Missing In Action

Missing In Action
Guest Writer: Elder Don Davis

As the pandemic drags on, people are becoming increasingly disconnected from their former spiritual habits.

For the first time in their lives, millions have gone months without attending a worship service in person.

This seems understandable until you see some of these same people in stores shopping, eating in restaurants, involved in other activities in the community, but they no longer attend Church.

No loving couple gladly accepts a “long-distance relationship” as ideal. Neither should a loving church family.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 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.

 There are three “let us” statements here:
  (1) “Let us draw near” instead of drifting away. (2) “Let us hold fast” our confession (testimony) of faith, not wavering because of trials. (3) “Let us consider” other believers and, by our example, encourage them to be true to Christ. If we provoke each other at all, it should be unto love. The confidence we have in heaven ought to lead to spiritual growth and dedication on earth. It seems that these believers, because of trials, were neglecting Christian fellowship and the mutual encouragement that believers need from each other. In the Old Testament Jews could not enter the tabernacle, and the high priest could not enter the holy of holies whenever he pleased. But, through Christ’s sacrifice, we have a living way into heaven. We can come to God at any time. Do we take advantage of this privilege? Christ is our high priest, and we are a kingdom of priests, we ought to assemble together for common worship, teaching, and service. It’s very evident that Church attendance has dropped due to COVID 19 and this is understandable. Many people have disconnected from their churches this year after fears of COVID-19 infection which caused congregations to restrict attendance or go entirely virtual.

But many churches have resumed worship services but their attendance is half of what it was before the pandemic started. The danger of missing Church is you might begin to not miss it at all. As the pandemic drags on, people are becoming increasingly disconnected from their former spiritual habits. For the first time in their lives, millions have gone months without attending a service in person. This seems understandable until you see some of these same people in stores shopping, eating in restaurants, involved in other activities in the community, but they no longer attend Church. It’s apparent some have drifted away even wavered and become a bad example. If there was ever a time people need to get back to church it’s now. I could list many reasons people are not coming back to church…but instead I will list many reasons to return.

 We’re embodied creatures.
 God made Adam from earth’s soil, Eve from Adam’s side, and humanity from their union.
 We’re embodied souls, male and female, in his image. We’re not ghostly beings made to float in virtual space.
 We’re not just headshots on Zoom and Face time. We’re human beings.We’re designed to see and hear and taste and touch and feel our way through the physical world God’s made.
 In recent months, we’ve seen the power of our online world. But we’ve also felt its limitations.
 No loving couple gladly accepts a “long-distance relationship” as ideal. Neither should a loving church family.

The Church is one body.
The Bible consistently teaches that the church is Christ’s body on earth (Eph. 1:22–23).
 Each believer is a different body part, but we’re intricately knitted together (Eph. 4:15–16).
 
We’re not independent but interdependent.
Our spiritual gifts are like eyes and ears and hands and feet that each plays their part in the body’s growth and mission.
Yes, even at a distance, we’re still Christ’s body. But like any healthy body, we shouldn’t want to stay dislocated.

The Spirit is drawing you!
Not only are believers one body; we also have one Spirit (Eph 4:4).
The Holy Spirit—the third person of the Trinity—inhabits God’s church, and he’s always drawing us toward unity.

God’s Spirit can’t be divided, so when believers are separated, we feel the tension—like a rubber band stretched too far.

The Spirit within us yearns for us to be together, like that same rubber band pulling us back in.

We’re a spiritual family.
In the church, God is our adoptive Father, so we’re all spiritual siblings—God’s “household” (1 Tim 3:15).

With our different ages and genders, Paul even calls us fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters (1 Tim 5:1–2).

But families aren’t meant to be separated.

Healthy families live together, laugh together, cry together, and help each other.

Parents with grown children love when the adult kids get together—and those parents are only fully satisfied when everyone’s present.

We must be faithful during this season to reach out to those who can’t safely join us. But all who are able should seek to gather for our life-giving family reunions.

Preaching is a sacred moment.
In this digital environment, we must remember that preaching is fundamentally a live, sacred moment (Acts 20:20, 27).

Yes, it can be streamed and recorded and posted, benefiting both virtual attendees and future hearers.

But for a local family of believers, God’s word is best communicated live as the Spirit empowers an appointed preacher and trusted shepherd to articulate God’s word personally in a moment pregnant with purpose and possibility.

In these moments, pastors shepherd their own sheep, and sheep hear the voice of their shepherds.

In these moments, we’re struck not only by the content of the message but also the gravity of the moment.

When we hear God’s word taught in a congregation, we resonate not only with our risen Lord and his royal word, but with each other.

A feast enjoyed together is better than food eaten alone.

There’s nothing like singing together.
There’s no experience on earth like congregational singing (Ps 95:1–2).

Singing together glorifies God by re-enthroning him in the hearts of his people.

Singing together brands our minds with truth and warms our hearts with grace.

Singing together symbolizes our unity as we harmonize over the gospel.

Singing together expresses our emotions to God (and we have lots of emotions right now).

But we don’t just sing to glorify God; we also sing to encourage each other (Col 3:16).

And we can’t sing to each other through a screen. Yes, we’re vulnerable: Congregational singing could get an American Christian infected, just like it could get a Chinese Christian arrested.

But like the underground church has always done, God’s people will figure out how to praise him together, as faithfully and safely as possible.

We’ll wear masks clean the air, and do whatever it takes for God to hear the rising praises of the Christian church, and it will be good if we’re there to express them together.

You have a job to do.
If you’re a believer, you have a job to do when the church gathers.

The work of ministry isn’t mainly for pastors and leaders. It’s for every Christian.

Every believer has spiritual gifts meant to be used, and every church body desperately needs every body part to be active (Rom 12:4–8; Eph 4:15–16; 1 Pet 4:10–11).

When we stay home, we can still listen and give and call and text virtually. But there are many ways we simply can’t serve or encourage or build up Christ’s body unless we’re physically present.

Our worship is a witness.
Each week our friends and neighbors and coworkers walk through the same broken world we do, but without our hope and our map.

Each week they suffer challenges and tragedies that make them wonder where grace and truth can be found.

 Yes, there are ways we can minister to them online, and we should rejoice that God’s now reaching new people with new methods.

But the unbelieving world also needs to see the gospel’s transforming power embodied in a local family of Christians who love God and serve each other in the most gracious and gritty ways.

Greetings change lives.
Greetings symbolize the reconciling power of the gospel and foster our family dynamic.

The way we greet each other—and the fact that we greet each other—is central to the church’s life and witness.
Happy greetings remind us of the gospel unity we enjoy in Christ.

Every greeting reflects God’s love, reunites Christ’s body, enables hospitality, cultivates selflessness, opens doors for ministry, and bears witness to the God who’s welcomed us through Christ.
 
Even if these greetings are masked, touch-less, or fist bumps or simply a distanced smile, they’re still life-shaping micro-events in every church. We need to see each other.

Conclusion
You may not be able to return right away. You might need to exercise caution for yourself or those you love. You might need to keep watching from a distance for a while.

But when the time is right, God’s people can and must gather again, and I hope you’ll join in soon.

After all, our gatherings are ultimately a taste of heaven.
 The Bible’s vision of heaven doesn’t look like quarantine, a live stream, or a Zoom call.

It’s a “face to face” encounter with the risen Christ and a worshipful reunion of both saints and angels (Heb 12:22–23; Rev 22:4).

In the life to come, we won’t be soloed and segregated in mansions of glory, but living and working and loving and serving together in a new world where righteousness dwells (2 Pet 3:13).

So once you think it’s safe, wise, and no disservice to others, let’s worship together again—in person—until all things are new.

Your Church family loves you and misses you very much and awaits your return.  

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