With the news of churches having to close their doors on Sundays and suspend all large group gatherings for the unforeseen future, it is vital to leverage these circumstances for the Kingdom. This is an opportunity for advancement of the Kingdom in us personally, among us corporately, and in our communities where we live.
The early Church was scattered for different reasons than us today, but we can learn from them what to focus on in these moments. Here are some practical things the “scattered church” can do while they are not gathering.
Pray individually. Pray together with your family, roommates, and neighbors. The early church devoted themselves to prayer. They were a “pray first” people. When they encountered a difficult situation and didn’t know what to do, they prayed. Do you feel anxious or overwhelmed? Good! This situation is bigger than you. Now pray to the One who is in control of all things.
SHARE THE GOSPEL
When the church scattered in Acts, they took the Word of the Lord with them. God used their fierce persecution as a means to take the gospel to places it had never been. Our current circumstance is an incredible opportunity for the gospel. People are coming face to face with their own mortality. They are asking the BIG questions about life. They are more open to speak on these matters as a result.
Invite your uninfected neighbors over for dinner. Drop a meal off to infected neighbors, friends, and fellow church members. For goodness sake—share a roll or two or three of toilet paper! Share your disinfectant wipes and sprays. What an incredible opportunity to share the love of God. When we were unlovable, God welcomed us into His family and fully reconciled us to Him through the person and work of Jesus!
LEAD YOUR FAMILY IN WORSHIP
Parents—be the spiritual leaders of the home and lead your family in a reading and study of God’s Word. Sing hymns and spiritual songs together. What an example this season can be to your kids! Just because we don’t gather doesn’t mean we stop being the church. The church isn’t a building. It is the people. We are the church.
REPENT OF YOUR CULTURAL IDOLS
Are you missing your sporting events yet? A little frustrating, isn’t it? What about all the other community events that you enjoy? Gone! You’re going to feel weird on Sunday mornings, too, as you watch your pastors preaching or leading family worship on a computer screen. What is that feeling of deprivation that you have? Why is it there? Is church not church without_____________? What do you find yourself filling in that blank? Chances are these things have been a source of satisfaction apart from God. They have taken the place of worship of God. That is the very definition of an idol. Most of the time, we don’t know something is an idol until it is taken away. Then we feel its absence. It is the mercy of God to us, as His covenant people, to be shown our idols. This circumstance is forcing us as the church to get back to the basics of God—His Spirit, His Word, and prayer. This is a good thing! Identify the idols in your life and repent of them. Turn your focus back to Him. He is enough!
Peter’s message to a scattered church in 1 Peter was to remind them of their “living hope.” It is secure, unchanging, undefiled, kept watched over by God’s power. Don’t end our conversations with others about this situation with “but we still have hope.” Hope isn’t an afterthought. It is the point! Begin your day with hope. Our hope is not naive optimism. It is rooted in the nature and character of the God we worship.
Long for the day when death is ultimately defeated—when there is no more disease and suffering. That day is coming, and we are commanded to be ready for that day. Come, Lord Jesus!
Anxiety, worry, fear, and panic are characterizing our time. The idea of Sabbath was built into God’s law and people to combat these emotions. These negative emotions that are spreading faster than the coronavirus are based in the human desire to be in control. We feel out of control, and we desperately do whatever it takes to feel in control again. This is panic. God commands a Sabbath for His people. Not merely to gather for the purpose of religious activity but to rest in Him. The Sabbath isn’t for God. It is for us to rest in God. It is for us to focus on Him and His finished work for us.
Some of you don’t know what a Sunday without work for the church looks like or feels like. Now you will. Take advantage of it. Rest in Him. It is His church, not yours. It is His ministry, not yours. They were God’s people before they were your people. The Sovereign God of the Universe has always had “your” people. Rest in Him.
Ben Neiser is the Collegiate Network Coordinator for the Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. He has served in collegiate ministry for 11 years. Ben has a M.A. in Christian Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ben and his wife, Lindsey, live in Provo, UT with their two daughters, Ella and Clara.