gained about the body of Christ from doing church-at-home.
1. Community Is a Necessity
The value of Christian community has seldom been more apparent than in 2020. If you’re anything like me, you’ve taken tangible community with other Christians for granted until this year.
While I’ve consistently been involved in small groups, prayer groups, study groups, and the like for years, I have never truly felt the importance of such fellowship until this year. The benefit of quality time with brothers and sisters in Christ cannot be overstated.
While this greater appreciation for Christian community as a result of the chaos of 2020 is worthwhile, what does it mean for church gatherings going forward? I hope there will be a renewed emphasis on small groups, classes, and prayer meetings in the church. Because, as Solomon famously says, “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17).
While FaceTime and Zoom are great temporary solutions, in-person fellowship is one of the great gifts of participating in a local church, and they should not be taken for granted. It’s more challenging to experience the sharpening of my fellow brothers and sisters without being able to meet in person.
The importance of community cannot be overstated, and I pray that we do not let opportunities for fellowship slide in the coming months and years.
2. Corporate Worship Mends Souls
One of the things that I missed most when quarantine began was the experience of participating in corporate worship each Sunday morning. While merely being present with a community of believers is precious, something shifts in my soul as we begin to sing out in praise of our God.
Hearing a body of voices cry out in praise is a truly unique experience, and it heals and nourishes my soul in ways that few other experiences can.
We have all experienced some form of hardship as a result of 2020. Whether it be financial setbacks, physical struggle, or you know someone who has lost their life, one of the church’s best outlets for expressing (and experiencing relief from) such struggle is through corporate worship. I cannot count the number of times I have undergone a profound spiritual experience during times of corporate worship.
God’s people have always gathered together to worship him as a body, and in 2020, there has been a renewed appreciation for this timeless ritual. If you’ve not had the privilege of worshipping virtually or in-person with a body of believers in the last several months, I pray that you can find new ways to enjoy the sweetness of God’s presence as he shepherds us through uncertainty.
3. None Are Indispensable
There hasn’t been a time since World War II that death has been so apparent in America. There’s been no point in my life that the mortality of my brothers and sisters in Christ has been so tangible. It has brought to the forefront the awareness that none in the body of Christ are dispensable. This is one of the main points that Paul emphasizes in 1 Corinthians 12. Paul writes:
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. – 1 Cor. 12:15-26
Every part of the body of Christ is necessary. And in 2020, the sense of how much we all need each other as humans around the world and in our local Christian community has heightened. Not being present with those who would normally pray with me, encourage me, teach me, and keep me accountable has been challenging. There are countless people who have been given gifts by the Holy Spirit who have not been able to fully exercise such gifts due to church-at-home.
As we transition toward in-person church over time, consider the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given you, and the ways you can use your gifts to serve the church. There is no one in the body of Christ with the same assortment of gifts that you possess. Pray about how God can use you in ways that you may have not before considered!
Conversely, consider your needs, and the burdens that you carry. While it’s important to find ways to serve the church, it’s arguably more important to allow the church to serve you. Pray over where you are currently, and seek out ways to enable others to use their gifts to glorify God.
None are meant to endure through life alone, and the body of Christ is designed to love and serve one another.
While church-at-home has been a challenging—and in some cases isolating—experience this year, God has surely been at work. He is being glorified through the ways the body of Christ has been able to adapt to the times.
As we transition to full worship services, rather than returning to our same old ways of doing church, let’s think critically about what we have learned in 2020—about how we can best serve one another.