In the first part of this article, we considered the challenge of spiritual growth when one of the three “standard” disciplines (going to church) is no longer accessible. Even with the ability to read the Bible and pray (and the great blessings that these offer to us), fellowship with others – to gain strength and encouragement in our worship of God – is something that we miss when it is no longer available.
Still, we have this promise from Jesus about His church:
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Matthew 16:18 NIV
So, let me propose some options for those who – like me – are not able to worship and fellowship outside of our respective homes right now. (These may even apply to some of us once the current pandemic subsides, for those who are homebound for other reasons.)
First, I encourage us to look to our own household. While there are many who have a home to themselves, others share their space with family, friends, roommates, or – in some situations – even strangers. It seems to be the unspoken rule of social distancing1 that although those in the same household can mitigate their risk through good hygiene and cleaning, there is a point where they are probably going to share some germs. (Just ask a primary school teacher!) When one person gets sick, he or she may retire to a bedroom (or, as I read about recently, the garage), but before symptoms appear, keeping a minimum safe distance from those in our home is not always an option.
These people around us are those to whom we can minister, first. Whether or not they are believers, we can show God’s love to them, and exemplify the kinds of behavior that Jesus demonstrated as He taught us to live them out. If some or all of our housemates are also followers of Jesus, we have the opportunity to spend time with them, praising God and encouraging each other in the faith. And, once we have resigned ourselves to sharing the same air, we may be the only ones who can provide them a hug right now (if you live with your family, that is; be smart about offering hugs to strangers).
Next, I challenge us to consider how we can serve. In many formal church congregations, participants (both believers and non-believers) can enjoy the celebration of God and the benefits of community only through the work of many volunteers and workers who facilitate that service.
When we are separated, this is no different, but the format might change. We still have the opportunity to enable others to better worship God and maintain relationships, even if they can’t get close to us. That might require reaching out and making a call, or setting up a conference on the computer to pray and worship as a small group. Don’t just wait for a pastor to make the first step. Instead, do what you can to help others continue to grow in their faith, and check up on them to ensure that they are spending time with God frequently.
If your job allows you to serve others during this time, do your best at it. Whether you are on the front lines of treating sick people (reaching out to them like Jesus did, but probably with gloves and masks), or in a role that helps keep the economy moving for those who are struggling, you have a role to play.
If you aren’t able to work (for whatever reason) in this time, there are still many ways to serve. Prayer is the ultimate weapon in battles of all kinds, since the spiritual world underlies all conflict (whether against warring nations, or against a virus multiplying in a fallen world), and God’s power is more than enough to overcome all forces of evil.
If you have the means to provide financial or material support, there is great need all around us. If you can’t get out to donate blood or hand out food to those who need it, maybe you can transfer money to groups that are helping others right now.
I realize that not everyone has money or physical goods to give away, but I believe that there is an important human need that probably doesn’t cost us anything to fulfill: The need to hear from others and know that we are loved. So, send someone a text or email message, or give them a call and let them talk about what is on their heart. Share the fact that you are thinking about them, and let them have some human contact. Even if the meeting is “virtual”, the sentiment and love doesn’t have to be.
Regardless of your current situation, your purpose in life is given by God. While that purpose may look different from season to season, it is no less divinely ordained. Let us, in this challenging time, “Read the Bible, Be the Church, and Pray”.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV
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.
- Technically, what most countries are practicing is physical distancing. In a day of technology and tools for connecting in community, there’s no need to become socially distant from each other, as a reader pointed out to me recently. ↩