Not only has Covid brought a lot of challenges and division within the universal church and local churches, but this year has also been especially challenging for my family and me because we are in a transitional season between churches.
My husband is a pastor and finished serving at a church in January this year and he is now in God’s patience-developing and trust-building process of applying for other opportunities.
For this reason, the challenges of church life, because of both Covid and our current period in between churches, has made me really miss church.
I’m not talking about the church building, nor even the Sunday morning church service, because we have a loving church family who has embraced us and blessed us immeasurably, however, we know it’s a temporary place to call ‘home.’
The essence of church
What I miss is what I’m going to call ‘the essence of church.’ That is, I miss the long term committed and invested relationships within the church among brothers and sisters in Christ who want to pour into my life, who want to engage in deep conversation, who want to hold me accountable to the faith I profess, who weep when I weep, and rejoice when I rejoice.
These are the people who are closer than family, because they are my spiritual and eternal family, under the common bond of Christ and the fatherhood of God the Father.
I think Covid has been a huge driving force behind exposing people’s view of church. Some churches have closed their doors, some are doing ‘online’ services, and some have remained open despite government restrictions to the contrary. Each response reveals what people think about church and hopefully it’s also got a lot of people thinking about what church is and is not.
As I’ve been thinking about the theology of church as well as my own situation, I am certain church is essential. It’s not the money I can give that the church needs, it’s not tradition I crave, it’s not even the message I hear preached that makes up the necessity of church.
I miss the essence of church. This includes listening to the preaching in order to grow spiritually, being called to give money to the church, and it may include tradition if the heart is right; but it also includes fellowship with other believers and the expectation of me serving the people of God in the ways He’s gifted me.
Without this long-term church family (because we definitely can’t say anything against our temporary church setting), I feel like a duck out of water or a goalkeeper without defenders.
The model of the early church
I think the model of the early church demonstrates this love and devotion to the church, because we read about their devotion to teaching, prayer, meeting together and eating together (Acts chapter 2, verses 42-47).
They also had “one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” (Acts chapter 4, verse 32). This is the essence of church!
We don’t necessarily have to sell all our possessions and share what we have with others, but it’s with this attitude of love and commitment, with a desire to be together, to listen to the teaching of God’s Word together, to sing together, to support and serve one another that should be a growing desire for us as the modern-day church.
Do you miss church?
Are you part of a church that embraces the essence of church as I’ve described it, or are you missing the essence of church?
If church is a Sunday morning tradition, sadly people haven’t received the purpose of the body of Christ. If church is a selfish desire to get without giving, sadly people have missed out on the great blessing of the family of God. If church is boring and non-Christians are more fun to hang out with, people have lost out on the beauty of deep fellowship and the spiritual growth that develops through such relationships.
As you think through the essence of church and your own experience of church, I pray you would consider the biblical priority of church, whether you are currently part of such a church family or not.
If you are, may you rejoice in the blessing and privilege it is to be part of this loving community. If not, in what ways could you respond in an effort to receive such a blessing and be part of this type of family?
To be honest, another reason some people aren’t missing church or simply can’t be part of this blessing is they aren’t part of the family of God. These people might attend church and even be involved in church, but if they don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, it is an impossibility for them to embrace the essence of church.
For those of us who are Christians… as I (and maybe you) yearn for a long-term church family to be part of, we can all look forward to the moment in history in which our spiritual and eternal family will become our reality in heaven.
What a glorious thought to reflect upon… perfect harmony and relationships with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, in perfect communion with God the Father and His Son!
Genevieve Wilson is Canadian. a happily married home-schooling mum of 3, whose passion is to see people come to know Jesus. She is a seminary wife to her amazing husband.