Our last in-person service at Saar Fellowship was Friday 28th February. We had a guest speaker, Pastor Pilgrim Benham from Florida, and we met at our former church office, Fellowship House. Our last ‘regular’ service was the week before that, 21st February. Beginning Friday 6th March, we started live-streaming. It’s been (a little over) six months now, so, what have we learned during this period of time? Here are five things.
Physically Gathering Is Essential
Maybe you’ve seen churches elsewhere in the world, in countries that are governed a little differently, pulling verses out of Bible books and demanding that they meet regardless of what anyone says to them or about the current situation. There is a certain amount of truth in those statements, but also a certain amount of selfishness. Nowhere in the Word (and if I’ve not read it, please do send me the passage) does it say that “Thou shalt assemble with all thine brethren in an enormous room once a week.”
We are encouraged and exhorted to not abandon our own meetings (Hebrews 10.24-25), but remember that was written to a group of people who were considering turning away from their faith wholesale, not those that needed an encouraging phrase to yell when ‘sticking it to the man and meeting anyway.’ Yes, believer, make it a priority to gather with others.
If that looks differently to February of this year, that’s ok. If there are now three of you and not three hundred, that’s ok. If you gather in someone’s home and not a rented hall large enough to house all of your believing brethren, that’s ok too. If you are not met at the door with a smile, a hug, a handshake, a cup of coffee, a comfortable seat, children’s facilities, background music, live music, physical considerations to enhance your concentration and reverence, do you know what? That’s ok too. If you are still making it a priority to gather with and as God’s people, He will be pleased.
There are no numbers or styles attached to the New Testament teaching on church (please, if you have read otherwise, get in touch.) All of this to say, yes, things are different for the time being. They will change again, we will be able to assemble en-masse once again, but, for now, make it a priority to still see one another. Please don’t sit at home and lament how you are not with others. The church is still here. Be with others. Even if ‘others’ is one or two, be with others. This season will pass and we will gather all together once again. Until then, please remember that physically gathering in some way, shape, or form, is still essential.
You Are Responsible For Your Choices
Something else we have learned this last six months is that you, individual you, is responsible for your own choices. By this I mean that we as the organisation of the church can provide as much for you as we can, but it is down to you to make the choice to engage. For example, this is what we provide for our church family each week;
- 6 short (c.500 words) Bible teaching devotionals, Saturday-Thursday, via the church website, app, and Facebook (many of these have been turned into books by a faithful few in the church family),
- 2 Bible teaching podcasts; Walk the Word, a verse by verse teaching, and IMMERSE, a deep-dive conversation,
- 1 playlist of worship music, with lyrics, for church online,
- 1 Scripture reading from someone in the church family, for church online,
- 1 live-streamed, expositional, Christ-centred Bible teaching every Friday,
- and multiple Bible studies and home groups throughout the week.
All of that to say that we can provide, but you must engage. Charles Spurgeon once said, loosely, that God feeds the birds of the air, but He does not throw birdseed into their nests.
When this season of life began around six months ago, the prevailing attitude among people seemed to be that they wanted to use this time to deepen their faith, to lean into their gracious, loving, Heavenly Father all the more. We do that through His Word, through prayer, through learning more about Him and loving Him more as a result. So, we decided, if that is what people want, that is what we will provide. Simply, it’s there for you, so take advantage. You are responsible for your choices. Please, when this season is over don’t look back and think “Well, I wish I had used my time more wisely, more productively, more for God’s glory.”
There Are Doers of The Word, And Hearers
This third point kind of sticks together points one and two – there are doers of the Word, and there are hearers (James 1.22). You can listen all day long to the encouragement to make God the master passion of your life, to physically gather with other believers for mutual encouragement, edification, and equipping, to the exhortation to use your time well, but, at the end of the day, sadly some will just hear. Please, don’t let that be you. Hear what God is saying to you. Hear what God is saying through His Word, His Son, through circumstances, and His people, and then do something about it. Please don’t sit and soak in the Word as if you’re in a tepid bath. Hear it, take it in, and then do something with it. Yes, your life looks differently now to how it did six months ago, and, in all probability, differently to how it will in six months’ time. But, don’t use that as an excuse for not doing anything. Yes, some things are closed. Yes, there are measures in place that might restrict certain activities that you might normally do with more freedom. But what is stopping you living out your faith day by day? Be a doer.
Perspective Is Paramount
The fourth point is possibly the most important for your own mental health and wellbeing. Your perspective is paramount in all of this. For a quick example, think: are you down and depressed over the requirement to wear a mask in the supermarket or are you happy to oblige in order to limit the spread of a virus? You know, in some parts of the world people wear a mask if they have the slightest sniffle. They do this for others. At the core, that is a very Christian principle, isn’t it (Philippians 2.3)? How you choose to view what is going on in your life right now will have a huge bearing on how you feel about it. We’ve talked about feelings before (recently actually – here) and how important they are, but how they need to come second to faith and truth. Again, how you choose to view what is going on in your life right now will have a huge bearing on how you feel about it (Matthew 6.22).
God Is Still God
Finally, we have learned in this last six months that God is still God. We might like things to change, we might like things to be different, but they are not. The short-term future looks very uncertain, doesn’t it? Corrie Ten Boom said that we should never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. In all truth, you don’t even know what this afternoon will bring. He does. We don’t know why some things happen, sometimes there isn’t enough evidence for us even to surmise. He does. He knows all there is to know. He knows when we will next gather en-masse as His church at Saar Fellowship. He knows what you are choosing to do at the moment and why you are choosing to do so. He knows if you are hearing or doing. He knows how you are feeling about everything that is going on. He knows all there is to know. We don’t know why things like this happen in our lives, but through His self-revelation in creation, in His Word, and through the person of Jesus, we know enough about God to trust Him. We know who He is. We know how He is. Simply, we know enough to trust Him. Yes, things look and feel very different right now. But also yes, God is still God, still sovereign, still on His throne, and therefore nothing happens outside of His permission or declaration.
All of this to say that whilst things have been very different this last six months, we need to hold on to a few truths;
Your church family is still here, you are not alone – be with them.
You still have the liberty and free will to choose what you are filling your time with – choose God-glorifying things.
The current state of the world by no means removes the imperative for you to live out your faith – be a doer, not only a hearer.
You need to fight every day to take captive your thoughts and feelings – try to view God’s perspective first and foremost.
At times when you don’t know, trust what you do know – God is still God.
Our hope and prayer is that this next six months are as different to the last as they can be. The church is still here, the church never closed, and we are here for you. The Lord loves you, and so do we.