They say, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” That’s often true… I’ve been there. But sometimes you forget what you had, ’til you get it back. “During COVID,” not that COVID is over, but that’s what we say these days… we introverts had a bit of a heyday. To be frank, I didn’t like going to work in person back before 2020 any more than I do now, and I’d been work-from-home for a long time before COVID hit. I’m more productive – more functional – when it’s just me and the work without having to “people” all day.
For a little while, the church-from-home aspect didn’t bother me too much either. I don’t know whether it was the novelty of church in PJ’s or the convenience of not having to drive or set up, but it felt OK for a while. Then, it was just habit and caution. Yet as an active member of 5twelve City Church, the time came for me to show up again. I missed my people, I felt safer gathering after being vaccinated, and there were things to get on with!
This past month, we went to Italy for 10 days, missing two Sundays, and I came home with COVID, knocking out another Sunday. One of the two or three weekends before we left on our trip, we went to visit my in-laws. That’s four weeks away out of six, and then the next Sunday I was there, but masked and still feeling yucky. When you’re traveling or sick, you’re distracted, and maybe you don’t miss your routine that much, but this week, I was ready to be there with bells on. It was not what I bargained for; it was so much more.
If you’re one of our online members, you may be wanting to check out right now… please don’t. If you’re one of our in-person members, you might want to check out too… please don’t. Wherever you sit, this is for “all y’all.”
A substantial percentage of what Paul told the early Christians was about how they were to interact and behave when they gathered. Because his letters were written to churches that stood out in contrast to the surrounding pagan culture, some of his guidance seems strange to us now – women should not show up in braided hair and jewelry, for example. When one understands the practices of temple prostitution in the day, Paul’s guidance makes more sense. Just across the street or down the road, heavily-bejeweled women were behaving in a not-so-godly way, and Paul wanted God’s people to stand out by their good works and holy hearts instead. Actually, the latter guidance fits our culture just fine, in a way. We may not say jewelry and braided hair is what calls unholy attention to a person who shows up to church, but there are behaviors and attire that could be a distraction from the holiness of Christ inside a person, both at church and outside it.
Other guidance, though, is highly specific to how a church gathering should look. At 5twelve, we’ve been through 1 Corinthians 14 together more than once, discussing the expression of the Gifts of the Spirit in the church setting.
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.1 Corinthians 14:26-33, NKJV
If you’ve been with us for a while, you may have noticed that our services aren’t always the cookie-cutter variety. We tell our teams, “Have a plan, but allow room for the Spirit to move.” Karin may prophesy in the middle of a song, someone calling for the offering may preach a bit, members might come up during service and take the mic, sharing what God has laid on their hearts. This is right and proper in God’s sight! It’s all orderly, but it’s also Spirit-filled and Spirit-willed.
Notice, though, that in the passage above, Paul points out something very specific about these Spirited moments – “Let all things be done for edification [building up].”
Paul often seems like he is shaking his finger at the church, whipping it into shape, and that can feel too confining to us. Let me try to make it more palatable.
Sunday morning, now that I was back at church, unmasked and energetic, people asked me about our trip to Italy. During one such conversation, a friend introduced me to a guest she had brought with her. The guest and I began talking more about what Italy felt like, and somehow, we drifted into a conversation about what she is going through in her life right now. I did my best to encourage her… she’s going through a lot of change and transition. Yesterday morning, the Lord laid her on my heart and said, “She needs to hear from Me right now.” So I prayerfully sought a scripture and sent it her way. Her response said the encouragement couldn’t have come at a better time – she’d just got some bad news.
These little moments – impromptu meetings, opportunities for prayer or encouragement for one another, opportunities to prophesy or to tell our stories or bring a word for the edification of the body – they don’t happen from the couch, and they don’t happen if you sneak in the back after church starts and leave without engaging anyone. Gathering on Sunday isn’t about, “did I sing three to five songs and hear a sermon this week?” Gathering on Sunday is about building up. Don’t get me wrong – the worship and word are amazing, and they bring some predictability and structure, but they’re not the sole point.
Sunday, the Lord laid a word on my heart, and I thought it was for the whole church, but it’s a story I’ve told before. During the song after the sermon, God brought me to my knees (literally) instead. He said, “remember what I’ve done, remember who you are because I love you, just want Me in this moment.” And then, two men of our congregation moved to the mic to share their own Spirit-led words of edification and prophesy.
In that moment, it was better for me to be still and hear than to stand and speak. But here’s the key – DON’T MISS THIS – if I hadn’t been in the room to hear the Lord’s prompting to remember my story (which, in my own power, I wanted to stand and share because I was there and it was relevant), I wouldn’t have had that sweet, sweet moment of just feeling wrapped in His arms as He reminded me of how far He’s brought me.
I’m not saying that alone time with God isn’t important – it is! Moreso every day! But going it alone from week to week to week, we miss out on opportunities to know one another, and Jesus, better.
Don’t skip this video… it’s funny:
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:1-2, NKJV
You were not meant to live this Christian life alone. You were meant to be a member of a body. We use those words so much in church that we forget what they refer to.
…But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.1 Corinthians 12:24b-27, NKJV
We are the body of Christ. If a body lacks a hand or a foot or an ear, we say that body is missing something. If you are live-and-in-person on Sunday morning, be sure you – whichever part of the body you are that day – are doing what that part is called to. Encourage… speak… prophesy… pray… sing… serve. If you’re not with us Sunday because you have to work, or are traveling, or are sick, Godspeed and we prayerfully await your return! But if you’re not with us and could be, we long to see you face-to-face, to bear your burdens, to share your load, and to offer you sweet, unique moments with Jesus. Personally, I hope to see you soon.
Do you have a story of life change? We would love to hear it. Let us hear how God is transforming your life and the lives of those around you through the power of Christ. Drop us a line at [email protected] or submit a form using the button below! We’ll get in touch and work with you to share your story.