I love modern conveniences. Next-day delivery? Sign me up. Curbside pickup? Yes, please! Today’s conveniences enable us to pull ourselves up by our metaphorical bootstraps and beam like a proud toddler, “I did it myself!” Our independence seems to grow each year, but when it comes to our faith, this independence can introduce a dangerous idea.
When my husband and I followed his job out of state and away from our home church, we started listening to online sermons while we looked for a church in our new town. Then we became parents and the idea of getting out during morning naps on Sundays seemed increasingly less convenient. Slowly, our resolve to settle in a local church dwindled and we simply checked the box with sporadic online sermons.
One day, a friend invited me to her church. My husband and I agreed to go the next Sunday, but our expectations were low. Listening online was simply easier and we weren’t convinced of the need to attend local services.
When, after the service, my friend invited me to join their women’s Bible study, I was still skeptical. I didn’t think I’d learn anything useful, but my friend would be there and, let’s be honest, they were offering free coffee and childcare.
At the bible study, there was an elderly Scottish woman at my table. Her prayer was so sincere that I surprised myself by getting emotional. I rarely cry, much less while sitting in a folding chair, holding a styrofoam cup of mediocre coffee. But it had been a long time since I prayed with other Christians, and it encouraged me. I felt a dim flicker of recognition; something in this room felt familiar. What was it?
I didn’t have a chance to find out. Within two weeks, the pandemic canceled all in-person programming. I returned to my usual online sermons, but I wondered about that moment in the Bible study and the familiar feeling I had when the woman prayed.
After lockdowns lifted, I clung stubbornly to online sermons instead of returning to the church. The ongoing pandemic gave me a reasonable excuse, but it was convenience rather than germs that kept me away. When my third child was born the following year, the women of my friend’s church ignored my absence and organized my first-ever meal train. With my other kids, grocery pickup and delivery services had taught me and my husband to survive the sleepy blur of postpartum on our own. A meal train felt unnecessary but nice.
As I cuddled my newborn son and mused gratefully over the care these women had shown, I felt the same vaguely familiar feeling as in that Bible study. Suddenly, it clicked: this was the Church. Not the building, but the people. These women didn’t know me personally, but they didn’t need to. They were simply responding to God’s call of being the Church in community.
I had convinced myself that attending a local church was nice when it was convenient but ultimately unnecessary. Like the eye and head in Paul’s illustration to the Corinthians, I had turned to the other members of the body and thought, “I don’t need you!” But Paul reminds us the body is a collective – “not made up of one part but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:14 ESV).
When circumstances and society mold us into independent people, we start to believe the idea that we can DIY a private faith without being involved in the local body of Christ. But this largely misses the meaning of the Church.
God has not called us to independence; He has called His people to community. When I checked the box with online sermons, I thought I was still living in the Church, albeit individualistically. Online sermons are wonderful, and I still listen regularly, but church — the Church — is more than just sermons. We, God’s gathered people, are the Church.
From the very beginning, God looked at Adam in the garden and said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Adam and Eve were God’s first community and the beginning of the Church. Community between Himself and His gathered people was always God’s design. God’s Church is to encourage the believers and to be His hands and feet in caring for the community. Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us:
“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.”
Through an encouraging prayer in a folding chair and good meals left at my door, God reminded me of His design for the Church. His design is not independent, and it is not DIY; it’s sometimes ordinary and not always convenient. His design is simply community.
“If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”
1 Corinthians 12:19–20 (NIV)
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Amen and amen! As good as online teachings and sermons are, there is nothing that can adequately replace the community of God’s people meeting together to worship Him and serve one another. Thank you for this reminder.
Rebecca Martin says
Absolutely! Online sermons are a blessing, but community is so crucial too!
I get it!! At first, on line worship was great- I could sit there in my comfy clothes with a cup of coffee. But I soon realized the toll it was taking. I NEED that connection on Sunday mornings and even though it was cold, that first Christmas during the pandemic I attended an outdoor service- cars parked 6 feet apart and we were all bundled up but it was so worth it. I had always been active in my church but moved away for a while and the new church was not as engaging. But after an 8 year absence, (I just moved back to Maine) I now drive 20+ miles to attend my old church in the town I used to live in. And while it is not always easy to get there and to be as active as I would like, I do my best. The connections with the women for me especially as I get older is so vital to my well being. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of that community.
Rebecca Martin says
That Christmas service sounds magical! I’m so glad you went in spite of the cold!
What a blessing that you can now attend your old church. I hope you feel the strength of good fellowship even at that distance.
Pearl Allard says
I’ve heard all this before (and agree with it!) but I appreciate that this comes from someone who really went strongly toward the independence side of things before realizing the need for community. Thank you.
Rebecca Martin says
I am astounded that God is STILL patient with me. Had my own children this stubbornly tried to do things their own way, I would have scolded, but not God. He just patiently waited for me to realize His design is always best and I just need to trust Him!
The strength that we get from our brothers and sisters in Christ is so vital to our growth. God’s word teaches us to not forsake the assembling…….etc. I especially grasped the comment above about the 1st community as well as the 1st communing with God which took place in the garden with Adam & Eve. Thanks to all who share their thoughts. It’s truly a blessing!!!!!
Rebecca Martin says
Amen! God’s design from the beginning holds true even in our modern context. I was thinking how much I loved reading these comments and realized that in itself was a longing for Christian community. 🙂
Dawn Ferguson-Liitle says
Rebecca thank you for sharing your heart. We can miss the real meaning of what the Church is all about. We can get like in thoes day during the pandemic when everything was shut down. We don’t want to go Church anymore especially if the weather cold and not nice outside. We find it easier just to stay at home in our cosey warm houses and listen to an online service. Now that Churches up and running again we can’t get lazy and get we not want to go anymore. Just get we want sit at home and listen to service online. We don’t think about the Minister or Pastor who goes week after week to Church again once it was ok to go back to Church again after the pandemic. To bring us the word of God so as to teach how we can live as the word of God says. He are she does it because they love the Lord and love us. When they make the effort so should we. We can get another reason when go to Church because it is we think as Christians we have too as it required of us. We go to been seen and make people think we are good people Christian’s who go to Church every week if not every week most weeks. All theses things we should not be doing. We should be going to Church because we want to thank God. That he kept us during the Pandemic and provided on line Church for us during those times. Through our Minster and Pastors who gave up their time to give us the word in love so as we could watch it on line during the Pandemic. Not just go because we want to be seen and we think it required of us as Christians. We have to have our hearts right and prepared them before going. Want to go for all the right reasons to hear how God is going to speak to us through the word our Minister or Pastor going to speak on and apply it to our life to grow closer to God and live right for God in our daily lives. I believe the Church is not the building as many think it is that are saved. I believe it is good to hear the word of God. But the real Church is us being like Jesus helping people in need praying for them. Living our lives as the word of God says. Showing we care and love all people of all walks of life no matter what skin colour or religion they belong to. Loving them and helping them like Jesus did when on earth. Everything we do is about Jesus and living as he have us live. We want to do that in our lives. We show the world we are different. If they ask us what different about your live. We can tell them Everything we do and the way we live our life we Iive it for Jesus in word thought deed. We pray and study his word. This is the true Church to me. Most especially the unsaved think it is the big fancy building were you sing a few songs and hymns and hear a sermon. We are in and out in an hour. Most hope when they go that the sermon will not be long. They only go to be seen saved or not saved. That is another wrong reason to go. Love today message. Keeping you all incourge in my prayers. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Rebecca Martin says
The list of reasons not to go to church seems especially long on a Sunday morning. My trouble is, I worry what church cost (how hard it is to get kids out the door or deal with a baby in service) and what it does *for me* instead of viewing it as a faithful response to God’s call to community. But you know what? I have never once regretted going to church, even when the boys fidget and the baby cries. 🙂
Beth Williams says
I, too love on-line & TV sermons. Their topics & preaching styles can help me learn even more. During the pandemic my little church closed for a bit. At first I just stayed home & watched on tv & computer. After a while I began to miss my tribe. Seeing my friends & getting hugs is important. Then needing friendship I attended my in-laws church. I got to know the people & got involved some. Suddenly our church had services again. It was nice getting to see those familiar faces. More than that was the fellowship & being able to pray with & for others. My little church has been good to us over the years. My pastor baptized my dad (83). They were there for me when my parents dementia got bad. They fed my family for both my parents deaths–even though my parents didn’t attend that church. Yes to community & loving on others.
Rebecca Martin says
Yes! I love that you have a community that knows how to truly show love to one another. That is a beautiful picture of God’s church.