I'm willing to bet some pretty good money that, when a lot of y'all attended watch night service at your church on New Year's Eve of 2019, you had absolutely no idea that it would be months before you would step foot back into your church again. And yet, here we are. COVID-19 threw us all for a loop and church is one of the casualties of it. At least for now.
As you wait until you can meet with your pastor and the members of your church of choice again, there are some things that you can do to keep the devil from stealing your joy. As we're all navigating through how to live in a pandemic, I've got a few tips on how you can get your praise on, even if you can't currently do it in the church (and pew) that you're used to doing it in every weekend.
First, Refer Back to Acts 2 in the Bible
When I first transitioned out of regular church attendance (check out "What's The Difference Between Being 'Religious' And Being 'Spiritual', Anyway?"), a Scripture that some people literally kept throwing in my face was "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together". If you read all of Hebrews 10:19-25, that is not in reference to church going, just fellowship. And since the Word also says, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20--NKJV), I'm a firm believer of (and am at perfect peace with) the fact that you don't need a huge congregation in order to get into the presence of the Most High or worship and fellowship with others.
Matter of fact, Acts 2:40-47 speaks of believers not only meeting at the temple but—catch it—also going from house to house. Both of these fall under the title of "A Vital Church Grows" (in the New King James Version of the Bible). So, if there happens to be some part of you who feels really guilty about not attending church or you're avoiding putting your own health (and the health of others) at risk by going, during a pandemic, cut yourself some slack. Worshiping in your home isn't a bad thing. Some would even say it's quite biblical.
Be Thankful This Is Happening When There’s Online Church
I've got a friend who struggles, basically every Sunday, with which church they want to go to. It's because they are super fond of three of 'em. "Thanks" to the pandemic, though, now they are at home. The silver lining to that is now they can attend all three, simultaneously, because they literally keep three different browsers open so that they can watch all of the services at the same time. Yeeeeeah, personally, that would wear me all the way out. But something about what they are doing does bring up a really good point. If your church isn't currently open (or you'd prefer not to attend right now), technology does make it possible to watch church online. You can either Google your favorite church/pastor to see if they've got an online streaming service that's available. Or, you can check out a site like Christian World Media that literally has a list of streaming services all around the world, including the church, date, time and what kind of services are taking place. You can check that out here.
Hold a Zoom Service with Long-Distant Family Members and Friends
Lawd. If anyone didn't foresee their stock rising crazy high in 2020, it would have to be Zoom. I mean, who hasn't had a Zoom meeting, of some sort, this year, right? Well, an alternative to online church is to hold your own church service with some of your loved ones via a Zoom conference call. Each of you can lead a particular part of the service and, while it won't be just like being at your home church, the cool thing about this option is you can worship with people from all over the globe; folks you may not have connected with in a while. If this is an option that piques your interest, the article, "9 Key Tips for Planning an Online Worship Service" can help you to organize your Zoom service in a way that can feel like you're holding an actual service—just from the comfort and convenience of your own home. Oh, and if you somehow have gotten away with never using Zoom before, you can get instructions on how to set it up here.
Create Your Own Praise and Worship Playlist
As far as church music goes, you could give me some old school Winans, The Imperials and Andre Crouch and The Disciples (yep, I took it way back) and I'd be all good on that front. And while I know that a lot of people go to church, in part, for the good music that might be awaiting them there, remember that being at home means that you are literally your own praise and worship DJ. You can think about all of the songs that you like, create a playlist and jam to them all day long, if you'd like. If you don't feel like making your own, you can always go to your favorite search engine and put "praise and worship playlist" or "gospel music playlist" into the search field; it'll automatically pull up several options for you to easily choose from.
Make Your Own Communion Bread. Serve Your Own Wine.
I'm a pretty literal person. So, while I know that communion is a traditional part of most church services (due to the context of what the Apostle Paul spoke of in I Corinthians 11:17-34), I also know that when Christ instructed his disciples to eat bread and wine in honor of his sacrifice, when he said, "do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:14-23), he didn't say it in a temple/church. That said, just because your church may not be collectively meeting right now (or you may be personally choosing not to go for health reasons), that doesn't mean you can't partake of communion. I know a few married couples who do this together every week. Even before COVID-19, I did it. You can simply reference Luke 22 and/or I Corinthians 11 and then partake of grape juice (or red wine). Shoot, you can even go all out and make your own unleavened bread if you want to. I found a really easy recipe here. (If you want to wash feet as well, all you need is a basin of water and you're all set.—John 13:1-7)
Lots of Folks Are in Need. Give to Some.
Tithing comes from Malachi 3. While I do find it fascinating that so many churches profess that the Old Testament has "passed away" yet somehow the exception is made when it comes to collecting coins, that's another article for another time. For now, what I will say is, according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, all of the Bible is relevant and applicable. Still, different people interpret tithing different ways. I get that.
What I will say is, what's not up for debate is Christ once saying that, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35—NKJV). Whether it's sending money to your church, supporting an online ministry that you've been checking out since the pandemic or simply giving to someone in need, make sure that you sow into someone else's life.
Two things that I've been giving to, as of late, is The Black Chef Movement (it consists of two Black female chefs who feed protestors and people in need, free of charge) and the needs of Navajo Nation (check out The Navajo Water Project). Anyway, tithe literally means "10 percent" and the Bible says that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-9). In a nutshell, this means that we've got to actually sow something. Being out of church should never hinder that. Please make sure that you do it.
If You’re in “Phase 2” or Up, Hold a Small “Praise Brunch” at Home
Now, I'm mentioning this one, mostly for the extroverts out here. While I am more of an ambivert myself, I do personally know extroverts and it's pretty legit how this pandemic is taking a toll on their spirit, due to the constant lack of social interaction. That said, I live in Nashville. We have a different health department than Tennessee, so we kinda do our own thing. Anyway, at the time that I'm writing this (because 2020 really has been all over the place), we had to rollback to Phase Two which consists of being allowed to have private gatherings of 25 or less people. If your city is in the same phase (you can always Google to find out or contact your mayor's office to confirm), while I wouldn't advise 20-something folks being all up in your crib, this does make it possible for you to have a few family members and friends over for a brunch on the day that you observe whether it's Saturday or Sunday.
I don't know about y'all, but I grew up in a church where, it was common practice for there to be a potluck dinner, immediately following church service. It was a cool way to catch-up with people you hadn't seen all week and enjoy a meal while you're at it. And in times like these, brunching/potlucking is a good reminder that, even though church may not be going the way that you're accustomed to, there are alternatives that can make Saturday or Sunday pretty sacred, special and enjoyable—in spite of.
Remember God Is Everywhere. And Is for Responsible Living and Good Health.
Yeah. I'm not gonna even link all of the stories I've read of church leaders and congregants who defied their city's mandates and either met up at church when they shouldn't have or went without a mask on. All I'll say is, for every person who claims that it's their God-given right to go to church, even in a pandemic that could put them and others in harm's way, the Bible that they are toting on their way there says this:
"And here's why: God gives out Wisdom free, is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding. He's a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well, a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere. He keeps his eye on all who live honestly, and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones."—Proverbs 2:6-8(Message)
Seeking out knowledge and understanding about what's going on right now and then applying common sense to it? The Bible itself says that it can help to protect you. Let them.
I know that 2020 has been on some 2.0 stuff when it comes to creating and adjusting to a new normal. But that doesn't mean that a different way of living can't still be good. As far as church goes, I'm literally praying that these options can make living in the time of COVID-19, just a bit more bearable. Until you can attend your home church, once again.
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