Summary: As we move away from COVID restrictions this message was to remind folks why we worship in person
I never thought I would see the day in Canada that Christians would be unable to come together, in person, to worship. Then again, I never imagined a Global Pandemic either. The joke with pastors is that we all skipped the class on pastoring in a pandemic.
I’ve been asked many times if what we are seeing is persecution. We’ve all seen the news stories and reports of pastors and churches who have defied the authorities in order to worship together. Often while flaunting public health protocols.
They’ve been arrested and fined, and they’ve had their churches locked up and fenced off.
And they often provide scriptural justification for their actions. They have defiantly stood on the front steps of their church, while quoting Hebrews 10:25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
But the same bible that contains the words of Hebrews 10 also contains the words of Romans 13:1–2 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.
The Church, capital “C” has been gathering together for 2000 years. In good times and in bad times. During the times they were persecuted, during the times when they were promoted, and during the times when they were simply tolerated. But that doesn’t mean the church has been gathering in large groups and buildings for all those years.
Now I like it when the church gathers together. The fact that I’ve led four different building projects through my years pastoring would be a hint that I like when the church gathers together in buildings called church buildings.
However, I don’t feel that we’ve been persecuted because we’ve had to follow the same restrictions as other public gatherings. I’ve never been persecuted for my faith, but I have met and talked with pastors who have.
In Sierra Leone, I have preached in churches that had bullet holes in the roof. They were stark reminders of the civil war. I spoke with pastors who told me how they watched as their church members and family members were executed in front of them.
In Egypt I have preached in churches, that technically weren’t churches because it was illegal to build a church that wasn’t government approved.
So that fact that we have been following basically the same restrictions as other public gatherings may be annoying and frustrating. Sometimes when other things open a couple of weeks earlier than we can, it doesn’t seem fair. But to me, it hasn’t seemed like persecution.
This past year has been the strangest year that I’ve encountered in my 40 years of pastoral ministry.
We’ve had services without anyone present other than Stefan and I, that were livestreamed and we’ve had services that were recorded earlier in the week and then streamed. We’ve had services where we met in person, but all that happened was that we had a scripture reading and a message. We’ve had services where we’ve met in person with a worship team and children’s ministry, and we livestreamed those services.
We’ve held one service on Sunday, two services on Sunday and three services on Sunday. We’ve met in one location and two locations. We have started in-person services with three days’ notice, and we have cancelled in-person services with three days’ notice. Weird times we’re living in.
This is week three of our Spiritual Health series. In week one we looked at where it all began. How our spiritual life begins with a spiritual birth, and then the expectation that in the same way as a baby grows and matures that a baby Christian will grow and mature.
Last Sunday Pastor Rob looked at how we need to train for our spiritual health and introduced the concept of spiritual disciplines. Three of those are sabbath, community and worship, and for two thousand years those have made folks think of corporate worship.
This week we are going to look at how we were never expected to be spiritually healthy on our own.
The church sometimes gets a bad rap, I remember reading a statement years ago that said “The church is like Noah’s Ark, if it wasn’t for the judgment on the outside, you wouldn’t be able to stand the stink on the inside.” And I chuckled and wrote it down.
But the more I thought about it, the crankier I got. The church isn’t just a human institution; this is a God ordained institution. The local church was put into place for a purpose, and sometimes we blow it, and sometimes we embarrass ourselves, but the church isn’t just another social club.