We are moving into 2021. More notably, we are almost a year into the public awareness and actions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. How has it been for believers that follow Christ?
The answer is mixed but mostly not good. If you read some sites, there are articles on how the church has positively responded, but those articles are not common, and they do not report the other side of the coin — where churches are not responding.
Who did not respond? Who has not adapted?
Here is a little personal check: when I watch my neighbors who are church goers, which is a small percentage of the populace in rural West Virginia, most had some contact with live streaming of services. Where we had been to church in the past, suggestions I made to reorganize and meet locally and more safely got met with resistance. Their choice was live streaming the pastor’s messages. It got old quickly. One small home group met irregularly; we were there. We revisited some friends churches, and they were conducting services as of the summer, but doing so with 1/3 of their people in person. There was plenty of room, so social distancing was not an issue. They kept meeting, but nothing had really changed in their approach.
With that limited view add information from friends that I have asked how their churches were doing. Most of them said they relied online for most things but had stopped most personal contact, and had stopped most practical in-touch-with-people ministry. This generally means that a good percentage of the already-limited percentage of church goers simply stopped functioning. I know one precious brother, who kept preaching the Gospel in whatever public place he could outside, and kept the fire alive. Another brother in Indiana just kept doing things, changed methods to keep safe, changed again when the rules changed, but kept doing them. These two were exceptions to the general results of my inquiries.
I published an article some time ago (mid summer) about the necessity to meet needs, while doing it safely I encouraged people not to stop functioning in practical ways. The post was hardly read. Meanwhile, over the last year, mental anguish went way up, domestic abuse went up, general lawlessness increased in many places, and the needy or poor or single were frequently forgotten. Of course, there are exceptions in every area, and I know some of them. Those few kept digging, kept working, kept contact with those who needed help, and changed how they did it to be safe. I know one little church in Washington, where friends of ours live, that does whatever they can to keep meeting together…safely…but they meet. Without those reports, it was not a very good picture of church health in biblical terms.
The overall grade: ____ What do you think?
Believers, this is not rocket science. The actions pointed to in the Bible are not complex. The love of God in people, if real and growing, never stops washing over to others. Change how you do things, but keep doing it. For many, it means I challenge you to awake. There is work to be done. If you cannot meet people face to face, then reach out without that. If you do, do it safely, but do it. When people are needy, starved for God, and cannot get out of the hole they are in, their lives could be lost while we sit and do nothing…waiting for circumstances to be better. You may be the way they can receive life…His Life. If you understand the Scripture and a real relationship with Him, you can find a way to be His representative. He does not have many willing to go into the fields. That has not changed since He mentioned that to His disciples. If a lifestyle is developed that is effective now, it will be effective any time.
Write, call, visit safely, look for the needs around you, see that no neighbor is without food. Don’t forget the widows, the single parents struggling with children and education in a crazy time. If you can adequately take care of yourself and you have learned some things, share with those that are not quite there. But whatever you do, be a believer in a full sense of the word, even during a pandemic. None of this is dependent, or should not be, on the once a week meeting at a larger church gathering. If it is, I repeat my admonition that I gave earlier last year: reorganize, and walk out your faith in smaller groups and functions, even if you start over as a single household. If we only hunker down and wait, our actions speak for themselves.
Do we do this in our little cabin? Our giving tripled to those in need and our writing tripled, which is what we do as believers to encourage others. Our individual contact on the phone in the US and overseas has doubled. We traveled safely and visited many in the last year. We have renewed contact with a number of people by writing/blogging methods, and we don’t know one way or another if they are even believers. My wife meets with a small group of widows…safely…when she can. We intend to get better, be more fruitful, and expand as we walk, because what we are doing, in the face of His love for us, is the least we can do.
If your household and mine do better as we go forward, fruitfulness shall increase.