There’s been a lot of talk recently on what is essential.
Which workers are essential. Which grocery items are essential. Which events are essential.
Church services have been considered non essential to reduce the number of large groups from gathering. From the outside looking in, there is much debate whether this is the case or not. Personally, I believe church services and meeting together as a community is absolutely essential, but I do recognize that we have to be smart about it in this season with so many at risk for sickness.
However, I’ve been wondering something from another perspective. While we are at home, we have been given the opportunity to examine our spirituality in relation to participating in the worship service. From within the Church, what aspects of our worship services or gatherings are essential?
Here’s the thing- Too many times, we attend church for the wrong reasons. We go out of habit because that’s what we do on Sundays. We go because we like the worship music. We go because we like the preacher. We go because we like seeing our friends in our small group or Sunday school class. We go because it makes us feel good, or it’s the primary means we feel connected to God. These aspects of gathering are good, don’t get me wrong. But, they don’t always lend themselves to a deep, abiding relationship with God that will sustain you in difficult times.
When church services have been shut down, it forces us to miss out on the shallow reasons why we attend. Then, we’re susceptible to all the darkness desiring to devour us because our faith is built on good social gatherings but not essential, life-sustaining spirituality.
What is NON essential in Church?
Meeting for the wrong reasons. Attending out of obligation. Getting something out of it instead of giving to it. Propping up your relationship with God through other people’s relationship with God. Serving or leading in order to be seen or get recognition. In our feeble attempts to serve God at church, we inadvertently take the focus off glorifying God as we focus on ourselves. Shallow, limited relationships with people. Shallow, superficial intimacy with God. How do I feel in worship? How have I been seen? How can I hang out with others? These external reasons keep our focus off Jesus.
Through this ‘safe at home’ season, God is stripping away these non-essentials so that we realize just how much we falsely prop up our spirituality at church. He is using this time, as a fast of sorts, to remove us from the limelight and to get the focus off ourselves. At home, we should be discovering what really is essential in our relationship with God. As we focus on knowing Jesus, we become the Body He desires us to be.
What is essential in Church?
Here are some elements of our spirituality, I believe, are truly important and need to be strengthened during this season of not gathering.
Faith– How are you trusting in God? Has your faith’s foundation been exposed to reveal cracks in it with fear creeping up around you? What are you doing to build your faith in God? Are you praying? Reading Scripture?
Intimacy with God– How are you spending time with God? Just you and God. No other person or sermon or recorded worship service. How do YOU get alone and quiet with God?
Encouragement– Either through a sermon, a Bible study, or from connecting with one another, we need encouragement. And, we need to encourage each other. Hopelessness and despair creep in way too easily. We can’t rely on the pastor to encourage everybody through the sermon alone. We can’t rely on the pastor to contact every single congregant to encourage each of them individually. We’ve got to figure out ways to encourage fellow believers! How are you encouraging those around you? Encouragement needs to come from all of us.
Community and relationships– Community often falls short in church gatherings because we usually are drawn towards our friends and the people we like. Or, the interaction we have with people is shallow and limited. Community naturally happens when we are working towards a common goal. Real community happens as we’re ‘doing life together’ as my pastor puts it. When we’re doing life together, we are serving, listening, loving and encouraging people. Yes, it’s hard to ‘do life together’ when we’re isolated. But, we really see how fundamental it is to our souls when it’s not available to us. We’ve got to keep building authentic community now while we’re isolated and be even more intentional about it when we’re finally back together
We can’t continue propping up our relationship with God on elements of a worship service or gathering that are self gratifying and self serving. We must strive to seek Jesus and glorify Him as the primary source and purpose of our worship services. Developing what is essential in our personal relationships with God and continuing them at our church services will make gathering more meaningful and powerful. When we do, those other things we love about meeting will be even more effective. It will make us better Christians and better equipped at representing Christ. It will make each of us stronger individually and stronger as The Body corporately.
I can’t wait to get back to worshipping at church. I miss my people, and I miss the corporate gatherings. Until then, I’m really seeking God on what is essential in my life.
What about you? What have you found to be essential and non-essential during this time of distancing? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment!