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Fear vs Love


Welcome everyone! We're all still trying to process everything going on in our world right now. The COVID-19 pandemic is the primary topic of conversation and in many cases, it is the only topic of conversation. People talk about where they were during events like 9/11, when Kennedy was shot, or when the Challenger exploded. This instance will be different because it isn't one instantaneous event but an event that is progressing as you read this. We are literally experiencing history right now. We will tell our children and grandchildren about this time. It's a bit scary that we are only beginning to fully experience this pandemic and it is almost certainly going to get worse before it gets better.

The questions will be asked: "Where is God in this pandemic?" "What is the church's role?" "What should we as Christians do?" "Why are we so scared of this?"

Cancelling services this past Sunday was no easy decision to make. The ministers and elders spent a decent bit of time on a conference call on Friday evening trying to figure out what the best thing was for our church family here at NorthWest. Once the decision was made to do everything online, our ministry team and a few fantastic volunteers spent most of their Saturday trying to get everything together and ready for worship yesterday morning. A HUGE shout out and thank you to Bob Beavers and both of the Reinhards for spending pretty much their entire Saturday at the building getting everything to come together! We, the leadership, have since been in almost constant communication via conference call, email, and text trying to figure out next steps and how we stay connected to our church body and how we will find alternate ways to have community with one another despite not being able to meet together. We plan on broadcasting something every day this week in addition to having a blog post each morning.

I thought that I would start this series of posts by explaining how I would answer the questions listed above. I want to be very clear on the motive of this decision. Doing what we chose to do was not a decision made out of fear, it was made out of love. Now before you begin shaking your head in disagreement, hear me out. If you had a child and you knew that there was a virus traveling around that was highly contagious and deadly to infants, I'm inclined to think that there is a high likelihood that you would stay home with this infant child. Most families will stay home with their newborns after they are born even without the spread of a pandemic to avoid any kind of illness while their body is growing. In a sense, we are all the infants of God. We are His children. He holds us up. We sang yesterday morning online that He is a shield about us, our glory, and the lifter of our heads. The coronavirus is proving to be deadly to older people and those with weak immune systems. Some of the people who would almost certainly come to worship services check one or both of those boxes. We love all of our members, both young and old. Therefore, we decided to worship online with them instead of in person for their protection.

I know we had some who were disappointed and felt like we should have met and that perhaps getting sick should not be the concern that it is. I would like to propose an idea that would also answer the questions listed above.

What if God is allowing this pandemic to spread so that instead of us going to church each week, we can spend more time BEING the church each week? What if this virus was meant to eradicate our fear of carrying out God's mission for the world instead of our fear of getting sick? What if the coronavirus is meant to get us out of our holy huddles and into the mission field?

I am not saying that there is little or no value in meeting together for classes and worship, there ABSOLUTELY is a good bit of value in that as evidenced in several places in the New Testament. However, I fear that we sometimes get so wrapped up in our meeting together that we forget the point of meeting and worshipping together: to then go out and make disciples!

Perhaps a very quick and abbreviated church history lesson and the main end goals behind their worship will help.

For the majority of the church's existence dating back to the first century, there was really only one "church" that met in multiple locations. This church primarily met in people's homes (Acts 10:22, 12:12, 16:32, 16:40, 18:7, 20:20, Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1:2) and it is believed by many that their worship meetings were organic and Spirit-led. There was no official order or worship format. This changed drastically when Emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity in 312 AD. This caused a massive shift in Christianity that has affected us whether we realize it or not. This was when the universal or Catholic church rose to global power. Catholicism dominated the church and the world. They also came up with a worship style that still exists today but is not one that we, the church of Christ, use: the liturgy. The liturgy is a set out, word for word worship service and each word or phrase carries deep theological meaning to it. Protestants began to shift away from it after the Reformation in 1517. However, the liturgy was designed to do something very special in the minds and hearts of believers. The liturgy was designed to bring worshipers before the throne of God and to experience His glory and power. In a response to this, the members of those churches would receive a call at the end to go out and make disciples, to share the good news, and to exhibit the gospel story in all facets of their lives. Once the church began to spread out west (the US), the worship focus shifted. The goal was not to send members out, it was to bring people in. Many churches today still do this by boasting gifted preachers, charismatic worship experiences, and preaching a "prosperity Gospel".One problem (amongst many) with this mentality is that those who bring people to church think that their job is done by simply getting them through the doors and everything else is God and the ministers' job. This simply is not biblical (Ephesians 4:11-13).

While I am not suggesting a return to a liturgical format in worship, I am suggesting that we re-shift our focus not on what is going on inside the walls of NorthWest Church of Christ, but on what is going on outside of those walls. I am suggesting that we not make our overall goal to meet and worship on Sunday and then go home until we do the same thing next week, but for us to truly live out Christ's final call in the gospels to go out and make disciples and tell of the good news of Jesus Christ.

As we have said multiple times already, we are in uncharted territory. We are in a trial by fire. Basically, we're making some of this stuff up as we go. What an incredible opportunity God has blessed us with by allowing us to stay home and invite our neighbors into our homes for worship! As the young adults ministers, I can tell you that one of the main reasons that 18-35 year olds (millennials) don't want to go to church is because it is hard for them to truly commit to being a part of something bigger than themselves (I know it's lame but God calls us to love everyone anyway). Getting up earlier than normal on a non-work day to get semi-dressed up for something and then driving a ways down the road consistently takes some commitment. However, waking up and walking to your next door neighbor's house is pretty easy. Perhaps we just need to simply walk out of our own homes (in our PJ's if you're ok with that) to our next door neighbors and invite them to come over for some coffee and online worship and/or Bible study.

We will one day eventually gather back and worship together. What a day that will be! I am already looking forward to it and I value my time with my church family so much more now that I was forced to miss it this week. But what if God has allowed the coronavirus to come to our world because we aren't carrying out His mission for the world. What if staying home gives us a better opportunity to make His mission our reality? The answer to this is pretty simple in my opinion: We won't know unless we give this thing a try.

--Casey Lankford