Since March we've all been sharing in the strange phenomenon of online church. Attending church was suddenly dependent on IT equipment, Wi-Fi connections, performance skills and movie-making expertise.
Some churches have thrived through this by developing new and exciting ways to unleash the gospel. For others, it has been immobilising, exhausting and resulted in being ‘Zoomed out’. We (at Grace Church Brockley) have experienced both highs and lows and are thankful that hopefully very soon some of this will be behind us. But what did online church reveal about where we are at spiritually?
The gospel was released in a way we have never seen before. On a Sunday you could tune in to hundreds of online services from around the globe. Church shopping and hopping became possible. Extended family and friends were joining in from far and wide. But did our appetite for God’s word match the abounding availability? The return to physical church was revealing: the enthusiasm to meet has been disappointing.
Yet, by God’s grace, we have seen a real hunger for his word in our local street as neighbours have been open to reading the Bible with us. Praise God!
Indiscriminately, cruelly and without explanation COVID has robbed us of family and friends. Life, livelihoods and leisure have taken a brutal hit and it hurts. Isolation has magnified these hurts in ways that we are only just beginning to appreciate. When we are wounded, we sometimes lash out with accusations and blame, sometimes we cave in on ourselves and stop being able to connect. We are seeing the whole spectrum at our church.
Yet, Paul’s attitude and response to suffering is to rejoice in the eternal glory of Christ. What joy there is in these trustworthy promises: ‘If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will reign with him’ (2 Timothy 2:11-12). But there is also a warning: ‘If we deny him, he also will deny us’ (2 Timothy 2:12). It has been heart-wrenching to watch some of our own family struggle to return, wander in a different direction or walk away from church completely. Whilst this may not be a denial of Christ, it is a worrying trend and keeps us praying to our faithful God.
The pandemic gave us the opportunity to evaluate what we hold dear. What was it that we were so sad to lose and why? What were we so happy to have gained and why? It is easy to forget the lessons of lockdown and return to our old ways. How we need this promise of Jesus: ‘If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself’ (2 Timothy 2:13). May he keep on drawing us back to himself and may we have the humility to seek him in repentance and faith.
It feels like we have been under this COVID cloud forever! Lockdown 2.0 and the threat of further lockdowns, added to not knowing when we'll be able to physically meet as a church again properly fills us with dread. Yet our salvation in Christ Jesus with eternal glory is forever and secure. Is this our perspective? Our eyes need to be on the risen victorious Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray this for one another!
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