We are now almost two years into this COVID pandemic, and emotionally and spiritually we are starting to see the toll that this season is taking on the hearts of God’s people, especially families with children and students.
Both nationally and locally, as a pastor, I have observed and read that the online church engagement has dropped drastically in the past few months, yet in person attendance has not seen a huge increase in most places.
It appears we are settling into a new normal which includes a lot less people attending church on a regular basis as they did before the pandemic.
I believe we are coming to a critical moment in our society when many who used to be a part of the church are going to no longer be. I hope you are not one of them.
The body of Christ is better when you are a part of it.
A few years ago, I took a trip with Compassion International to Africa with my second born child, Christianna. Toward the end of the trip, we had the privilege of going out on the Savannah and seeing the wildlife and spending the night out among the animals. It was a crazy night of strange sounds, and a cacophony of animal sounds I will never forget.
The next morning, we made our way to the Jeep to head out on the Savannah to observe the wildlife during the day. On our way to the Jeep a hyena came out of the bush and stood between us and the Jeep. It was a moment I will never forget. The driver stepped forward with his rifle and the hyena eventually scurried his way into the bush as we made our way to the Jeep.
When we finally arrived at the center of the Savannah, we pulled up literally right beside a pride of lions. We were practically just feet away from them in this open-air Jeep. As we sat there with nothing protecting us from the lions, I said to the driver, “Are we safe?” His reply, “Oh yes,” in his British accent. I said, “Do you mind me asking why we are safe?” He said, “The lion cannot differentiate between you and the Jeep.” I said, “What if I get out of the Jeep?” He said, “The lion would immediately pummel you, crush you and kill you.”
I said to the driver, “I’m gonna stay in the Jeep!”
He smiled back at me as if to say, “Good decision.”
Today many of God’s people and especially families with children and students are getting out of the Jeep of church and going it alone.
If we don’t stay in the Jeep, we loss fellowship, accountability, community, mutual encouragement, edification, and many other benefits. Then the Enemy gets us isolated, fretful, full of anxiety, and then offers us a temptation we would never expect. But my experience is that the pain, the length of time, and the devastation doesn’t have to be as great as it is when we are alone, isolated and tempted.
Your family needs fellowship. Maybe the church you once attended is not the place. That’s fine, but you still need to join a fellowship and work together for the benefit of your community and the benefit of God’s Kingdom. Yes, online can provide many of these components, but not if you are not engaging it either.
Don’t buy the lie that you can get out of the Jeep without it hurting you and your family. The Enemy is waiting to destroy anything good about your life and he knows the best chance he has is if he can gets you isolated.
Get back in the Jeep!
Can and will the church go on without you? Yes, Jesus will build His church. But that is not our preference, and it is certainly not God’s.
We need you and you need us. Your neighbors, friends, family members, co-workers and everyone you encounter is impacted differently when you are in community with other believers. You see others differently and you see yourself differently when you remain in the Jeep.
As Joshua said to the nation of Israel, “Choose this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
This is not about legalism. It is about your eternity and the eternity of those you meet and are responsible for in your own home. As a pastor, I have lost my peace, hope and joy a million times over the past two years. Your pastor needs you to come back. If no one else, your presence encourages them to do what God has called them to do.
Many have forsaken the assembling of themselves together. Be different from them.
We need each other.
Stay in the Jeep!