Rick Warren is fond of saying, “You are not just called to believe, but to belong.”
While I disagree with some of Warren’s theology, he was right when he wrote in The Purpose Driven Life ,“We are created for community, fashioned for fellowship and formed for a family.”
However, during these COVID-19 days, our community is disconnected. Our fellowship is somewhat fractured. And our families, both physical and spiritual, have become detached, disjointed, and disassociated.
Our spiritual fellowship with one another has been affected by prolonged periods of time where churches were not assembling. Remote Bible studies that are continuing. And now with limited contact by “social distancing (which should be called physical distancing) in single Sunday assemblies. Some churches due to their size or the size of their building are unable for everyone to all assemble at the same time.
My friend and fellow blogger, Roger Shouse, recently referenced a Barna Poll that “one in three practicing Christians has stopped attending church during COVID-19.” According to their survey 53% have streamed their regular church assembly over the past four weeks, while 34% are “church hopping” digitally streaming a different online service than their own.
Sadly, 32% have “dropped out of church for the time being.” They are not attending, streaming worship services, or participating in on-line Bible studies.
My facebook friend and preaching colleague, Wilson Adams, sadly posted about a friend of his who took his own life. “Tragically,” Wilson observed, “we are seeing more reach The End of hope. Job loss, income loss, relationship loss, ‘normal’ loss.”
He further writes, “Then there is the fear factor: fear of catching the virus, fear of isolation, fear of the future, fear of the unknown, and even the fear of not knowing how to cope with fears.”
According to a poll published on the American Psychiatric Association web page “Nearly half of Americans (48%) are anxious about the possibility of getting coronavirus, COVID-19, and nearly four in ten Americans (40%) are anxious about becoming seriously ill or dying from coronavirus, but far more Americans (62%) are anxious about the possibility of family and loved ones getting coronavirus.”
“More than one-third of Americans (36%),” reports the APA, “say coronavirus is having a serious impact on their mental health.”
“The stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic can and is having an effect on people’s physical and mental health,” confirmed APA President Bruce Schwartz, M.D.
Add to all this, the recent racial unrest, violence in major cities, partisan political bickering during an election year, and the constant stream of bad news piped into our homes 24/7 and you have created a terrifying emotional tsunami of discouragement, depression, and despair.
More than ever God’s people need each other. We need connection. Community. And fellowship.
Encouragement is especially needed right now. “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (I Thess. 5:14).
Here are a few suggestions.
1. Give special attention to keeping contact with those members who are at greater risk mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually.
2. Write personal notes to shut-ins, elderly, sick, and others with special needs.
3. Frequently call other members just to “check-in” and see how they are doing.
4. The elders of one church took home-made cookies (thanks to their wives) and visited older members on the front porch at a safe distance and had a prayer with each family.
5. Face time or skype individual families.
6. Develop a small group on Marco-Polo to communicate with each other.
7. Depending on the state and community where you live and the COVID-19 situation, create a social group you feel comfortable with in getting together in each other’s homes.
8. With the above caveat, resume meeting others for a meal, coffee, or dessert at a local restaurant.
9. Have your children write notes and/or draw pictures to mail to older and shut-in members.
10. Run errands for those unable or uncomfortable with going out.
Please add your own suggestion in the comment section below of something you’re doing in your church family to stay connected.
Most of all each of us need to stay connected with our Heavenly Father through prayer and Bible study.
“Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman