- God is still in control
Friends of God will be happier, but enemies of God will be angrier, to learn that 10-12 weeks of online church didn’t kill the Gospel or the hope instilled in God’s people, the church. I suppose we could conclude that we have a certain resiliency or fight in us, but that would be misleading. We cannot and will not share in His glory. His love allows us to live and to go deeper with Him so that we can go further. Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan preacher and theologian said, “There is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose this morning, but that God’s hand has held you up.” The Psalmist says, “Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you” (66:3). Gathering together is a reminder, despite the turmoil and confusion whether to meet or not, that God comes first in our lives simply due to the fact that He is Sovereign.
- Forget the need of counting the numbers, realize Prayer is the number one need
Tithing online or by text didn’t sustain us, technology and Zoom didn’t keep us from going under, and Facebook and Twitter didn’t rescue us. If you haven’t been praying, seeking God, and crying out to Him during this time of separation from regular gatherings, then you may very well be done. Quit gauging it by trying to use new metrics to determine how many you actually had watch your online service, that’s ridiculous! We should be encouraging our churches by directing their attention to COVID-19 as a remarkable opportunity to pray. The Pandemic is a massive dilemma, but our God thrives on and surfs on the things we call problems. Take more time these days to pray during the worship gatherings because you will not be able to maneuver the rapids of this changing world without it. If you have not been praying, then please start because it is so much more important than you spending time listening to podcast after podcast on the right things to do as you begin meeting again.
- Keep it Simple: Take the pressure off
Could it be that God wants us to go back to simple, yet passionate worship? Our creative culture wants to do cool stuff to appear relevant, but maybe real singing, knee-bending prayer, and opening God’s Word is what is needed to go and gather again. We went forward today, May 17th, and there wasn’t any weight or stress to do enough to perform in front of people. Instead, we sang a few great songs, prayed several times, welcomed everyone, and I preached the Word. It’s what we are going to do next week.
- Nobody cares about the Pastor’s philosophical analysis of COVID-19
I made one statement upfront in today’s service: “I am not going to talk about the Pandemic and be commiserate over what we have lost or how it makes us feel. I am not going to give the enemy any of our time. Our worship today and every week is about lifting up Jesus.” No one came to listen to my expert opinion of why it happened and where we are going. Why? Because not only do I not know, but it seems like all of our so-called experts don’t really know. We don’t have a clue as to whether we will have a cure or vaccine by the end of the year. We don’t know how accurate the number of deaths have really been, we don’t know if some people are sick because of asymptomatic signs, and we don’t know if the Coronavirus is coming back more wicked than the first time. I have listened to the news, and I have heard the President’s briefings, but I am far from a spokesperson of any kind for COVID-19. So, let me say it once more, “I don’t have anything to say about the Pandemic because I don’t know much about it.” That will lead me to #7 in a few moments…I know a lot about leading God’s church.
- People really are fearful of the Pandemic
The disease is nothing to downplay or be flippant about with your people in your church. It’s serious business. People really are afraid in our church of this demonic sickness. We offer encouraging words, but we can give what we have – Jesus. Of course, it’s a perfect time to preach boldness in the face of fear. We should point to Scriptural passages in Joshua 1 about being fearless in following and trusting God. We should also highlight the New Testament verses about not fearing. But don’t miss, please don’t miss the chance to preach and teach about the fear of God. I’ve hinted at it, but I truly believe we are taking too much time and giving to much credit to the enemy of God by giving him so much time. If we want to remain as a church, walking in faith with Him, then we desperately need to be in awe of Him. Moses saw the burning bush and went to approach it to try and satisfy his curiosity of why it wasn’t being consumed. Immediately, God stopped him in his tracks, “Moses! “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). If we can’t fear God more than we fear this terrible Pandemic, then we need to reevaluate our commitment to Him.
- Remind the church that it is the most powerful entity and organism on the planet
I did this today. We had to go forward meeting because we have a lot to do. Not only are we in a building program, about to break ground for our first meeting place and rooms for children’s ministry, but there has been a previous world-wide pandemic that has swept the globe for thousands of years. And our job is preach the Gospel. If we are not preaching and sharing Christ, then we are out of business! Yes, we will comply and be as safe as possible and respect people and our governor. Yet, we are burdened, with the “burden of the Lord” to reach our community and world with the only real life-saving message: Jesus crucified, Jesus buried, and Jesus’ Resurrection.
- Elevate: The Supremacy of God, the Sufficiency of Scripture, and the Primacy of Preaching
Even though I said I know a lot about this…nothing else really needs to be said. God is supreme, the Bible is God’s Word, and the avenue of communication God has chosen for His glorious, merciful, and kind message of redemption is the preaching of the Word.
- Devalue: “let’s have a discussion,” “the new normal,” and “in this season” phrases
When we bow to the lingo of the society as our main way of communicating to our congregations we are giving in to the enemy’s strategy. We just blend in with everyone else. We may as well be saying, “Yada, yada, yada.” I will not use these terms, especially during these crazy times in our world. I never thought what we did as a church was normal in the first place. We’ve discussed this thing way too much, what about doing? There was this euphoric feeling today, not some pseudo-spiritual thing, but a great feeling after our second service that we had been totally and completely obedient and that God was and is good to us. Pastors, please quit using the phrase, this season or the season we are in. We’ve worn it out. In reality, every week is a new season for our church.
- Talking about cleanliness, social distancing, and reminders to wash hands should only take about 2 minutes
We all get it! You cannot lasso germs. When we walked into our meeting place today with the chairs spaced out at least 6 feet apart, hand sanitizers galore, and masks available for anyone and everyone, everyone knew something was up. No one is shocked at the rules and regulations we are following by recommendation of the CDC and in compliance with our state. So, I believe we had to go in the opposite direction to focus on why we were there, and that was to worship Him. We took 2 minutes, explained and gave direction on safety and social distancing, and then everything– and I mean everything– was about Jesus. Next week we will take another 2 minutes as a reminder but again, it’s all focused on Him and for His glory!
- Connect the best you can: you will be surprised
We fist bumped, elbow bumped, air high-fived, and waved, but we didn’t hug or shake hands. We wanted to. You could see it in the eyes. We are a church and we missed one another because we love one another. We don’t know what to do next week, but we will meet and meet expectantly on what God will show us. We hope and pray to be surprised by the Holy Spirit as He works in us, guiding us, and getting us ready to come together again. Pliney the Younger was a historian in the first century who was told by Caesar to look into the practices by that next sect called “Christians.” Caesar didn’t like the way they interacted and the stories he had heard about their meetings. Pliney gave this report, “I don’t know a lot, but by looking and observing them, they love each other…and there is nothing that they won’t do for each other!” May that be said about us as a church and as churches as we go forward together as the Holy Spirit leads.