I watched church on Sunday. That is a sentence I never thought I would say. It sounds strange to me. But it is what I did on Sunday. I watched church. I sat on my couch and listened to worship and a sermon. I was a bystander. I have to admit that in this day of social distancing that watching church has been a struggle. It is a struggle to feel connected. It is a struggle to focus. It is a struggle to stay engaged. So I go through my Facebook feed looking for the best production value, the best worship team and the best speaker in hopes that it will hold my attention.
This is what it comes down to when there is no community connected with your church experience. You become a shopper, a consumer of religious goods. You find what you like best. You don’t have to think about anything but your experience or anybody’s needs but your own.
To connect with God through your TV, your phone, tablet or computer monitor is a blessing during a global pandemic. I think you should take in all you can. But don’t let this become the norm. This is not what church is meant to be. It is meant to be so much more.
Even before the pandemic forced us all into self-quarantine “watching church” had become normal for too many believers. This pandemic didn’t change much for their church experience. They looked for a church where the production value was good, where the worship was to their liking, and the speaker was entertaining. They were consumers of religious goods. I have seen them. They come late and leave right when it is done. They don’t serve in a ministry and they don’t connect in a small group. They have simply found a Sunday morning church experience that they enjoy, consume it and go home. It is not that much different than watching the game on TV on Sunday afternoon.
We are directed in scripture to make getting together a priority. Listen to what God has to say in Hebrews.
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, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
We church-goers have a tendency to read this passage and just see the words “meet together” and neglect the rest. Why are we to meet together? We meet to stir one another up to love and good deeds. We meet to encourage one another to continue to walk with Jesus. When we “watch church” while sitting on our couch at home or in a chair in the sanctuary we have missed the point.
CHURCH WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE A SPECTATOR SPORT.
Church is a community of people. Church is meant to be relational. If you take the community out of church you do not have church. Spiritual life and growth are not found in isolation but are found in meaningful and deep connection with others. Right now you don’t have a choice but when your social distancing is over and you have a choice – stop watching church.
Don’t Just Listen To The Sermon.
Listen to God as He speaks to you through God’s word. As you listen to the sermon always be in conversation with God. Ask Him what He is saying to you. Ask Him to help you understand not just the content of the message, but also to reveal to you the true nature of your heart. Ask Him to reveal to you more of who He is and more of His will for your life. If you come to church to be inspired or encouraged or challenged you have missed the point because you have come with your own agenda. When you come to church you should have one expectation and goal. Your goal is Jesus. When we just want Jesus, we will be open to whatever He has to say to us. He will surprise you with what He has to say to you. Expect and seek after Jesus and you will never be disappointed.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:12-13
This Sunday, as you sit on your couch and watch a service you can participate in the sermon. Pray before you turn it on. Ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you. Ask Him to speak to you. Take notes. Say “Amen” when the pastor says something that resonates in your soul. God can still speak to you through the TV. Most of all – seek Jesus, seek His voice.
Don’t just sing the songs.
Worship the Lord with all your heart. Sing loud. Psalm 100:1 tells us to “Make a joyful noise.” You may not sing well but you can make some noise. Don’t worry about what it sounds like – just sing. Let it come from your heart. The worship team are not performers – they are leaders. They are leading you to the throne room of Jesus. Worship should lead your heart to the heart of God. No matter the style of music seek to intentionally sing each song to Jesus your king.
Don’t Just Show Up.
Serve. Don’t come to church hoping that the ministers do a good job. Come to church with the heart of a minister. See people – really see people. Don’t wait for someone to greet you, find someone who is alone and greet them. Find someone who is sad and smile. Find someone who is new and make them feel at home. Find someone who is lost and show them the way.
Do something. Find out your spiritual gift. Ask someone where there is a need. If you have a skill the church can use it. Maybe you are good at mowing lawns or pulling weeds or vacuuming floors. Maybe you love to teach children or hold babies. Maybe you know how to run powerpoint. There are endless ways to serve.
Even now, when you can’t gather with the church you can still serve. Call an elderly person in your congregation. Pray with them. Ask them what they need at the store and go pick it up for them. Live with a mindset towards ministry.
Come Early – Stay Longer
Church is a community of people and if you do not interact with people you may have attended a service but you didn’t go to church. If you show up right when the service starts, and leave as soon as you can you are missing church. Get to know people and let them get to know you. Have conversations about how God spoke to you during the service. Encourage people, help people, love people.
Find A Place Where You Are Known
It is easy to go to church and stay anonymous. There is a limited amount of time on a Sunday morning to really get to know people. If your church is large you may not even see all of the same people each week. Find a way to make church smaller. Most churches have a small group ministry. These small groups often meet in homes and center around a shared meal. This is a place where you can develop deeper long lasting relationships. These relationships are vital for deepening your faith. Here you will find prayer support, encouragement, comfort and accountability. It can be a scary thing to be known but when we walk in transparency with God and others there is nowhere for sin to hide in our lives.
Right now a lot of church community is happening over Zoom meetings. Arrange to talk with your small group. Pray together. Share what God is teaching you. Find needs you can meet and serve.
When the quarantine lifts you will have the choice to move from online to onsite. You will also have the choice to watch church or to be a part of the church. Walking with Jesus in community with others is not a spectator sport.