It's OK That Church is Closed
My husband and I have been at our church for 10 years. We prioritize going each week, we are involved in Biblical Community, we tithe, we volunteer, we attend our church’s events, and we are always trying to talk people into coming to church with us. We love church as a whole, and we love our church. This will never change, and my prayer is always that I appreciate and invest in our local body of believers more and more.
But as churches across the country have had to close their buildings and put a pause on all in-person get togethers, I want to let you know that it’s OK. I actually have a controversial opinion that temporarily pausing all Christian churches and communities could be better for the long term health of believers.
Why do we go to church?
Imagine that your relationship with Jesus was a time card, an old fashion “clock in and clock out” piece of paper. Every time you interact with God and grow your relationship with him, you punch the card in and out, keeping track of every hour, every minute that you invest.
For the past decade, probably 95% of that my card would be filled with church and church activities. I have been consistently learning from our Pastor (Hello Jeff), attending Bible studies, meeting in small groups, and listening to Christian podcasts. My relationship with God was continually encouraged by other people and taught from spiritual leaders I looked up to.
But as my world started to shift in 2018 when I had my son, I could slowly do less and less of this “Christian community” stuff. It was hard to go to a small group that started at 7pm, my son cried every second I put him in the church nursery, and out of exhaustion I wasn’t excited to listen to sermons in my free time. As my “time at church” and “time with other Christians” started to dwindle, my time card became pretty sparse. I honestly didn’t know what to do.
Over this last year, God has dramatically changed this in my life. I’ve begun to realize that church is not my relationship with God, it serves to encourage it.
Community > Time with God
The Coronavirus is highlighting a larger problem- many believers aren’t sure how to engage God without other people around them. No worship band leading music? No pastor teaching me? No small group asking for prayer requests? For many people this is brand new territory. I want to encourage you because just one year ago, I felt the same way, and I can now confidently say that my time card has flipped. Yes, I would say probably 75% of my relationship with God is now just me and him, and 25% is through my church and Christian community. This is not because I have devalued the church, I am still just as involved and invested! This change is because I have INCREASED the value and understanding of my time with God.
I’ve used this analogy before, but since it’s so good I can’t get away from it. Imagine this in marriage- if your entire relationship was built around other people. You and your spouse were getting together with other married couples, you were reading books about marriage, and you were singing songs about how much you loved each other, but you never spent any one-on-one time together. You would still be married, but your love would be shallow and your growth would be capped.
Friends, this is what I was doing with my relationship with God. I was so busy trying to invite people to church, lead small groups, and get coffee with Christian women that I didn’t make time to pursue God on my own. As I look around the church, I see men and women doing the same thing I was, and they are missing the most important part.
What would I do instead?
The first part of 1 John 2:27 says “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you.” Do you believe that is true? Do you believe you have full access to God? Do you believe you don’t need someone more spiritual than you? Better yet, we have the Holy Spirit, literally God within our hearts, minds, and bodies! Why do we live as though we are dependent on other humans for all of our spiritual growth?
Two quick things to do instead:
GROW DESIRE: I wasn’t intentionally spending consistent time with God because I honestly had no desire for it. My tank was being filled with church, Christian community and mostly a busy busy life and pretty fun schedule. Can you relate?
When I hit the point in 2018 where I wanted more of God, I began to pray “God, I want to want you, but I don’t. Fill me with desire.” Along the way, I found my new favorite verse in Psalm 73:25 - “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you”, which became my daily prayer.
After a few months, I began to experience what I can only relate to the feeling of being physically hungry. My soul and being began to hunger for more of God! Friends, this is not a man-made doing or a practice of self-discipline, but a spiritual miracle of God filling you with a taste for Him. Are you ready to begin to ask Him for a deeper desire? A.W Tozer says “You have exactly as much of God as you want”. (I have another full blog on God wanting our desire, not our doing).
TIME EVERY DAY: Many of us who grew up in the church know that we are supposed to spend time with God regularly, but I kinda thought it was just extra credit. Wow- I had it backwards. The pursuing God daily, one-on-one, is not extra credit, it’s the most important piece of class!
I don’t share this with any scent of legalism, a formula to follow, or a requirement you must hit. When I say you should create a designated time to be with your Father every day, I say this as a great invitation, not a task you must complete! If you’re always attending a small group, signing up for Bible study, and volunteering for our church’s nursery but you aren’t regularly spending time with God, you’re missing it.
This is where a closed church building could actually be a good thing! Could you imagine if every Christian took this extra time at home and dove head first into their relationship with God? Could you imagine if instead of attending Bible study, men and women across the world were hiding in their bedrooms, asking the creator of the universe to unveil his secret mysteries to them? We would see a REVIVAL among the entire world if the church got a taste of the deeper sweetness that comes from consistent alone time with Jesus!
So now what?
During the Coronavirus, you will still find my husband and I watching our church’s live stream every Sunday morning and I am still leading a church Bible study on Colossians. Yes, we believe in the church and will continue to intentionally outreach to our neighbors and people all around us every single day.
But the best part of my faith isn’t found in those things. The deepening of my knowledge and understanding of God is not resting on other people. Sweet friends, I find those secret riches and treasures where no one else sees me: sitting on my couch with God. Just like a marriage, this sweet intimacy is built one-on-one, in the secret place.
You are invited to do the same. Will you take time this week and sit by yourself with God, asking Him to fill you with a greater desire not for other Christians, but from the author and creator of life itself?
Want to know more? Listen to Hannah’s Podcast: “There’s More”
Here is a great episode called "The Coronavirus pep talk we all need"