For the last eight weeks, the churches in rural south Florida, Belle Glade and Clewiston, have embraced the new normal, worshipping over various technological platforms that are available to the churches. When the orders were issued by the local government and Southeastern Conference to close church buildings from public worship, it was not an easy task.Some gladly accepted the precautions that needed to be exercised to stop the spread of the new Coronavirus. On the other hand, many were skeptical about the immediate decision to close the churches, fearing that they were “bowing the knee to the drums of Babylon,” which would remove them from the right to preach the everlasting Gospel to the community. Thankfully, they were not bowing to Babylon, but instead are making even larger footsteps as they continue to build the kingdom of God on this side of eternity.
They were challenged by this difficult situation to experience some of the glory days of the 1st Century church. Paul, the apostle, in his letter to the Ephesians, gave the perfect definition of the Church with the use of various metaphors. The Church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:1-16, 5:29-30), a holy temple (2:19-22), the bride of Christ (5:25-27), and a victorious army (6:10-20). The Church, in its simplest sense, is the community of God’s people — not the building. If they take an investigative look at how God’s church grew, particularly in that first century, they realize that the believers worshipped in various homes and buildings. Padded pews, screens, and cameras were not essential to the rapid growth of God’s Church.
The home church is in God’s plan. It is a place where true religion is experienced. Fellowship is genuine and the focus is on community and prayer. As the pandemic forced upon all social distancing laws and gathering restrictions, they moved rapidly to maintain fellowship, community, and prayer. All services were conducted via a telephone conference line with the occasional Zoom video conferences for those who can access technology and are comfortable expressing themselves while using video technology. It is crucial to maintain the community within the body of Christ. Christ gave Himself for her. She is special.
It is through the Church that there is a constant connection between Heaven and Earth. The proclamation of the Gospel, which is one of the roles of the Church, cannot be done by the building, but by those who gather together in that building week-after-week for services, seminars, and other programming. Christ would not allow His Church to be closed. It is impossible to close the Church because the Church is not a building, it is the body of Christ.
The church buildings serve their purpose in times of ease when all can gather as a body and worship the true and living God. In the community, many take pride in the fact that they were able to pay off all debts on the properties with the help of the Southeastern Conference Mission-Driven initiative last year. But, COVID-19 restrictions let them understand that free and clear properties are not enough. The Gospel must be preached! Souls must be won for the Kingdom since the Church is an indispensable part of the Gospel. The building can be closed, but the Church must continue to thrive — even in adverse circumstances.
Can a world without the Gospel be imagined? The pandemic alone has taught many that every facet of life has its limits, and there comes a time when all need to look to the One Who is without limits. And so, the Church’s responsibility, during these difficult times, is to help a planet in trouble by instilling Hope in hopelessness. COVID-19, the storm that troubled the boats, has helped local churches to understand the statement, “I am the Church!”
“I am the Church” has always been a part of the mode of operation, but due to ingrained institutionalization, the Church is seen only as a building and not as a people. These congregations are hoping, by the grace of God, that they will continue in the power of the Holy Spirit to keep in the community as they build the Kingdom of God. In this season, they desire to grow in community, experience genuine fellowship, and pray many to spiritual renewal.
Southeastern | July 2020