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The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is creating a new reality for all of us right now whether we like it or not. Pastors all over the world are trying to discern the best way to lead churches over the next several weeks. (By the way, give them grace as they walk through something that is foreign to them.)

There is much we need to be reminded of in the midst of COVID-19. Central to the church is the practice of gathering together, and under this new reality we are unable to do it. Without this, a church struggles to be, well, the church.

In Hebrews, the author makes this statement to us, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Heb. 10:23–25). Even in the midst of not being able to meet together, we must find ways to not neglect meeting together. How can we, as the church, focus on helpful truth during this time?

Who We Are

According to Mark Dever, the local church exists for the worship of God, the edification of the church, and the evangelization of the world. [1] A virus, or any other tragic circumstance, does not change this purpose.  In many cases, being forced to abandon the norm of what we do changes our definition of who we are called to be. When it comes to the local church, however, this can never be the case. We were made to worship. We have been restored to a right relationship with Him so that we might worship.

Church, if I can give you one thing to keep consistent during times of uncertainty, it would be this: do not forget the worship of God.

How forgetful can we be?  God is wholly good and wholly sovereign.  He never ceases to be either of these.  In Genesis 1, we see God as Creator who alone has the power to proclaim His creation as good.  In Isaiah we read, "I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sunand from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things." (Isa. 45:5–6).

He is God, and when something like Coronavirus comes along our response must still be worshipping Him as God.

Worship through Equipping

When it comes to worshipping God through corporate worship, this time can seem discouraging. Pastors are not able to replicate everything about corporate worship through live streaming a sermon. Yes, under the circumstances there is not a perfect way to accomplish this, but we can help facilitate a unity in our separated worship as much as possible. Whether your church is going to live-stream your service or not, they should consider developing and sending material home with families. They can send songs to sing as a family, small group discussion questions, children’s stories/crafts, focuses of prayer, and many other helpful materials. (Members of First Baptist Alcoa, we will soon be getting information out to guide you through Sunday services in the weeks to come.)

This season of pause in church gatherings and events also provides us with a unique opportunity to equip the saints to worship through loving and serving others. The church is still called to give. We worship a God we can never outgive. Giving is not only tithing—it is loving the elderly, watching out for the immunocompromised, and being present for those who have needs during this time.

Consider the best way to equip the saints to worship outside of corporate worship planning to miss gathering together. We should miss it! If we do not miss gathering together, something is terribly wrong. Feeling the pains of absence is a good thing. 

Worship through Evangelizing

Let your life proclaim in this moment that you have a God who is in control. When people who do not know Him look at you, let them see you looking to Him. Our lives should be screaming reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Church, look for ways to display for others the reconciliation that is offered in Christ. This does not simply mean posting a Facebook status. Think about all the kids who are home from schools that might need meals for the next several weeks, think about parents that may need help with their kids, think about nurses and doctors that are overwhelmed, think about the elderly that may not be able to run their normal errands. Think about the unbeliever that is clinging to death instead of knowing the Author of life. 

As Christians, we must determine whether we are more focused on making disciples or more focused on making plans to survive the next several weeks inside our homes. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t take recommended precautions; it’s a call to faithfulness even in this trying season. In Matthew 22, Jesus proclaims the greatest two commandments as loving, "the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and loving "your neighbor as yourself." We must proclaim the sovereignty of our God while loving others as we love ourselves.

I hope you are with me when I say, “I already miss church.”

Coronavirus may prevent us from gathering together for corporate worship for a time, but it cannot prevent us from proclaiming the gospel through equipping the saints and evangelizing the lost.

[1] Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible (B&H: Nashville, 2012), 69.