Bible

A Lesson for the Gathered Church During a Pandemic

Sundays were different back in the 70’s.  No stores were open on Sundays and it seemed as though everyone went to a church of some kind.  I would wake up to the smell of homemade donuts and the sound of gospel music.  We would get all dressed up, put on our patent leather shoes; I would grab my little zip-up Bible and jump in the car excited to go to church.  We had Bible classes for every age, then gather together for worship as a family, babies included.

My favorite part of church was before the sermon–lively worship with songs that I can still remember today. (Sorry, pastor!) The songs thrilled me, and my heart felt free.  I loved to sing, and when I came to understand more fully who God was and what He had done for me on the cross, my worship became even more meaningful.  The world melted away as I focused on God’s attributes and His amazing grace.

I still smile when I think of our Sunday Night Song Celebrations where anyone could sing a solo or with a group and where selections were chosen by the congregation as they would shout out a song or hymn number, hoping to hear their favorite song. For my liturgical friends I am sure this would have been quite an unusual sight, but for me it was a joyful time of celebrating the God I loved.  I learned at a young age that worship could be just as awe-inspiring when boisterous as it is when quiet and moving.

While it is true that worship can (and should) occur at any place and at any time, God in His sovereignty designed us for corporate worship.  Gathering together is God’s idea, not man’s.  Much of the New Testament is written to instruct and encourage the local church, including the book of Titus, a letter written from Paul to Titus:

In the book of Titus we see how “God spreads the kingdom through the church… Local congregations of believers in Jesus Christ are little ‘kingdom outposts’, waiting for the time that their King will appear gloriously.” [Holman Illustrated Study Bible, preface to Titus, p. 1768]

This little book holds some important information for the gathered church.  While much of the culture’s beliefs were wrapped in tradition, Christianity revealed that God’s plan involved so much more than just religiosity.

Fulfilling our obligations to a tradition are meaningless without a genuine desire to live out what we say we believe.

Much like a family, a church is comprised of all ages, different personalities, and varying roles to fill.  Leaders were appointed with specific standards, as they would be the ones to set the example for others to follow.  These leaders carried with them the responsibility of teaching God’s message of truth, and Paul begins this letter to Timothy reminding him that it’s imperative to proclaim truth, for it is truth that leads to godliness. (Titus 1, v.1)

Truth.  The question of truth seems to be considered relative in the world we live in today, doesn’t it? The Bible contradicts that claim and proclaims that it is only in God’s Word that we find absolute truth.  He knows that we have questions and He gives us His Word to provide the answers. Solid answers that reveal truth.

You want truth?  This letter couldn’t be more straightforward. Titus is given clear instructions intended to guide him in his ministry to the local church. 

“They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works.” Titus 1:16 

Ouch.

While you might think he’s talking about “those heathens”, look again.  The truth hurts, because he is talking to those who are in the faith, but are “..rebellious people, idle talkers… deceivers.” (v.10)

So this means the church can have ungodly people?  I challenge you to look at it for yourself.  Read Chapter 1.

“…they are detestable, disobedient, and disqualified for any good work.” (v. 16.)

You might know someone like that.  They might even be in your church–

or maybe you’ve even seen them in the mirror.

A far cry from the holiness of heaven, this body of believers that God calls “His church” are a rag-tag collection of men, women, boys and girls who are far from perfect.  He knows that we need help.  In our struggle to live out what we say we believe, He knew that we would need older, wiser men to lead the younger; and older wiser women were to set the example and teach the younger women. He knew that believers needed the wisdom of leaders who are sound in their “faith, love, and endurance.” (Ch.2)

So we gather.  We worship.  We learn.  We grow. And we proclaim The Truth so others can know.

A sort of escape from the troubles of our modern world, gathering together to focus on the eternal does more than make us feel good for the moment–it gives us hope for the future, and helps us to see how we can live in a world that so desperately needs Jesus.  When we stop and Sabbath rest, we are better able to focus on God, be reminded that He is in control, then choose to trust that He is working all things together for good and for His glory.

The problem we face now is, “How do we gather during a pandemic, when the government is trying to shut our doors or pressure us to stay home?”

We choose.

We decide, each person for themselves and for their family, how to gather.  We keep our priority the same–to stay connected either in person or online for the privilege of worship, of prayer, and of listening to His Word proclaimed.

But we gather, because we can.  It is a gift–a privilege to live in a country where we are allowed this freedom to choose.  The day may come when we have to gather in secret just as those early Christians had to and as many in persecuted countries do today, but this is not the time to cower in fear.  This is a time for us to stand and proclaim “Faith Over Fear”.  The church doors are open for now, but the building is not the church.  No matter the location, we can gather with one heart, one mind, and one purpose: to proclaim His death and resurrection until He comes again.

“For the grace of God has appeared, with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:11-13)

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**For those of you following my Scripture Memory Challenge, Titus 3:4-5 will be the verse I memorize from this book of the Bible. Take some time this week to review the verses we have learned so far.  Write them down and hide them in your heart–God will use them in your life to remind you of HIS TRUTH!

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