Jesus is in the house
April 20th, 2020 / By: Jim Richards | Executive Director / comments
You have heard the cliché, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” COVID-19 has dispelled that saying. Not only have I been able to learn some things about technology, but I have seen some who are my seniors using the internet with remarkable skill. Praise God for the tools we have to spread the gospel around the world and to remain connected to one another.
“Social distancing” was not a phrase I was familiar with until a few months ago. Now we understand better the importance of not exposing others or being exposed to a dangerous disease. More attention will be given to practicing good hygiene. People may be more careful about being around others when they are not feeling well. Ultimately and eventually, most people will return to their former practices. One practice I’m concerned about that may not bounce back in the long run is congregational worship.
Hebrews 10:25 is a verse I have used to encourage believers to be faithful to the local assembly. The Christian Standard Bible translates the Scripture: “not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Scholars tell us that the phrase “gather together” comes from the Greek word episunagoge. Commentators offer varying interpretations about this term and its meaning. The only other time the word is found in the New Testament is in 2 Thessalonians 2:1. Both verses point to the coming of the Lord Jesus. When we come together as a body of believers, we are picturing the final gathering of the redeemed at Christ’s return. It will be a literal gathering not a virtual one.
During social distancing, churches have used technology at an unprecedented level. It is possible that more people have heard the gospel during the last few months than any comparable span of time. Praise God for the evangelistic outreach.
Unusual practices have surfaced too. Some churches have held virtual Lord’s Suppers. Others are considering allowing people from other states and even overseas to be members of their church. These are theological issues that need to be addressed. Perhaps at another time in another venue I will do so. For now, I want to share some biblical principles for local church participation.
In Hebrews 10:24, the writer tells us that getting together fosters love and good works. This can best be done when regularly interacting in person. Feeding the hungry is an act of labor. Caring for the bereaved means we need to be present. Good works and evidence of love often include a touch and a tear.
Physically gathering is a witness to neighbors when we leave to attend our local assembly. We can worship online but when we pull out of our driveway on a Sunday morning it speaks to those who live around us.
The Great Commission encompasses learning what Jesus taught. Regular fellowship with believers is an essential element of a Christian’s growth. We need unrestricted access to one another in order to practice accountability. Looking someone in the eye is not the same as when you do it through a camera.
Community helps us in the face of adversity. There is strength in numbers. Online connections do not embolden us like having other believers tangibly around us. We are truly stronger together.
When God created man and woman he said it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). This speaks of the husband and wife relationship. It also speaks of the universal need for deep relationships that can only be satisfied by living life with a group of other believers. We are made to come together.
Use technology! Preach the gospel over the internet! Be careful that it doesn’t take the place of the local church. A few years ago an uncaring practice surfaced called “catfishing.” This was when a person would create a false identity online for the purpose of deceiving or developing a relationship with someone. Catfishing offers all of the elements of relationship. Conversations are held, photos are exchanged. Emotions are real. Yet, it is a sham. The entire experience leaves a person empty and embarrassed.
When the buildings are open for public use, don’t be satisfied with a poor substitute for the real thing. Don’t forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Jesus meets with the local church.