Like many I long for local churches to begin to gather together publicly to worship God in song, corporate prayer, hearing the Word of God preached, and fellowship. Zoom, Facebook Live, and YouTube have been good temporarily as we have gathered virtually in this season of social distancing and sheltering in due to COVID-19. Yet they can never replace nor replicate the way that God ministers to His people and manifests His presence among us as we gather. The Church is not a building but the followers of Jesus Christ who are called to grow and live in community and not in isolation. This is God's design.
Yet in light of what I have just written, here are some crazy thoughts. What if God has used COVID-19 to keep us from gathering together the last couple of months? What if it is because our gatherings have been more about us than Him? More about our programs than His Presence, more about our systems than His Spirit, more about our strategies than prayer, more about worldly principles for church growth than faithfully preaching the Word of God, more about our cliques than living in community, more about our local churches than the Kingdom of God, and more about the personalities of our pastors and political leaders than the person of Jesus Christ. What if God gave us this time to repent and recalibrate our hearts to worship Him only and we've focused more on changing our platform from a building to online? I believe that God is more concerned about our hearts returning back to Him than about us returning back to our public places of worship for 'business as usual'.
As some are moving towards gathering together again, let's pray for our pastors and church leaders to be hearing the voice of the Lord Jesus, the Chief Shepherd of the sheep, as He leads them to serve His flock. May they not take their cues from our political leaders or the media but walk in step with the Spirit. Doing what man says and not God will only cause a skeptical world to see us as more irrelevant. In these days and times we need to be hearing from Jesus and not making it up as we go. Let us not judge one another in decisions that are made but to give grace as each moves forward with the guidance and wisdom given by God. May we not gather too hastily but in the Lord's timing as He would have us gather even if it is different than what we are use to as God works in the hearts of His people.
The Church of Jesus Christ from His ascension to His return is essential regardless of whether government and political leaders endorse or suppress her gathering together publicly. Why? Because Jesus is desperately needed by people from every nation, tribe, group, and language whether national leaders and their citizens realize it or not. For there is salvation in no one else! (Acts 4:12) It is interesting that some of the places the Church is growing most rapidly are in nations, like Iran, where there is great hostility towards the gospel of Jesus Christ and the public gathering of His followers. Thus we need to keep looking to and listening to our King regardless of who our political leaders are and what they say. Our Master(Jesus), our mandate (to love God and others), and our mission (to preach the gospel of the Kingdom to all nations) remains the same. As we gather together again may we be found to be a people for whom Jesus Christ is the center of it all.
Lastly, whether we agree or disagree with President Trump and other national and state leaders, may we honor them as authorities raised up by God and pray for them. They, like us, desperately need Jesus. Many of them need His salvation and they all need wisdom for the challenges that we face.