The possibility of churches gathering again soon has raised several important questions, including: What date should we regather? How do we greet folks from a social distance? How do we take the offering? How will we accommodate our entire church family when we must deal with spacing?
Here, though, are some more questions I think we need to ask:
- Am I praying regularly for my church’s pastoral staff?
We always need prayer support, but we’re particularly needing wisdom as we think about next steps.
- Will I follow the leadership of our church staff even if I’m not sure I agree with their guidance in regathering?
I’m not arguing that every staff will get everything right, but I will argue that most of them have given much more thought to the best next steps than most of us have. In my estimation, we owe them our support.
- Am I okay with our church now meeting in multiple services and/or multiple venues at least for the near future?
For many churches, these are going to be primary options for congregating while maintaining social distancing.
- Am I emotionally and spiritually prepared for changes that must take place for now?
For example, will you avoid shaking hands with friends you’ve not seen for months? Will it seem strange to not have the “meet and greet” time your church has always had? Will you grieve not seeing everyone if your church moves to multiple services? How will you respond if your church no longer has a choir?
- Will I be tempted to find any reason to continue worshiping online only?
There are legitimate reasons for folks more vulnerable to COVID-19 to stay at home for now. My fear is that other folks will use the current situation as an excuse to avoid gathering with God’s people again.
- Will I wear a mask — or, look down on others who do?
Each of us must make his or her own decision on this choice. Surely, we’ll be supportive of each other’s choices.
- Am I returning to corporate worship as a more committed or less committed follower of Christ?
None of us will regather as the same people we were prior to this crisis. Over the past few months, all of us have taken steps either closer to God or farther from Him. What direction have you gone?
- What ongoing sin do I need to deal with prior to gathering with God’s people again?
Don’t miss the opportunity to gather again with a fully obedient heart. Worship may well be more potent if you have no unforsaken sin in your life — no matter how much the actual worship service might change.
- Has the time apart helped me let go of bitterness or anger toward another believer?
I pray we’ll gather again with hearts bent toward forgiveness and reconciliation as needed.
- Am I praying for God’s grace for someone to find a cure or develop a vaccine for the coronavirus?
My wife has reminded me that we’re reading a lot about how churches are responding to this crisis, but we’re hearing little about this kind of prayer. As usual, she’s right . . . .
Say a prayer for all the churches in your community as they prepare to navigate the next several months.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president for spiritual formation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also team leader for theological education strategists of the International Mission Board. He and his wife, Pam, live in Wake Forest, N.C. This article originally appeared on his blog at www.chucklawless.com.