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.
Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
We are in the midst of a pandemic. The highly contagious COVID-19 spreads through both symptomatic and asymptomatic people. While many recover at home in a week or so, others require hospitalization and some even spend time in the intensive care unit. Most survive, others have lingering health problems, and some will die. Those with underlying health problems, the elderly, and the overweight are most at risk of having complications from the virus. In order to prevent patients infected with the virus from overwhelming the healthcare system, the government has issued a series of emergency orders limiting the size of gatherings, requiring masks and social distancing, etc.
Word of Life has sought to comply with these orders to the extent that they do not go against Scripture. Signs are posted requiring masks and asking people to socially distance while in our building. We dismiss by sections to avoid congregating at the exits. We have also invested in equipment to be able to stream our services online so that people can watch from home. We’ve done this to help reduce the spread of the virus while continuing to do the work of the Kingdom.
Having our services online raises a question: Should you watch from home or come to church?
Let me give you some pastoral advice as you consider your situation.
Stay home because of health concerns.
You or a family member may have a risk factor and your doctor has advised you to stay away from large gatherings, restaurants, etc. Like waiting out a long Minnesota snowstorm, you’re protecting yourself and those you love. You’re participating on Sunday morning the best you can by watching online. You are being wise. You are the reason that we live-stream our services.
At the same time, remember that watching online is not the same thing as being at church. You miss out on the extremely valuable interactions that take place naturally before, during, and after the service. There is something missing.
So let me challenge you not to simply watch online and cross “attended church” off your list. Take time to intentionally pursue those connections with the people you would have seen had you been in the building. As a start, let’s say that when you were attending services you normally left for church at 9:30 and got home at noon. That’s at total of 150 minutes. The service itself lasts about 75 minutes. Why not take the 75 minutes you “saved” by staying at home and spend them actively investing in your relationships of those in your church family?
You could call, text, email, or write them. Find out how they are doing, pray with them, encourage them, and share what the Lord is doing in your own life. Talk to your friends, but also those you don’t know well. It still won’t be the same as being there, but your church family needs to interact with you more than you realize. And you need it, too. We'll all be better off!
Don’t stay home because it is “easy.”
During the early days of the pandemic, WOL was online only. I recorded my sermon early in the week. On Sunday morning I slept in, had a nice breakfast, and then watched the service in my sweats from the comfort of my recliner. When it was over at 11:15 am, I was instantly at home and could go about my day. Easy-peasy! I even watched a different church’s service afterwards…I’m so holy!
But no one asked me about my week that morning. No one encouraged me. No one challenged me or held me accountable. No one told me that they were glad to see me. No one prayed for me. No one asked my opinion. It was just me and the TV.
Nor did I pray for anyone. I didn’t encourage anyone. I didn’t look anyone in the eye and ask how things were going. I didn’t meet anyone new. I didn’t challenge anyone. I didn’t interact with anyone about the message. I didn’t share what God was doing in my life. It was just me and the TV.
You see, watching online is a poor substitute for actually gathering with other believers on the Lord’s Day. It isn’t the best way to grow. It isn’t the best way to have an impact for the kingdom of God. You miss a huge opportunity to do the “one-anothers” that are to be a part of our lives.
So if you’ve gotten in the habit of staying home simply because it is “easier”, let this post be a kick in the rear to get you moving again. You need to be “in the game.” We need you.
So pursue Jesus with all of your might during this season.
Don’t be afraid, but walk in wisdom.
Don’t be lonely, but actively seek to love others.
Don’t hide who you are, but wear a mask.
Don’t stand too close to others, but don’t be distant relationally.
Don’t forget to wash your hands, but be willing to get dirty.
Word of Life Staff
A place for the Word of Life staff and guest writers to share of themselves in writing with the Word of Life family.