How Can I Be A Healthy Church Member During Covid-19?
By David Leong
It has been seven months since the coronavirus struck our community, and our church has been affected in many ways. We have not been able to meet physically for worship since March, and most of our fellowship and outreach activities have been affected.
How has the current pandemic affected us our personal relationships within our church community? Has the lockdown and subsequent restrictions caused us to become disconnected, and has not seeing other church members made us grow apart? Are we now so used to being by ourselves in the comforts of our homes on Sundays that we don’t feel the need to engage with other people from church?
As a worship leader, I have often said that although we are physically apart, we can still worship God together with one heart. However, after months of worshipping alone or in our family units and singing hymns by ourselves in the comforts of our homes, I wonder if we still feel that to be the case.
So how can we be a healthy church member during these times? To answer that question, I’d like to suggest that we first examine what the marks of a healthy church member are, before considering what we as members of our church should do.
Marks of a Healthy Church Member
From the first chapter of Philippians, we can draw some valuable lessons about the marks of a healthy church member as we consider the relationship between Paul and the church in Philippi. When Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian church, he was imprisoned in Rome, awaiting his sentence and chained to a Roman guard.
We can say that at the time Paul wrote this letter, things were really not comfortable for him at all. However, we see in Philippians 1:3-5 that the Philippians were still always on Paul’s mind.
1. Pray and care for one another
He prayed for them and thanked God for their faithfulness and partnership in his ministry, for they had prayed and cared for him and supported his ministry even as others had abandoned him.
Just like Paul, the mark of a healthy church member is to think constantly of one another in the community. This means praying for each other, caring for one another and meeting each other’s needs. However, caring for one another means we need to keep in constant communication with each other. Today we have technology which can help bridge the distance gap between us. We have voice calls, text messages and even video calls which enable us to keep connected with one another. All it takes is a “heart” that cares (and wifi). Having a “heart” for one another is not just in the mind but in action. For example, early in the circuit breaker, some of us sent food deliveries and masks just to encourage one another and to show our care and concern.
2. Build each other up spiritually
While meeting each other’s physical needs is important, being a healthy church member also means we are together to build up the Church. This relates to building up each other spiritually and making sure that each of us is growing and maturing in our faith. This is clearly seen in Philippians 1:9-11, where Paul prays that the Philippian saints may grow in love, knowledge and discernment, be pure and blameless, and be filled with the fruit of righteousness. This means that we must continue to pray for spiritual growth among members, be willing to correct one another, and spur one another to love and good works.
We can take action by taking time to engage with one another, not just socially over food or going for a run together, but also by engaging spiritually in reading and studying God’s Word together, sharing our spiritual struggles and encouraging one another towards a deeper commitment to God and the church. We must also not shy away from confronting each other’s sin, for it takes true love for Christ and each other to do what for most of us is awkward and uncomfortable but necessary for the growth of our members and the church.
3. Advance the Gospel
Another mark of a healthy church member is one that works towards the Church’s mission to advance the Gospel. Although much of our outreach and missions’ activities have been affected by the Coronavirus, we must not be defeated and discouraged. In Philippians 1:12-18, we see that even though Paul was kept in prison (unable to travel like most of us today) and circumstances were against him, the advancement of the Gospel was foremost on his mind. Paul reiterated in whatever way and however he could, that nothing mattered more to him than seeing the Gospel of Christ advanced.
This means that a healthy church member must continue to be focused on reaching the lost, not only individually among our families and friends but also by supporting and taking initiatives in church ministries that work towards the advancement of the Gospel. Circumstances have changed but new opportunities have become available.
For instance, during the lockdown period, it was easier to connect with friends as most people had to stay at home. And although our church could not have a physical evangelistic apologetics event in May as initially planned, we eventually had a Webinar in end August which was recorded and placed online on our church YouTube channel.
That gave opportunities for more people who could not attend the event on the day itself to watch the event at any time, and also allowed us to use the video to engage our friends at a more convenient time and in a more personal way.
In conclusion, perhaps it would be useful for us to ask ourselves this question: Do we really yearn to worship the Lord together with one heart and one mind as a body of Christ? If we do not miss the worship of God as a member in the community, is it because we do not feel that we are a part of this community of believers in the first place? Indeed, some people may have unpleasant thoughts or feelings about the church, an unpleasant experience in church, negative opinions of the church leaders, or unhappiness with some members.
It is important to remember that the church is not perfect. It is filled with imperfect people. Paul himself knew about all the troubles in the Philippian church, including people arguing and grumbling against each other, false teachers in their midst, and even two women fighting in the church. Yet he thanked God every time he prayed for them and he felt joy whenever he thought of them. A healthy church member should not harbour negative feelings about the church because such feelings are spiritually unhealthy.
It is my hope and prayer that we will all grow towards being healthy church members. I am comforted by Paul’s reminder in Philippians 1:6 that “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.