In many ways, this historic moment of COVID-19 is a reckoning. In a time when no part of church life is familiar or convenient, the parts that will survive and flourish tomorrow are the ones we prioritize today. COVID-19 may be the refiner’s fire that clears the dross and reveals a church plant’s commitment to community, or it may be the consuming fire that licks up our pretense of community like chaff. But it could also prove to be the crucible that forges community in a church plant where it was previously absent.
This pandemic exposes our ecclesiological commitments. For the communal aspect of church life to continue during COVID-19, instead of simply hibernating let’s exhibit three characteristics in our fight for community. Now is the time to lead your church plant to prioritize and pursue community.
We Must Be Motivated
In these times, it’s tempting to consider Christian community as necessary in theory, but not reality. This is dangerous. A communal Christianity is not something we can take for granted. It must be fought for. We must be convinced of its necessity.
There are two ways this happens. The first is that the church plant’s familiar experience of the rhythms of deep, Christ-adoring community becomes a cherished necessity. For such a church, the prospect of losing community puts a fire in the eyes of its members, and they get scrappy. They fight for it like it’s a fight to the death (because it is).
This pandemic exposes our ecclesiological commitments. . . . Now is the time to lead your church plant to prioritize and pursue community.
The other way church plants become convinced of the need to fight for community is when all its comforts and crutches are stripped away, and the absence of real Christian community becomes so pronounced that it can be ignored no longer. It’s possible, during “peace time,” for a church plant to call itself “passionate about community” when it’s not. But when the absence of community can no longer be filled with programs, hype, and relationally thin events, what’s left is a void. And this void can create a longing for the kind of genuine community only Christ can create among his people.
We Must Be Vigilant
The New Testament “one anothers” aren’t optional, nor are they contingent on convenient circumstances. We’re commanded to love one another as Christ loves us (John 15:12) and to comfort one another (2 Cor. 13:11). We may quarantine our bodies, but we don’t have the option to quarantine the command to bear with and forgive one another (Col. 3:13), to exhort one another (Heb. 3:13), or to confront sin (Gal. 6:1). COVID-19 does some interesting things, but it doesn’t have the ability to turn these biblical commands into suggestions.
COVID-19 does some interesting things, but it doesn’t have the ability to turn these biblical commands into suggestions.
In the immediate future, while many church plants are prohibited from meeting together, this requires some creativity. It will be hard, but it’s necessary. It may look like younger church members shopping for groceries for older or more at-risk members so they don’t have to risk exposure. It may mean members becoming more familiar with technology.
We don’t have to be in the same location to pray for one another. In fact, we don’t have to be in the same location to see one another. We can leverage the technology of phone calls, group-chat platforms, email, Zoom, Marco Polo, FaceTime, and so on. We can use technology and not be enslaved by it, but recruit it in service to King Jesus. We do this when technology ceases to be a toy for entertainment and becomes a tool for meaningful communication.
We Must Be Considerate
If I could, let me advocate especially for the anxious, fearful, and depressed in our church plants. Many of our brothers and sisters feel overwhelmed even when no pandemic is looming overhead. My heart breaks to know what a season like this does for the members of my church who already feel like they’re drowning.
In a time when no part of church life is familiar or convenient, the parts that will survive and flourish tomorrow are the ones we prioritize today.
We must be mindful of one another and wise about social-media engagement. Reach out to one another—especially those who depend on communal accountability in the fight against porn. Don’t let the depressed in your midst sink further into isolation and despair. Don’t let the anxious and fearful indulge in self-destructive worry. Let us encourage and remind each other of God’s sovereign goodness. In essence, planter, pay attention. Don’t let your brothers and sisters fall through the cracks.
If our church plants emerge from this pandemic with healthy, gospel-centered communities, it will not have been by accident. Church planters, lead your people in the fight for community during this time of necessary isolation.