Allow me to preface the main point of my thoughts on this subject by stating the following. First, I have taken the pandemic seriously from the beginning and believe appropriate precautions are necessary and wise. Second, I am deeply grateful for people who have jobs that we would typically refer to as essential. They are somewhat varied, so I will not list them all here in order not to leave any out. I would never minimize their importance.
That said, the core functions of the church are eternally essential. We have made the most of creative connectivity during the pandemic and will continue to do so. For many reasons, a lot of people are not where they can gather with the church in person safely yet, even with certain precautions. The reasons are due to age, health, taking care of vulnerable family members and so on. Their inability to do so weighs heavily on them, and these people are regularly in my prayers.
What concerns me in a larger context is how many people view the church as the first thing to be marginalized in their lives, when the circumstances become complicated and difficult. I know enough to know, there are people who have neither attended in person for nearly a year now, or stayed connected with their church family through the available online avenues. I am deeply concerned about how this will affect their families, and their children spiritually in the long-term. Further, many of the same people who have taken this time to almost completely disconnect, are routinely in public for other things, that are apparently more important to them. My intent is not to be critical or judgmental, but simply to say a time like this calls for more introspection, not less. My prayer would be that individuals and families would deeply evaluate their priorities and think through how current decisions will affect their spiritual lives in the long-term.
This reality also makes me even more thankful for people who have worked diligently to stay connected. They have done so through their online presence, in-person presence when appropriate, and faithful support of the mission and ministries of the church. God honors the faithfulness of his people!
When we emerge from the pandemic, and we will, time will tell the story of how much this has affected all of us. I think for the core of people who desire to live out their Christian faith in community, this will deepen and strengthen their resolve to do so. I think for others, it may reveal a weakness in priorities demonstrating what they truly deem as essential in their lives. In a sense, this could prove to be a winnowing and purifying period of time for the church.
Let’s all remember that our love for God, for one another, and for the lost, are eternally essential. May we encourage one another to press on in the faith because Jesus is worthy of our best!
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are in fact doing.