Recently a precious lady in our church family gave me a “Daily Bread” article regarding church life. She said, “When I read this I had to share it with you. This is what people need and it’s what our church is all about”. The article was called “The Church – a community of believers” and references John 17 where Jesus prays and teaches that the church would be known for love, unity, joy, growth in truth, and a sense of mission.
I found it so encouraging that this sister recognized the provision and need for church, body-life, and I was blessed to hear her say “this is what our church is all about”. I especially appreciated that she was noting this in the midst of this pandemic where our church life has been more limited than those “normal days” a couple of long years ago.
Underneath the article, it explained that it was part of a series called “Church Participation”. One comment got my attention. They said that “in a technologically driven world, it’s easy to feel globally connected but relationally isolated”. They went on to say how important Church participation is, “sharing life with other believers in a local church” and how that “fellowship can lead to better spiritual, physical and emotional health”. As Christians, we truly understand that there is no substitute for what the Bible calls “fellowship”.
Over the pandemic, it has become increasingly apparent that so many believers have struggled without church life. You will remember that, along with all the churches across our land, we actually had to shut up shop and resort to “livestream only” for some periods. While we have been so thankful for livestream sermons, we learned afresh the great need we have for personal fellowship with other believers.
These past 2 years have also not been easy for church elders and leaders to navigate. It has been a challenge to balance government mandates and public concerns, whilst staying on task as a church. There would always be some who would say we reopened too quickly and others who said we should close our doors again. We ended up reopening in some measure, way before most other churches in our county. We even had 2 Sunday services for many months, just so everyone could attend one of the services if they wanted to. We had to apply covid restrictions for people’s peace of mind and safety, which made it weird for us all in many ways, but we are thankful for what we can do and look for better days ahead.
As a church, we believe it is important to try a have fellowship opportunities for people. This is why we started small groups last year, providing 7 groups across Peacehaven, Seaford, and Saltdean. Over half the church has signed up for those groups and there has been such great feedback. Still, many are choosing to keep a distance, which we fully understand and respect. We must all must navigate this time personally, at our own pace, and give each other the space to do so. That being said, we all know how important fellowship is and need to find ways to connect.
Below is an excerpt from John’s Stott’s “Between Two Worlds” written in 1982. It is important to note that he managed to have such accurate foresight 40 years ago!
“It is difficult to imagine the world in A.D. 2000, by which time versatile microprocessors are likely to be as common as simple calculators are today (1982). We should certainly welcome the fact that the silicon chip will transcend human brain-power, as the machine has transcended human muscle power. Much less welcome will be the probable reduction of human contact as the new electronic network renders personal relationships ever less necessary. In such a dehumanized society the fellowship of the local church will become increasingly important, whose members meet one another, and talk and listen to one another in person rather than on the screen. In this human context of mutual love and the speaking and hearing of The Word of God is also likely to become more necessary for the preservation of our humanness, not less”
How fitting these words are for us today, especially after this pandemic. How desperately we need personal fellowship and how we must endeavor to seek it out and find it. Yes, let each one be wise, careful, and test as needed, and may we graciously, honour each other as we each have to make our own way through these strange days. We know and respect, that there are varied opinions on things like masks, vaccines, and mandates, and may God lead and guide us all with faith and wisdom. But while opinions may differ on such things, may we all agree on our need for the fellowship of the saints, hearing God’s word, receiving grace, and enjoying His presence together. May we crave and yearn for such fellowship and ask for God’s guidance accordingly during these strange days and the times ahead.