Last week, I went back to church for the first time in nearly half a year with my wife, Cheryl.
We did it because we’ve been wanting to build up a bit of discipline in our lives and thought that the intentional rigour of getting ourselves to physical church service would make for a great start.
I won’t lie – there was certainly a lot of inertia. After I put our names down, it sank in that we wouldn’t be able to watch the livestream whenever we wanted or pause the pastor at our convenience.
Instead, it meant things like having to punch in a bunch of personal details with the church’s registry, travel (we’re on the other end of the island) and observe the stringent social distancing practices on-site.
On the flip side, however, I also found myself looking forward to service all week. We were going back to church!
Stepping into the sanctuary, it all felt so… familiar. It was almost like coming home after my studies in Germany. I recognised most of it; only the furniture had been shifted around a little!
But having been accustomed to softly singing at Zoom recordings, I was unprepared for what transpired during worship. Sure, the set had also been prerecorded earlier in the week for safety reasons, but that time of worship blew us away.
As we stood together, I caught a real glimpse of Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:19. We were speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit.
We were singing and making music from our hearts to the Lord.
What did I learn that weekend? When everyone in the room wants to be in that room, it’s a different room.
Because that week, we put aside our comfort and convenience and made the choice to go the house of the Lord. It was as close to being a pilgrim as I’ve ever come.
I believe that intentionality was why that time of worship was just so special. As we drew near to God, He was faithful to His word and drew near to us.
That is why I just can’t write this part of the article up in a way that would actually do justice to the power, passion and presence we encountered in the sanctuary. You simply had to be there!
Even though we were all standing so far apart from each other, I had never felt so close and united to my church and congregation before.
Certainly, Cheryl and I both agreed later that physically worshipping with our brothers and sisters again was the most memorable part of the service.
When everyone in the room wants to be in that room, it’s a different room.
I know that quite a few church services will be restarting this weekend and in the months ahead.
We did a straw poll on our Telegram channel to get a feel of how many of you had churches that were resuming on-site services. You can check out the verdict here, but do note that this is by no means representative of official figures.
We also ran a similar poll on our Instagram page.
As we all increasingly get to grips with life amid the coronavirus, now is a good time to cast away inertia and get back to the routine of worshipping in church if your physical services are restarting.
As one of my favourite pastors says, discipline comes from delight.
It’s completely understandable if you have legitimate concerns like health or have elderly family members at home. But if you could go back to church, would you?
As gently as I can put this: If there’s little or no desire in us to want to come home to our church and meet brothers and sisters (perhaps even God?) whom we haven’t seen in months… I think that’s worrying for our faith.
And for those of us whose churches still have no plans in the pipeline for physical services, let us keep the fire burning by not simply going through the motions each week during online service.
Start by thinking of some practical things we can do to bring an element of intentionality to our worship, like making plans with a few brothers and sisters to attend the online service together. Ask God for wisdom and creativity as you enjoy the Sabbath day with His family!
As we approach the close of the year, let our lives look a little more like Pilgrim’s Progress than pilgrims procrastinating. Let’s choose Christ’s Church over our comfort, and discipline over indolence.
May our new normal be higher and holier – one that God would smile upon from heaven.
- How would you compare the worship experiences you’ve had in the house of the Lord compared to those you’ve had at home?
- How intentional have you been about setting aside time to join your brothers and sisters in Christ for worship and fellowship?
- What choices do you need to make to better reflect God’s priority in your life?