In the Christian world, especially for those who grew up attending Sunday School (or a similar spiritual-educational environment), there are answers that seem to surface again and again. If a child is asked a question during a class, there’s a greater-than-average chance that the answer will be Jesus, God, Bible, church…or sometimes Moses.
In the same way, we are sometimes taught – even as adults – that to grow in our faith, we should read the Bible, go to church, and pray. This is indeed excellent advice, especially as we practice what we learn in each of these disciplines. In fact, we see Jesus participating in similar activities: He knew Scripture, He spent time in synagogues (before the Holy Spirit inaugurated the church after Jesus’ return to Heaven), and He spoke with God the Father often.
In these days of quarantine and many people remaining home, though, I think that many of us are looking at the middle imperative of that standard answer, and asking, “How do I grow in my faith when I cannot go to a physical church service?” (Around the world, gatherings of believers may look different, taking place in a home or outdoors instead of in a certain building, but still achieving the same fellowship and a focus on God.)
When we ask these questions, let’s consider the source: What does the Bible say about “going to church”? The following passage gives us some precedent from the early church, but note that the believers weren’t just meeting once (or a few times) a week, but every day!
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:46-47 NIV
So, even if we meet with other Christians at church on Sunday, and again during the week a couple of times, the early believers did even more than that. Still, this doesn’t seem to be a command, and I don’t think that we can judge someone’s faith by how often they worship God together with others.
With regards to the Bible’s instructions about meeting together, some of us (including me) would think of the following passage from the book of Hebrews:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV
For those who still meet with their fellow church members during times of spreading infections (whether our current situation, or in other times when germs are flourishing), I am not dispensing judgment. Even without the health risks of the day (both to us and to others), conflicts – between our witness to the world, governmental instructions, and our intent to spend time with other Christians – can make decisions complicated.
However, for those (including myself), who have chosen – and are able – to stay at home, following both government direction and the decisions of the leaders in my local congregation, I am left without a traditional church service experience every week, and the inability to go out and spend time with other believers outside my home (or theirs!).
Before we dive into more thoughts on what those of us at home can do, let us take some time today to pray for those who don’t get to make this choice. For those on the front lines of health care, who cannot step away from their work – out of both conscience and duty – we pray for strength, calm, and health. For those who are sick themselves, and fear that they will not recover, we pray for the peace that transcends fear, and for a recovery through both medical and miraculous measures. For those who love others at risk, whether well or ill, we pray for peace. For those in lean times, perhaps being unemployed or unsure how to meet their needs, we pray for God’s provision, and the faith to trust Him in the meantime. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.