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Why I Can’t Wait to Get Back to Church

Sam Allberry | July 13th 2020

Well it’s been many months now. March 15 was when my church switched to an online-only Sunday ministry. Since then, it’s been a new rhythm and pattern for Sunday mornings. Church on a screen hasn’t been ideal, but here’s the thing: at least there’s still been weekly ministry for me to receive. For all its drawbacks and limitations, I’ve been taught, fed, encouraged, and inspired by the ministry of my church during Covid. However frustrating this season has been on so many fronts, I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been without having at least this ministry available.

Here are some other things I’ve loved about it:

  • I don’t have to get out of my PJs
  • I can pause the sermon for a bathroom break
  • There’s no trouble parking
  • There are no awkward conversations

Yet for all this, I can’t wait to get back to church. To be there, in real time, physically present.

Why bother with church?

Why bother with church?

£4.99 £4.24

A short, readable book that explains clearly and simply what the church is and why it really matters.

There’s work God can only do when we’re present

The apostle Paul wrote to his Christian friends in Thessalonica,

We pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face (1 Thess. 3:10).

This is how much in-person, physical fellowship matters to Paul:

  • He prays for it. Do we pray to be able to be with our fellow-believers? Paul did.
  • He prays most earnestly. This is not a casual prayer request. He’s not checking a box. This is heartfelt. It is almost desperation. It weighs heavily on him.
  • He prays night and day. It’s not something Paul has a designated slot for every Tuesday for five minutes. He is constantly praying round the clock for this. Its never far from his mind.

Paul had papyrus. He could write. That wasn’t nothing. As we know, his writings are precious and life-changing. But for Paul this wasn’t enough. He wanted to be with them. Ministry could be done in-person that couldn’t be done remotely, even for an apostle. For him to have the opportunity to be with them, and to choose not to, would be unthinkable for him. It would be imbecilic.

There’s more joy

Paul was not alone in his longing. John wrote to his Christian friends,

Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. (2 John 12)

Paper and ink weren’t that cheap. But this isn’t why John was reluctant to use it. Face to face would beat paper and ink because of the joy it would bring. When we’re apart from those God has bound us together with, a letter or email is better than nothing. A skype or Zoom meeting can be better than that. But nothing beats seeing someone physically face to face. John says it makes our joy complete –– for all of us. It is an effort, sure. It is less convenient. But it’ll do something for us that can’t be done if we don’t go. Time apart is easier. It is also deeply, often imperceptivity wearying. We were designed for physical time together with our church family. Without it a significant part of our Christian life atrophies and we gradually find ourselves depleted and debilitated without it. No one’s Christian life is improved by opting out of this sort of fellowship.

There’s more purpose

What’s the opposite of not going to church?

Let the writer to the Hebrews answer:

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another (Heb 10:25).

The opposite of not meeting together as church is encouraging one another. That is what happens when we gather together. It is how God has designed it to be when we’re all around.  We’ll lack encouragement if we’re not there.

And so will other people. It doesn’t just say “be encouraged” as if the encouragement was simply something for us to each sit back and receive. We’re to encourage one another. God has designed your physical presence to encourage other believers in their faith. If we choose to opt out, we miss encouragement and everyone else does too. That’s how much you matter. There is a sacred purpose to being at church Sunday by Sunday: to make sure we find and receive ways of being encouraged, and to make sure we identify and take opportunities to encourage other people.

There are people who sadly can’t come to church. For many of us lockdown was a novelty, if a somewhat wearying one. But for some it is what normal life has always been like. For the rest of us, though, as we emerge from the restrictions of Covid-19, let’s not go from being people who can’t go to church to people who won’t go to church. There’s too much to miss out on.

Why Bother With Church? is a brief, accessible but thorough guide to church. Sam outlines what church is and why we need it. And how, when we have got it wrong, we can move closer to what a true church should be.

Part of the Questions Christians Ask series: a range of short, simple books designed to help Christians understand what God has said about these questions and many more in the Bible. Shop the entire Questions Christians Ask series here

Sam Allberry

Sam studied theology at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford and has served on staff at St Ebbe's Church, Oxford, and St Mary's, Maidenhead. He is now based at Immanuel Church, Nashville. A popular conference speaker, Sam has written several books, including What God Has To Say About Our Bodies, Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?, and 7 Myths About Singleness.

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