Church, Differently

What follows is a short video reflection produced during the 2020 Coronavirus Lockdown for St Andrew’s Methodist Church and Southwater Community Church, both in Horsham, West Sussex.

Scroll to the bottom for an audio recording.

How are you coping?

These are very strange times we’re living in.

I’m sure that we all have our own particular reasons for finding life difficult at the moment.

Maybe we’re finding it tough not being able to meet up with friends, family, loved ones.

Maybe we’re finding life dull and monotonous.

Perhaps we have very real health worries and concerns.

Perhaps we’re worried about our finances, or our jobs.

Maybe we’re missing church – the fellowship of our fellow believers, the experience of worshipping together, of celebrating the Lord’s Supper together. Perhaps we’re missing the teaching.

I thought today we could think a little about what precisely church is, and how we might strive to continue being church in these difficult times.

I’d like to take a look at the early church.

The reading is from Acts 2:42-47, which says:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

What picture do we get of the early church from this passage, and how might we emulate this, even in lockdown?

It’s clear that the early church was a learning church. We read that they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” They listened intently to all that the apostles had to say about Jesus. They hung on their every word.

We might not be able to physically go to church, but we can still devote ourselves to the teaching of the apostles. We have this readily available to us in the New Testament. Perhaps we can spend some of the time available to us now reading our Bibles, and learning all that we can about Jesus?

It’s clear that the early church was a loving church. Not only were the early believers devoted to the teaching, they were also devoted to the fellowship – to the community of believers. They shared their lives together. They ate together. They worshipped together. They supported those in need. They were generous to each other.

We might be physically separated from our fellow believers, but this doesn’t stop us loving each other. We can meet together using modern technologies like Zoom, Skype and Facebook. We can phone each other. We can reach out to those who need help, support those in need. Our buildings may be closed but our fellowship doesn’t have to stop. Indeed, it’s possible it might grow even stronger!

It’s clear that the early church was a worshipping church. They met regularly to share the Lord’s Supper together and to pray together. They met at the temple and they met in each other’s homes. They praised God together.

We might not be able to worship together at church, we might not be able to invite people to our homes to worship, but be can still worship together through Zoom meetings or Skype calls. I attended our church prayer meeting this week over Zoom, and there were over 120 people in attendance, far more than would usually attend our monthly prayer meetings.

We can still worship God together, and by thinking creatively and embracing modern technologies, we can potentially worship with our brothers and sisters more regularly. Perhaps we could even aspire to meet together to worship every day, just as the early Christians did.

It’s clear that the early church was an evangelistic church. Jesus added to their number every day. Jesus saved people every day.

Just because we’re trapped in our own homes does not mean that we cannot embrace this aspect of church life. Many of our friends have time on their hands. Many are looking for meaning. Many, precisely because they can’t lead their normal lives, are seeking to understand what life is really all about.

There are so many brilliant resources available online. Spring Harvest have offered up some brilliant resources. The Alpha Course is available online. So is Christianity Explored. So is the Marriage Course. Just this week I’ve seen a brilliant resource called The Word One to One to help us introduce our friends to Jesus by working through John’s Gospel together.

We might be in lock down. We might be stuck at home. But we can still be church together.

We can still learn.

We can still love.

We can still worship.

We can still evangelise.

So let’s rise to the challenge and be church, but differently.

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