While churches remain closed in Victoria, many Christians in other parts of the country face a new struggle to return to physical meetings…

We went to church on Sunday. Physically. In person. Even though we are on annual leave.

It wasn’t our church. It was the one five minutes from where Catherine and I are staying.

But it was safe. There were all sorts of well thought-out customised COVID safe protocols. Like our home church, it was far far safer than the coffee shop we went to afterwards; or the local Saturday morning sports we saw yesterday; or the shopping centre we went to on Friday. At church, every single person wore a mask.

And it was very good for us!  Spiritually, so good.

It was tempting not to go, though. We’re away on holidays. We could have stayed home. Or we could have tuned in to Village Church.

But it was so much better for us to physically meet with the people of God. As Mark Thompson says:

We were made to love and serve each other; to work together alongside each other as stewards of the world God created,’ and ‘fellowship requires presence… We are physical, temporal and geographically located persons. It is part of what it means to be human in this age.

Temptations to Stay Away

On The Pastor’s Heart a few days ago we talked about reasons that Christians put forward at the moment for not coming physically to church.

I’m a little concerned that, for some of my friends, we are letting the excuses to not come get in the way.

I can feel some readers getting defensive as I write this.

But, I’m a little concerned—spiritually concerned—that, for some of my friends (perhaps for up to a third of our churches), we are letting the excuses to not come physically to church get in the way.

Unless you are in a high risk group you should go back to church and help serve again in building up your local expression of Jesus’ body.

Try to work out honestly whether the reason you are not going is due to health, head or heart? Talk to a close Christian friend about this. Your perspective might actually be wrong here. You may not be seeing clearly.

Of course, there may be a genuine health issue. If so, stay home. But work on extra strategies to be spiritually fed and creative ways for you to build Jesus’ body. Don’t allow yourself to be a passenger.

If you are feeling highly anxious then it’s potentially a head issue.  It would be good to examine whether your anxiety is justified. There’s a massive jump in mental health problems in our community with COVID and very few of us are actually functioning at our best.

But if you are being inconsistent—if you have been to a family picnic, work, the gym or a coffee shop or you have stopped to talk to other parents at the school gate but haven’t been to church—then I think it could be a heart issue. At least be open to the possibility that you might be the target of a spiritual attack. 

If we keep cutting corners we won’t be encouraging others and we won’t be built up ourselves like we could have been.

What a wonderfully spectacular lie that would be: the devil tricking us, deceiving us, misleading us by telling us, ‘it’s safe to go to the gym but not safe to go where the word of God is.’

I felt this game going on in my head yesterday. ‘You don’t need to go to church Dominic! It’s fine for you to just listen to the catch up talk later. Just enjoy your break.’

That’s the problem with the best lies. They are half true. And in one sense it would have been fine to just do the catch up.

But if we keep cutting corners we won’t be encouraging others like we might have. And we won’t be built up ourselves like we could have been.

And little by little, almost imperceptibly at first, we will be gradually be conformed to be a little bit more like the world and less and less like the Lord Jesus.

So, I was really pleased to have been encouraged by the Christian people at the 8:45am gathering at St John’s Sutherland this week. It was better/richer/more engaging to go in person than to have watched online—whether their meeting or our own. And I was able to be a blessing to them as well in our short exchanges afterwards.

Now I’m really looking forward to being back with our home church family physically next Sunday.