By Pastor Nathaniel
In this season of coronavirus, we have entered the uncharted waters of doing church online. And, to be honest, the phrase “doing church online” is a bit of a misnomer. The church is a community of redeemed people who regularly gather to love God, love each other, and love their neighbors. Only in the rarest situations — such as a health concern or family crisis — should a person fail to gather with God’s people.
Clearly, right now we are all in one of those rare situations. We’re facing a pandemic unparallelled in our lifetimes. So, since we can’t in good conscience worship together in the same room, we must do the next best thing: worship together in different rooms.
How in the world do we do this? What should we do to maximize this admittedly strange experience? Our family has reflected on this question. Here are some tips we’ve come up with:
1. Put your clothes on.
It would be so tempting to keep on your pajamas on Sunday morning. But think about it: Why do you put on clothes to go to work, church, or just about anywhere else? As a sign of respect. You want to put your best foot forward.
We, too, should want to put our best foot forward when we worship God — whether at church or in our living rooms. This doesn’t mean we have to put on 3-piece suits or our nicest evening gown. But put on whatever you typically wear to church, as this simple act may train your heart to have a posture of reverence.
2. Worship at your normal time.
Our church typically worships at 11am, so our family will seek to worship at a similar time. This decision helps us maintain our normal weekly rhythms. Plus, setting a fixed time for worship prevents us from procrastination. More often than not, “I’ll get to it later” is code for “it ain’t happening.”
3. Eliminate distraction.
Worship isn’t the time for multi-tasking. So silence your phone, turn off the television, save the dishes for later, and don’t worry about preparing lunch. Your chores (and distractions) can wait. Your soul will thank you for it later.
4. Prepare something for your kids.
If you have small kids, you may be tempted to kick them out of the room while you listen to the message in peace and quiet. As alluring as this may seem (and believe me, as a parent of 3 littles, it sounds really nice), resist this temptation. Find ways to keep them engaged in the worship service. We’ve prepared for our kids a coloring sheet on the passage we’ll study tomorrow. Most importantly, keep them in the room with you. They won’t benefit at all if they’re in the other room playing Fortnite.
5. Supplement with your own mini-version of Sunday School.
Unfortunately, we can’t ship your Sunday School teacher to you tomorrow. But you can do simple things as a family to study the Bible, such as reading a Bible passage together over breakfast, reading a children’s Bible to your kids, playing hymns or Christian music, or asking for prayer requests. In other words, don’t sit back and be a mere spectator to the worship service; participate as a family before or after.
6. Be committed to your local church.
You could probably find dozens of better preachers on television. You could probably find a better speaker from the megachurch down the road. And “online church,” you think, may be the time to listen to those other guys instead.
But the beauty of your local church is that it is, indeed, local. Your pastor may not be the second-coming of Billy Graham, but he knows you, loves you, and has prepared his message with you in mind. Your fellow church members who are also tuning in to the worship service are the same people who pray for you and are ready to serve you at a moment’s notice. So don’t use this time to disengage from the church and hitch your wagon to a celebrity preacher; lean in to your local church.
7. Encourage someone.
For me, the best part of gathering on Sunday isn’t the teaching (as important as I think it is) or the music (as much as I enjoy it). The best part is the encouragement — those conversations before the worship service, the time spent lingering afterwards, the prayers in the parking lot, the hugs in the hallways. It’s going to be hard not to have that this week.
So, make a point to reach out to someone this week anyway. Give them a phone call, send them a text, or contact them on social media. Let them know you love them and are praying for them.
What else would you recommend?