We don’t know how long we will be locked down, but it will be longer than any of us would prefer. I think it is important for us to think and pray about the gaps that this unique season will create in our churches, as well as the new people that could be added.
For the first couple of weeks most churches have leapt into action learning how to livestream Sunday services and how to create some sort of face-to-face replacement for home groups. Some have thought about offering extra resources for people stuck at home. But as this situation wears on, we will become more and more aware that when we are allowed to come back together as a church, it will probably not be with the same people as before. Let’s prayerfully ponder these two lists and consider what steps we can be taking now that will change the face of our regathering:
- Some may be promoted to Christ’s presence. Statistics tell us that this will most likely be the vulnerable through age or underlying medical conditions, but in human terms, nobody is as safe as we used to feel. Let’s pray about how to support not only those who feel fear at this time, but also for those who may come to the end of their time here during this time, and also the families of any that are lost to this disease (or to any other cause during this time of separation).
- Some may drift and grow cold. The burning coal, when separated from the other coals, will quickly cool down. Pray about how to pursue, support, encourage and maintain the connection of younger or less-well-rooted believers who are more prone to drift. We all know people who don’t have the same convictions about the need for fellowship, teaching, worship, community, etc. The casual approach may seem to work in comfortable times, but it may be seen in its true light under these pressures.
- Some marriages may implode. It would be naive to think that every Christian couple are thriving under lockdown. We have a newly married couple living opposite us and it is fun to watch them learn to skate together and playing games, but this is no honeymoon for the vast majority of couples. Some are desperately struggling already and don’t have the release valve of work or time apart with friends. We have to pray about this and be proactive in supporting every couple in our churches.
- Some may grow embittered or lose heart. The constant bombardment of negative news will overwhelm any of us. I pray that people in my church will see God answering prayer in specific ways, but what if some don’t? Pray for the people in your church who are more likely to dwell on the negative news than feast on the hope in God’s Word. They are extra vulnerable without church fellowship to influence them.
- Some may be beaten down by circumstance or enemy attack. Remember the parable of the soils. If only everyone in our churches were good soil and now leaning into this crisis ready to bear multiplied fruit. Sadly some will find this season is the time where the heat of the day, or the seed-theft of sinister birds will undo their apparent participation in the community of God’s people. Perhaps it is helpful to reveal those who aren’t really truly receptive, but pastorally it is painful to see it happen. Let’s pray for the spiritually vulnerable and pray about how to pursue the straying sheep – whether they are already saved or not, they need Jesus.
- Returning drifters need somewhere to land – There are people who used to be actively involved in the life of the church, but life took its toll and they drifted. Whatever their state was spiritually, this shaking of their world may be God’s tool to draw them to Himself. Pray about how your church can not only be church to each other during this crisis, but how can you be welcoming and inviting to others who may be looking to reintegrate into gospel community?
- The lost can be found – God is an expert at winning the hearts of those who have been hard to Him. Again, pray about how your online church can reach people – not only the formal streaming (is that accessible?), but also evangelistic resources that your people can share with those who may be open in a new way. We can’t just expect people to flock to church some months down the line when our doors open again, we need to be proactively welcoming and engaging with people now. Wouldn’t it be awesome to look back on this as a season of wonderful evangelistic fruitfulness for our churches?!
Who else would you add to this list? I am not offering answers, but my prayer is that this post can help us to pray and adjust for the sake of the people in and around our churches at this time.
This Bible highlight from last week relates to this post: