Recently this saying came to mind, “You don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone,” and it got me thinking about things in life that, sometimes, we take for granted.
It’s hard to believe we are three years on from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic that altered our world beyond what we ever could have imagined. There were many things that changed or stopped completely as our world went into lockdown, and although we all had to adjust, cope, or suffer in different ways, one thing became very clear to many of us: We were created for community! The effects of isolation are still being felt in our society today as we had to stay away from family and friends. For many, the only face to face interaction for school, college, the workplace, and church came virtually through a television or computer screen.
I remember the first Sunday I sat on the sofa, coffee in hand, waiting for the livestream of church to begin. There was almost a novelty factor about it; it was quite handy. I hadn’t had to get up early to be down at the church building for welcome team duty, or stay after the service clearing up from tea and coffee that is served each week. I was grateful to still be able to connect, somehow, even remotely, with the family of believers that God has blessed me to be part of.
However, it wasn’t long before I realized that, if we have the choice, “sofa church” isn’t good for the soul. A virtual gathering was no substitute for being present with my brothers and sisters to corporately worship our Father, joining together to sing His praises, pray for one another and our world, hear from His word, share in communion, and be prompted by the Spirit as to how I would respond. Until we could not meet, I had not fully realized the enormous blessing it was to be able to “go to church” and the God-given gift it is to be part of a local church, to worship, serve, give and grow in community.
What a small glimpse this gave into the constant reality of the many thousands, even millions, of our persecuted brothers and sisters who long to be able to gather with other believers to worship in safety and enjoy sweet fellowship, but they live in places where this would cause them to be imprisoned or even lose their lives.
Let’s pause now and pray that they will be strengthened in their faith, encouraged by the very presence of Jesus with them and to have boldness of spirit and courage to continue shining the light and hope of Christ in dark places. Our prayers go where we cannot, and so we stand with them now.
The church family I am part of has returned to meeting on both Sunday morning and evening, and there are lessons from lockdown that God has taught us about the gift of gathering and the privilege and responsibility it is to attend, belong and serve in the local church. It’s not an optional extra for a believer; the Christian life of faith was never meant to be lived out alone.
The Bible uses corporate word pictures of the body, a family, an army, living stones being built together, to remind us that God has called a people to Himself. Being part of a local church is God’s good plan for His children on earth; we can trace this throughout the New Testament, even as in our passage today the writer to the Hebrews reminds us that we are not to “abandon our meetings” or neglect the importance, benefit, and blessing of fellowship with other believers.
“And let us take thought how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24–25
The Day of Christ’s return is approaching. Living in the light of Jesus’ coming again should determine who we are and how we live. Meeting together to worship should be for us a foretaste of Heaven, the future gathering of God’s people who are assembled from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation in perfect harmony.
You may be thinking, “Hang on a minute. Things are far from perfect in the church I belong to.” Perhaps it is for this reason you have stopped attending regularly; maybe you have been wounded by a fellow believer, let down by a pastor or had a hurtful, negative experience and it’s easier to stay away. This is a hard situation, and I would not want to be insensitive nor make light of that burden. The church is made up of imperfect sinners, requiring us to rely on God’s strength to show mercy, patience, and extend forgiveness. Some people are just plain difficult to love. (Let us, by God’s grace, not be one of those people!)
Thankfully, God has given us the Holy Spirit and the fruit He produces in our lives, if we keep in step with Him, He equips us to deal with these challenging situations. No church is perfect or faultless; problems within it are nothing new. The apostle Paul, in much of his writing to New Testament believers, seeks to address issues, disagreements, and struggles within the Christian community.
The Bible gives us wise instruction and clear guidance in how to handle such things, but it is so important to recognize that Jesus, the Head of the Church, the One in whose name we gather to worship, will never let down, abandon, or forsake His people. He is the One who draws alongside you to heal and restore and gently lead you on.
Perhaps this is not your experience of church, but could there be someone you know who is struggling with these things? Our passage in Hebrews is also a call to spur one another on and encourage one another—is this what God is calling you to do today? Can you think of someone who is on the edge of church life or who hasn’t been around in a while and needs the reminder they are missed, valued, needed, and loved as part of God’s family in your local church? Pray for them now and ask God to show you how best to encourage and spur them on!
A church in my neighborhood advertises its meetings with the phrase, “We gather to scatter.” As we meet to worship, formed and shaped by the Word and the Spirit, responding in praise and prayer, our gathering builds us up and equips us for living out each day as Jesus’ followers, wherever it is we are scattered as witnesses, Christ’s ambassadors, to shine and serve.
All for His glory,
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Ah. This is just what I needed in my time of wandering. I’ve personally strayed and have gotten away from church as a whole. I’ve been feeling the tugs and this just solidifies it. The church is made up of imperfect sinners, just as I am. Gods timing is always on time.
Paula – LGG Encourager