We have been given a gift. For the most part, we don’t see it as a gift. We see it as a scourge, an inconvenience, a wedge dividing families, friends, churches. And it is all those things, but it is also a gift.
During the past 18 months we have been discouraged from holding large indoor gatherings. For a while, that meant only gathering online to worship or study God’s Word together. Then, we were able to gather for worship, but only while wearing masks and maintaining physical distance from one another. Presently, we can gather for corporate worship; face coverings are encouraged but not required.
So, what about this is a gift?
If you experience Sunday mornings the way I experience Sunday mornings, you may begin to see the scourge as a gift, as well. There are a few brief moments for fellowship and engagement with others before “Sunday School,” before the worship service, and during “Grace & Peace.” Following the service, there is another tiny window of fellowship before everyone gets in their cars and goes their separate ways until 9:00 or 10:00 the next Sunday. However, for people who serve on Sunday mornings, these opportunities are often filled with duties. For our family members who are worshiping from home to avoid the risk of crowded spaces because of age or underlying health conditions, these opportunities are non-existent.
Ugh, this does NOT sound like a gift! What’s your point?
The gift is the opportunity to return to our roots. Sunday morning corporate gathering for worship was never meant to be the “be all and end all” of our time seeking God with fellow believers. It can be a wonderful, beautiful experience of worship and learning and feeling God’s presence. But, it lacks vulnerability, accountability, intimacy, and commitment. God made us for relationship. He made that abundantly clear from the creation story to the life and ministry of Jesus and throughout the letters to the churches. This kind of relationship cannot be developed in a corporate worship setting.
The limitation on our group sizes IS THE GIFT! Historically, the growth of the church (both numerically and in spiritual maturity) has taken place in the context of small groups. I recently began participating in a small Bible study group. The first week there were two of us, the second week there were four. A group this size, 2-8 people, can be a safe space to be REAL. I don’t want to be vulnerable and share intimate details of my spiritual struggles in Sunday morning worship—and I’m sure you don’t, either—but, in a small group, established as safe and confidential, we are free to be vulnerable and accountable with sisters and brothers in Christ.
Don’t misunderstand me. Being in a small group takes effort.
- Commitment is hard. The commitment to show means I have to decide that it is more important than anything else I could spend that time doing – even sitting on the couch with my big ol’ dog.
- Accountability is hard. I don’t like having to admit when my Bible has been collecting dust or when I’ve been talking to everyone except God about my struggles.
- Vulnerability is REALLY hard. Vulnerability exposes the chinks in our armor. It requires trust. It doesn’t happen quickly or easily.
But it is worth the effort.
Am I alone in my longing for deeper, real, God-centered relationship with the faith family I encounter each Sunday? If you share this longing, unwrap the gift. Invite someone, or several someones, to join you on the journey. Set a date and keep it. You will be glad you did.