The more time I spend around my niece the more clear it becomes that God gifts us with the tremendous blessing of children, grandkids, or in my case a niece, not from what we can teach them, but more importantly what they teach us especially about life and our relationship with God.
God continues to bless our family with my niece, MaryKatherine, who celebrated her 8th birthday last month at our family’s house. As many other households did when Sunday morning arrived, we began to prepare to worship in our family’s living room with the rest of our local church remotely through a streamed worship service over the internet. As our family began to gather for worship, MaryKatherine, when told to get ready because our family was having church that morning, responded that we couldn’t go to church that morning due to the virus outbreak. She even asked for her grandmother to quit saying that we were going to have church implying that her grandmother was saying something that wasn’t true or just kidding with her. MaryKatherine was acting like her grandmother was saying something just to kid or to joke with her, and in her mind just because the building we usually arrive at for corporate worship on Sunday mornings was unavailable to gather in, that we were not able to worship together. This may have been easily dismissed as something adorable that a child would say when not understanding the full scope of the situation, but God really worked through this conversation to reveal a potentially troubling problem and something that not only is beginning to get ingrained and taught to children but possibly to adults as well either consciously or subconsciously. Although still young, this indicates that getting together for worship as the Church, in Mary Katharine’s mind, is contingent on and has possibly been diluted to going to a building and something that you do, instead of who you are. That having Church, in Mary Katharine’s mind, is an activity instead of something ingrained in the very fabric of who we are as the body of believers – that we are new creations in Christ and ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:11-21). That MaryKatherine views Church as merely an activity rather than an identity.
This may not seem like a big deal at first, but this is a troubling problem and something that this sheltered in place…to call it really what it has been…a blessing, has brought to light within our family: that Church could very easily become looked at and viewed as an activity instead of who we are as the body of Christ and the gathering of believers worshiping God no matter how many people are there, where we are, or when we gather together for worship. That our worship doesn’t begin and end when we enter and exit a building, but our very lives are continuous living examples of the Glory of God to all of creation (Gen. 1:27, Gen. 9:6, 1 Cor. 10:31, 2 Cor. 5, Gal. 2:20, Acts 20:24) and especially to this broken world that is desperately looking for the hope that we have in Jesus (Matthew 5:13-16, John 17:15-23. 1 Peter 3:15).
During this unique time, through His abundant grace and mercy, God has forced us to clear our schedules and reflect on how we have been spending our time by giving us a tremendous opportunity to audit our lives. Through God’s grace during this pandemic, God has given us a tremendous learning opportunity to hear from Him and make the necessary adjustments to our lives by clearing our schedules, halting our lives, and stripping away our routines that so easily entangle. This unique time is forcing us to take a step back to reevaluate how and why we do things and learn what our routines are either consciously or subconsciously teaching us and our households about our motives, hearts, and perspectives. As God strips away our schedules, He is revealing to us, not just in this situation, but in everything that we have been so used to doing, what our underlying motives are for what we do, forcing us to reevaluate why and how we do it.
If this is going on with my niece and within our family, I would hesitate to ask how many other people, young or old, have gotten unknowingly accustomed with our current model of worship where we could very easily, through our routines and schedules, just view Church as an activity we fill our schedules with during the week like scouts, baseball, or gymnastics without examining ourselves and what we are doing, or not doing, at home that is teaching this and how we can do things differently going forward to make sure going to a building does not define the extent of our relationship with Christ and how we live for Him!
This has forced our family to take a step back, pay attention, and take a hard look at what we are doing, or not doing, at home to make “going to Church” on Sundays seem all that extraordinary. While not taking for granted or diluting the importance, tremendous privilege, and blessing of corporate worship, if we are doing what we should be at home with making sure that the spiritual leadership starts at home and is not being unintentionally delegated to the paid church staff to shoulder our responsibility, this time of gathering together in our homes for worship on Sundays should just feel like any other day of the week in our household and wouldn’t be too much of a dramatic change. This indicates a gap between what we are not doing at home, or other things that we are doing in place of what we should be, to make it seem like such a dramatic change. Going to church on Sunday should merely just be an extension of what we are already doing at home within our own family on a consistent daily and weekly basis of gathering to worship and living out our devotion and commit to following Jesus with every ounce of our lives fully surrendered and fully committed to the Cause of Christ for the nations by living this out starting with our household. If we were doing what we should be at home and gathering together for prayer (not just before dinner) and having devotional time together as a family act of worship, having to stay at home on Sundays wouldn’t be that much of a shock to our routine then it has been. If we were already gathering as a household for prayer, devotionals, and worship on a constant and continual basis, then not going to a church building for corporate worship wouldn’t seem so out of the ordinary or be such a dramatic change since we are already doing what, quite frankly, we are supposed to be doing beginning within our household.
Along with the lessons that God has specifically been teaching our family during this pandemic, we have also received the great joy and blessing of hearing from other families that are learning similar lessons and implementing changes from what God has been doing in and through their households. After learning similar lessons during this pandemic, other families have implemented changes such as gathering together for a “family care night” once a week. During these “family care nights,” the family gathers together and performs various acts of care and outreach starting with the people on their local faith family’s prayer chain then expanding their outreach to their extended family, surrounding neighborhood, and community. Although some members of the family may have been doing this individually before, this is a collective time where the family gathers together making phone calls, writing cards and letters of encouragement and thanksgiving, as well as other forms of outreach and care to people in their local faith family and surrounding community. They initially start with their local faith family’s prayer chain then, as they put it, “broaden it out to anyone in our lives that God puts on our hearts that needs to feel the love of Christ.” After starting these family care nights amid this pandemic and seeing the fruit that has already produced as a result, they are now talking about implementing a collective time of service and outreach at least once a month to people in their faith family and the people that live near them in their neighborhoods and community. These would almost be called “family mission projects”, but even the term, “mission project” or “mission trip,” so often gets compartmentalized into an activity that you do once every so often by putting the rest of your life on pause for a short while, serving “on mission”, then going back to the daily schedule and routine of life while waiting another 6 months to a year to make time for another act of service and outreach. These family acts of service, or as they call it, “Operation Inasmuch days as a family,” are not merely compartmentalized “mission projects” but is the fruit that is produced from their daily collective walk together, living out their identity in Christ individually and collectively as one cohesive family household. They certainly don’t need a building to carry this out and are using this time when they are around each other more then they have been in a long time to collectively hear and implement the lessons God is teaching all of us during this unique and special time in our lives.
After learning this out of God’s grace and mercy through this pandemic, if we don’t first take notice of this all-important lesson and examine ourselves we will have squandered this precious once in a lifetime opportunity for God to break us out of our routines and schedules and have us take a step back and audit our lives to see what needs to change. If we simply learn this and don’t take action on it, then it’s almost worse than not having learned this lesson in the first place which God reminds us through James is sin (James 4:17). Our family has had to learn a hard lesson of examining what we are doing within our household and how we can do things differently moving forward to make sure our worship on Sundays is merely an extension of how we worship together as a family during the week. I think this stresses the importance of daily devotionals and Bible study together as a family around the table and making sure that we, using whatever gifts God has given us, worship together as a family like we traditionally worship together corporately on Sundays. So often we just focus on making sure we are consistently diligent in our quiet times and what we are hearing from God that we can very easily isolate this from each other in our household and often don’t come together in a setting around the dinner table to make it a strict priority to spend time communing together in daily devotional time and worship as one cohesive family unit. If a gap in what we did as a family didn’t exist, then there wouldn’t be much of a difference between us staying home and worshiping as a family on Sunday mornings and us going to church and worshiping corporately with our larger faith family. If we are not careful we can very easily export our spiritual responsibilities that we are accountable for with our own family to the paid ministers in our local congregations and neglect the fact that the primary responsibility of the spiritual leadership of our family begins from inside the home. What things are we collectively beginning now from the lessons we are learning during this pandemic within our households while all of life has been halted to restructure and make sure that worship on Sunday is just an extension of our devotional time and worship with our family during the week? If we don’t start this now when all of life has been put on pause, we certainly won’t implement these lessons when life gets more hectic and we risk the tragic mistake of failing to take the lessons God is teaching us by pausing all of life and use it to help our family come out of this more grounded in our faith with a renewed perspective and priority on how to implement at home daily what we may be relying on weekly in matters that are of first importance. The world does not stop inundating us and our loved ones with what seems to be a minute-by-minute onslaught of “values” that contradict Biblical principles. If we aren’t implementing a daily rhythm of gathering together as a family for worship and devotional time, we risk relying on a couple of hours on a Sunday morning and Wednesday night of Biblical teaching to defend us and our loved ones against the daily attrition and the seemingly endless assault from the world which tries to erode The Biblical foundation we have for ourselves and our households. We put at risk the responsibility of instilling in our loved ones and ourselves a Biblical foundation, if we don’t take up the mantle of spiritual responsibility within our homes and could risk losing the battle at the great cost of those who are closest to us.
We certainly look forward to seeing everyone and joining together in corporate worship once we can all safely come into contact with one another, but we have come to realize some changes that we need to implement to make sure how we worship God, first and foremost, must begin within the household while serving as a reminder that Sunday morning worship, whether going to a building or now over a live stream, should merely be an extension of our worship that we should all be living out both individually and as a family throughout the rest of the week.