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What COVID taught us about the Church  

COVID is gone—but its scars are not. 

 

As I talk with believers across the country, I’m hearing two universal observations. Call them “False Lessons.” I say false, because though they aren’t true, our conduct suggests we believe they are. 

 

Lesson 1:Church attendance is (apparently) optional. 

Judging by the number of folks who used to attend services but no longer do, one would think that the Bible has little or nothing to say about church attendance. But that’s hardly the case. 

 

We don’t go to church to merely “get” a sermon. Biblically, we go to church to GIVE. We give our voices in worship. We give our listening ear to people who are hurting. We share in prayer with those sitting next to us who need comforting. You can’t do that at home in your pajamas while watching a sermon. 

 

In retrospect, COVID appears to have been just the excuse some people needed to drop church attendance from their “To do” list. While some transitioned to other assemblies, almost every congregation I know is still down a little—or a lot—in attendance. Apparently, church attendance is optional. That’s (false) lesson number one.

 

Lesson 2: We don’t need to abide by the weaker brother principle.

During COVID, most churches wrestled with two polarized positions regarding masks. Group A was appalled that some in the church would “cave in” to mask mandates. Group B was appalled that some in the church would “endanger others” by not wearing a mask.

 

What was shockingly absent was any conversation about the weaker brother principle. Namely, “If my wearing a mask makes you more comfortable, I will happily do that for the sake of our unity in Christ.” And vice versa. 

 

That biblical mandate somehow didn’t apply. Instead, many churches split. But how did we jettison the clear teaching of Romans 14:3?  We’re commanded, “The strong believer should not look down on the weaker believer.” Or what about Romans 12:18? We’re told, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” On what biblical authority did we go around that?

 

How I wish we could go back and do the COVID thing with a more godly humility. If we are this easily divided over a relatively small issue, what will we do when something truly consequential comes along?

 

Heaven help the Church!

 
 
Hearing Plus Doing  

I bumped into an awkward Bible scene this week.

In Luke 8, Jesus' mother and brothers decide to visit Him. Problem is, He is inside a very crowded house. When word is given to Jesus that his mother and brother are outside wishing to see Him, He answers, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."

Was this moment awkward for Christ's family? Likely. But let's allow the full weight of His words to fall on us—which is what the Savior intended.

Do I want to be known as Jesus' brother or sister? Of course! And do you want the same? Certainly! Then—what are His criteria?

Those who hear the Word of God.

Those who do the Word of God.

Many of us come to church week after week—and that's good! We hear sermon after sermon—and that's good! But so often (at least for me), it fails to result in life change—and that's bad! On that basis, how can we say that we are truly hearing the Word, let alone doing the Word of God? Isn’t that more like self-medicating using the Bible as a mere self-help book?

I ask you. Do you just fill in the blanks of the sermon note page—or does Bible truth fill in the blanks of your soul? Are you a collector of sermons—or a doer of the Word?

Jesus knows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Where's the Urgency?  

What’s urgent in your life?

  • A spring yard project?
  • A new diet?
  • Setting up your will?

There's nothing wrong with any of these. But there's everything wrong with people who call themselves Christ followers—yet don't follow Christ's urgency in reaching the lost.

Jonathan Edwards declared, "Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering." So—why aren't we more urgent about reaching out to our lost neighbors and friends? Why don't we sense that "rotten covering?"

Six-year-old Sadie does. For some time, her family has prayed for an unsaved neighbor (call him "Sam"). Having built a friendship with Sam, they're thinking about getting him a Bible—and Sadie is entirely on board with this. Here's a conversation she had last week with her mom:

SADIE: Mom, is there a place besides heaven when you die?

MOM: (Explains hell in age-appropriate language, describing how non-believers are separated from God forever).

SADIE: (Visibly upset and fidgety) That’s IT?! One choice for forever?! Hurry up and get me that Bible for Mr. Sam. This is serious!

Sadie is right—this is serious! So, hurry up and __________________  (you fill in the blank).

  • Who is it that God has placed on your path?
  • What neighbor, relative, or coworker is God calling you to share Jesus with?
  • What could you do to take your relationship to the next level spiritually?

This is urgent!

Just ask Jesus.

 

“[the Devil]... stands waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it.”  —Jonathan Edwards

 

 

 
The High Cost of Unforgiveness  

 

Unforgiveness.

It might not be a real word, but it's a real attitude. And sometimes, we're all guilty of such twisted thinking. But unforgiveness is like drinking poison—and hoping someone else will die.

Speaking of unforgiveness, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has a favorite question she often asks of her audience when speaking. The question: “Are there one or more people in your life—past or present—that you’ve never forgiven?”

Nancy recalls, "I have asked for a response from tens of thousands of people, including long-time believers, Bible study leaders, and vocational Christian workers….In virtually every case, somewhere between 80 and 95 percent of the people in the room raise their hands….The vast majority of people sitting in church Sunday after Sunday (and many of who are sitting at home, having left the church, disillusioned) have a least a seed—if not a forest—of unforgiveness in their heart."

Why the stinginess? Why the rock-hard reluctance to forgive?

Glynn Evans comments, “One of the reasons we forgive so superficially is because we ourselves feel we have been forgiven only slightly by God. Cheap forgiveness is always a sign that we have not dealt adequately with our sin. One thing is sure—we’ll never rise above the level of our own experience. If we feel God forgave us casually, that’s how we’ll treat those who offend us.”

What would He find if Jesus Himself showed up for a one-on-one conversation about this issue with you and me? How much unforgiveness is lodged in your heart? In my heart?

Having been forgiven the whole slate of our offenses (surely numbering in the tens of thousands), how could we be so miserly in forgiving others? What could be LESS like Jesus than a heart of unforgiveness?

Forgiven much, let us forgive others much.

"Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

-Colossians 3:13

 
Going Nowhere  

In the proud community where I live, there stands a not-so-proud diner. The greasiest of greasy spoons, its notoriety stems less from what’s served inside on its faded Formica countertops than what’s outside.

The pot-holed parking lot has a sizable collection of vehicles going nowhere. Four Fed Ex trucks doze in the back corner. One has its hood tipped back, the boxy engine compartment exposed, as if imminent repairs are coming. They're not. Been that way for months.

As you amble across the lot, you can't miss the ice cream truck adorned with images of tempting frozen treats. It hasn't moved for months. Waiting for summer?

And who can forget the 1970s dark red Cadillac—its massive bench seats cracked with age and sun? You’ll find it parked next to the faded orange “Fire and Restoration” truck.

The parking lot hosts such a wide array of cars and trucks going nowhere, it makes me wonder. Is this graveled place:

  • A hospital for wounded vehicles?
  • A holding pattern for the undecided?
  • A car cemetery for the dead and dying?

Sadly, the scene reminds me a bit of evangelicalism in America. Like that lot, we are surrounded by churches going nowhere fast.

Of course, many dynamic congregations are alive and well, serving Christ and their community with significant impact. But so many historically solid churches are in decline. Churches that were once spiritually vibrant are now attended by seemingly "undecided folks" with one foot in the world and one in a confused Christianity. Then there are the dead and dying churches where nothing is new, nothing will change—and that's the way they like it.

God, spare us from becoming religious museums for a flat-tired faith. Breathe new life into us—and our dead and dying churches.

Amen!

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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