On the Other Side of the Screen

On the other side of the screen, the “service” had just ended. The cameras and lights were turned off. The faithful few, who had come to serve and livestream the service, left with a quiet goodbye and a distanced wave.

In the still, dark and empty sanctuary, the events of the past weeks finally caught up with me. I looked out over the vacant rows of seats and felt a wave of grief. The color, action, and life that once danced around the sanctuary had been deployed. Like ghosts, I could see the faces of my church family. I could see their warm smiles, hands raised in praise, a caring hand on a shoulder. I could hear the echoes of music, prayer, and our youngest members calling out my name in hellos and giggles. Tears welled up in my eyes, and for the first time in weeks, I cried.

This is difficult. This is sad. This is loss.

Loss is a great magnifier. It highlights the many things we may have taken for granted. It leads us to discover the things most important to us. And it has a way of putting a value on invaluable things.

Without knowing it, I’ve taken for granted gathering with my church family. Attending services, the many Bible studies offered, and the extra events now seem like a dream luxury afforded only to those who live in fantasy, far off-places not affected by an invisible virus. I have taken for granted the way songs and praise fills a room, and how it turns into a life force that changes hearts. I miss the face-to-face conversations, seeing eyes filled with emotion, and having the honor of praying with someone in person. I miss hearing voices and the noises in the background of church life. I miss human touch- the handshakes, high fives, and hugs.

This is difficult. This is sad. But, could this be gain?

On the other side of this loss is joy. It has been an incredible thing to watch our church family rise up, bind together, and help & support each other. We’ve been creative in the ways to connect. We’ve started worshiping in a new way- livestreaming our service for the first time. We’ve started ending our day together with online prayer, word and worship. Encouragers are encouraging. Givers are giving. Servers are serving. Teachers are teaching. Gifts and talents are been utilized and used for God’s Kingdom. In many ways, we have been more intentional, more grateful, and feel more connected than ever before.

It is a strange thing to be joyful when you are grieving, but grief and joy can coexist. In fact, I think they complement and balance each other. Human feelings do not evaporate in times of trouble and uncertainty. But in the midst of our feelings and emotions, we can take hope in the fact that the Spirit will continue to empower us to move forward in unseen, unexplained strength.

Relying on our own power will only exhaust us, but relying on faith’s power will energize us. When we keep our eyes on the promises of God, this current situation is not the finality of reality. Our daily reality comes full of troubles and situations, but our eternal reality brings us joy and life. As a follower of Christ, we can be hopeful, future-focused, and embrace “for such a time as this” in both our joy and grief.

When this time passes, and it will pass, we will come out on the other side stronger. And what a perspective we will have. We will want to open our church doors wider, shout salvation, gather together more often, linger with each other longer. Our sanctuaries will be filled with color, life and action again. And praise, prayer and laughter will raise the roof.

Until then, we’ll keep being creative in connecting. We’ll keep showing up for our online services. We’ll keep loving those around us one step closer to Jesus. And we’ll continue to cling to hope and truth. Our future is secured by a sacrifice on a cross, and the Holy Spirit continues to help us and unite our hearts together, no matter which side of the screen we are on.

A memory to look back upon….

    


Love for the Local Church

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I knew the Church long before I knew Jesus. It’s where we were first introduced. His name whispered humbly and reverently in the prayers of His people. His name boldly proclaimed in petitions and healings, and shouted with enthusiasm in worship and song. Yet, I did not know what it meant to call Him mine until many years later. I didn’t know what joy and love would be found by calling Him my friend. The peace and gratefulness I would own by proclaiming Him as my Savior. Nor did I know the hope and boldness that would come with obedience to my King. I know and treasure all these things now, largely because of influence of the Church and the faithfulness and struggle of a bunch of imperfect people who love and strive to follow Jesus with their lives.

For forty years, the local church has been woven into the very fabric of my life. Less about a building and more about the people, it’s been a special place that has brought me warmth and familiarity, irritation and conviction, and firm grounding with love as I have grown in my faith and as a follower of Jesus.

Just as with any relationship, the Church and I have had a long, rich, complex one. I’ve experienced seasons and degrees of willingness, activeness and involvement. I’ve been stubborn and ungrateful, a complainer and a critic . . . a consumer. At times, I’ve gone to church for the wrong reasons with wrong heart intentions and sat through many services with wrong thoughts. And if you know my story, you know that I never wanted to be a pastor’s wife.

Often the things you never wanted are the very things you are to embrace. And you might just find that the very thing you never wanted to do is the very thing you love and are called to do – as you allow the Holy Spirit space to work. All those years, all those church services, the influence of so many faithful people, so many Bible studies, camp devotions, rededications, worship songs and hymns, forty years of prayers prayed over me, for me and by me have cumulated and forged in my heart (and life) a great love for Jesus, His people, and for the local church.  I love the local church.

The local church with all its faults, imperfections, and humanity is a very unique place.  It is a place where I have found the importance and value of being connected in a community with believers who are also working out their lives of faith and learning to love God and love others. It’s a place where I have been encouraged, equipped and challenged to figure out exactly what I believe, why I believe it, and what to do with this transformational truth I carry. It’s given me space to grow in my faith, helped me learn patience and practice extending grace. The church is not perfect because people are not perfect, but I see a desire in the local church to do better, to figure these things out. To change the perspective of what church is.

But most importantly, I love the church because it is where I met, fell in love with, and surrendered my life to Jesus. And the more deeply I fall in love with Jesus, the more I love what He loves. Jesus loves people. He loves His church. In Acts 20:28, the Bible tells us that Jesus loves the church so much He bought it with his own blood.

This motivates me to want to be the best shepherd I can, and advocate for my local church. With so many options, worship styles, changing culture surrounding how we “do” church, it is important to continually remember that God has placed us here together in this time as his local family of believers.  We gather together to worship and proclaim Jesus, encourage each other in his mission, and bear witness to his forgiveness, reconciliation, and the transformational power of hope, love, and joy found in Him.

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