Miss Us Much?
(Guest blogger Grayson Gilbert is a church planter under the authority of the North American Missions Board.)
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of theLord!” (Psalm 122:1)
I’m not what I’d call an emotional man. Most people consider me an introvert. But I believe I’ll cry when we are finally able to gather with the saints again in the household of the Lord. I miss my family in Christ tremendously. I miss shaking hands with the men of the church and asking how they’re doing. I’ve connected with some through the phone, but it isn’t the same. I miss the loud, out-of-tune singing of the children. I miss seeing moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, singles and marrieds. I feel the absence of partaking in the Lord’s Supper with my brothers and sisters. Most of all, I miss sitting under the preached Word and, as my elder’s wife put it, “hearing the faithful turn their pages to open up the Scriptures and follow along.” I also miss my morning coffee at the local diner with a few of my church buddies and our small group meetings on Wednesday nights.
I’m not what I’d call an emotional man, but I am growing increasingly frustrated with my state's stay-at-home order. I sense a foreboding incompleteness that is growing.
The apex of this frustration happened on Easter Sunday as the family and I got dressed in our Easter best and plopped down on the sofa for the live-streamed worship. The extent of our fellowship was typing “hello” into the comments section on YouTube. The resurrection sermon did lift my spirits—but it was just not the same.
As I think about the prospect of sitting through another “virtual” worship service this Sunday, I am thankful for the technology and thankful for the diligence of those who put the service together. Yet I am filled with sorrow that, once again, I will not be in the presence of my brothers and sisters. Look at me—Mr. Introvert… sitting here missing people. But not just people, my people.
It is this desire for community that lets me know I am truly alive in Christ. If my heart did not yearn for them and for the assembly, I would have every reason to fear I am not in Christ. If my “emotional equivalency of a rock” did not dissipate during this time and I remained unchanged, even while separated from the body, there would be every reason to doubt the authenticity of my walk with Jesus.
I pray that you, too, feel an insatiable hunger toward the church, especially during this time. We aren’t just a gathering of like-minded people, but the place where believers find delight in their unity and service to one another. Church is where we gather to be fed the bread of life so we will grow in maturity and attain to the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Church is where we are equipped to bear one another’s burdens, encourage one another, build each other up in their most holy faith, push one another on to persevere to the end, and pour out compassion, forgiveness, love, and brotherly devotion. Most of all though, church is where this body of people comes together to glorify our Lord, Jesus Christ, who redeemed us from the curse of sin and brought us into newness of life. We come together not simply to serve one another, but to praise our beloved King.
We have a blood-bought unity to which nothing else compares. There is nothing stronger. When everything is said and done and the earth is consumed in the fires of judgment, this bond will remain.
By this point in your COVID-19 quarantine, if you aren’t missing the assembling of your fellow believers, I am genuinely concerned for your soul. If you claim Christ, yet nothing in you yearns for the company of other Christians, then you ought to be incredibly concerned over the state of your soul. We should be growing an insatiable hunger to return to the house of the Lord.
This quarantine period may be the perfect time for you to take inventory—to reassess your walk with Jesus. Examine yourself to see if you truly love God with all your heart, if you genuinely love your neighbor more than yourself, and if you’re really striving to serve others at every opportunity.
A Christian has made a covenant with the local church. Scripture presupposes that each believer will be connected to a local manifestation of the body of Christ—not just the worldwide body. If you’ve been streaming the worship of another church instead of your own, that, too, might be a signal in which you need to take stock. The point is not that you can’t or shouldn’t watch the worship of other churches, but simply that those men are not your preacher or song leader or elder and their community is not your community.
Only YOUR elders are accountable for your soul. God has charged YOUR elders to shepherd you. God calls you to obedience and submission to your local church’s elders. Not John MacArthur. Not John Piper. Not Joel Osteen, Max Lucado or Rick Atchley. Not some random dude on the internet with an opinion. YOUR elders, YOUR preacher, and YOUR church community are a gift from God. He has placed you in your community of faith for a reason.
I pray that you crave YOUR people—that the day you assemble with them in person will be a celebration of God’s goodness. If you’re not missing your church family in any way, it’s time for a heart exam.
"Let them extol Him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders" (Psalm 107:32).