“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 3:3-9
In many ways this recent pandemic has proved to be testing and trying on faith. Peter here is speaking how various trials are used by God to test the genuineness of our faith. I hope in the midst of struggle and hardship that we as a body of believers are passing the test.
I hope from week to week you are longing more and more for the public worship of the people of God. God created us for fellowship with one another and for worship. And yet there was some news in the past week that should trouble all Christians. The Barna Group did a survey that showed that 48% of churchgoers did not livestream church in the last four weeks. 40% watched their own church service. 23% watched another church service instead of, or in addition to their own.
Technology is not perfect, and the internet doesn’t always work as it should and there are some who don’t have the means or ability to connect to a livestream of a church service. But it should be very disturbing that almost half of all churchgoers have not tried to participate in their church’s livestream. I think we all want the livestream to go away in place of in person services again but beware of the Scriptural truth that the testing of our faith shows where our heart is really at. Unfortunately, for many of those who are not tuning in any longer this crisis is simply showing the true nature of their hearts and what is important to them. For a Christian worship with the saints of God should be of paramount importance.
I want to encourage you again to take advantage of both of our services on Sunday. Christians should desire to worship and if possible be present at the stated worship services at their particular church. Each Sunday 11am and 6pm should be the most important hours of your Lord’s Day. And if there is anything else that is crowding that out, I ask you to humbly examine your heart.
For some technology makes it easier to attend both services right now. For others, the technology makes it impossible. But you can still set aside that time at 11am and 6pm to go through the order of service on your own and have some connection to the body of Christ. If you don’t have a hymnal at home yet let me know and we will be happy to bring you one.
When we are able to meet in person again (hopefully soon), I realize that age, or distance may make both services not possible for you. There are circumstances where that is true. But for many others I hope that our two worship services at Faith Bible Church become the two most important things of your week. Anyone who doesn’t want to go home between services and try and make it back at 6pm has an open invitation to spend any Sunday afternoon at the manse. We’ll even throw in a meal or two.
In the waiting take advantage of what you do have available to you. Seek ways to pray for change. Continue to pray for wisdom for the session. Appeal to the civil magistrates for change. There is a lot which we can be doing now.
Let us guard our hearts in the midst of trial and crisis and let us never settle for a “new normal”, unless that newness is a greater hunger for God, His Word, and His people.
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,” Hebrews 2:1-3
I encourage you to watch and read the following resources. I hope they are a challenging encouragement to you. They were for me.
From an OPC Pastor in Idaho:
Q & A from the OPC Website: (Notice the question posed states “must I?” I think our attitude should be, “we are blessed to”)