There is something about corporate worship. Individual worship is important, but there’s a dynamic to corporate worship that goes way beyond personal or private worship. That’s why the Bible encourages us to meet together, to not forsake such opportunities. Yet for the last 18 months that is what we’ve been confined to under the covid lockdown.
Who would have thought two years ago that churches right around the globe would be closed. That corporate worship would be prohibited. Yes, we’ve been online, and thank God for it, its helped to keep us together and many have been reached through it who perhaps would not have gone near a church at other times. Yet, somehow, it was never quite the same, and never could be.
With the lifting of the regulations, we have chosen to meet in a marquee, without the sides on, in order to make it as accessible as possible. And what a joy it has been to see people turn up, to see the marquee full and people standing around it in the grounds, at varying distances, however they felt comfortable. We worshipped together, lifting our voices together in praise to God, a sound we had not heard in a long time. And what a sound. We were present, God was present. Oh the joy. People spoke of being moved by it, some to tears.
Then we enjoyed fellowship together. The first week we followed the time of worship with a picnic in the church grounds, the second week we had ice creams. It was great to see singles, couples and families, enjoying fellowship together. To see children finding one another, playing table tennis and kicking balls around. And many, many conversations taking place. Nobody was in a hurry to leave. Next week, we’ll be doing pastries. In our praying and planning, or preparations for the lifting of lockdown, we felt that our loving Father wanted us to give special time to fellowship, something people have missed throughout this time.
Some have attempted to write the church off, some have suggested it will never be able to go back to what it was, that the main focus will be online. And yes, there may be things that need to change, that need to be left behind, but the New Testament lays a great deal of emphasis on the gathered community, and for very good reason.
No man or woman is an island, to quote John Donne. Life is so much more than you in your small corner and I in mine. We were made social beings. We need one another.
Christianity is not just about a personal relationship with God – me and Jesus, you and Jesus – as important as that is, it’s about a body of interconnected and dependent parts. It’s about a family of brothers and sisters who belong together, loving one another, encouraging one another, bearing one another’s burdens. Its about a temple made up of living stones, in which God has chosen to dwell and make himself known, and to reveal his heart. It’s about an army standing strong in the Lord and marching forward together. It’s about a place of healing, where the sick and broken, the lost and downtrodden etc. can come and find salvation, deliverance, healing, wholeness, renewal and transformation. It’s about a community of the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit.
Praise God for the church! May we all catch a fresh and bigger vision of the church.
Have you regathered? Will you?