Not meeting on Sunday could be the best thing that happens to Church

As happens around the country, I gathered early this morning with three other mates to read scripture, pray, and seek God – amid the business of everyday life.

With news of our church suspending Sunday services until (at least) mid-April, the question for us was obvious: what does Church look like when we have no church?

Instead of going bigger and reaching more people, I want to go smaller and reach less people well.

Some feel worried; others frustrated. Some might (secretly) be thankful for a week off! But amid the many emotions, an opportunity has presented itself to us, and we’d be wise not to miss it.

This morning we imagined what the Church could look like if we didn’t have Sundays. While I’m cautious to admit it, it was attractive – and challenged us to reflect on how passionately we were actually following Jesus.

The gospel clearly calls us to be deeply involved in community, and I recognise the unique and powerful opportunity presented to us through corporate prayer, worship, and learning together at church. So while I don’t suggest for a moment that we should forget about meeting on Sundays, I do think this is a wonderful opportunity to question our weekly rhythms and routines.

An opportunity to ask ourselves if we’ve veered off-path from the example of life given to us in Jesus.

Here are some of my early reflections about what our faith could look like, in light of these ‘no-church-on-Sundays’ times:

  • More than streaming our service online. While I’m grateful for the ability to access Christian messages online, and I acknowledge the gift that online church is to those who experience isolation, I don’t want a screen to replace my meeting time. I want more connection, not less. So, instead of going bigger and reaching more people, I want to go smaller and reach less people well.In a busy, teched-up culture I’m attracted to the Jesus that made time for individuals. One-on-one, our engagement level is actually higher, and our reflection goes deeper. I can’t hide from a mate sitting across the table from me. I wonder if I’ll find myself more convicted, comforted and challenged by the gospel in meeting with small groups* and individuals than I will in the grandeur of our service?

    Could this be a time to stop relying on Church as the weekly ‘tick-box’ for God engagement?

  • Everyday engagement. Corporate prayer, worship times and scripture readings are great – even integral. I don’t believe that life was designed to be lived alone. But are there times when I rely on our Sunday message to challenge my lifestyle, to deepen my scriptural knowledge, and to remind me to humble myself in prayer? Do I really need a band to bring me to a place of worship? Could I be more intentionally listening for God’s voice, and seeing God’s fingerprint, in what I’ve called the mundane moments of my day?Could this be a time to stop relying on Church as the weekly ‘tick-box’ for God engagement? Could I be more vulnerably engaging with God every day?
  • Intentional community. I love the people of our church – but maybe we could be more intentional. Seeing each other on Sundays is so convenient that often a week will go by, and I won’t have deeply or intentionally engaged with the people of our community as much as I would like.How can we reframe our time together to foster more laughter, vulnerable discussion, shoes-off-at-the-door, help-yourself-to-the-fridge community where each person feels seen, known, and understood? Perhaps, as the church doors close for these few weeks, my doors can open, our couches can replace the pews, and we’ll find ourselves meeting one another and Jesus in an all new light.

Our Sundays are going to look a little different for the next few weeks. But instead of that being a hindrance to my faith, I want it to be a catalyst to a deeper, more enriching life that more closely resembles that of Jesus.

True community … involves more that pre-service prayer and post-church coffee in the foyer.

So, in light of COVID-19 church closures – when we’re simply not allowed to meet en masse – I’m reminded that the gospel is received and lived in the mess of the everyday. God’s Word speaks powerfully into our lives, and that it’s in observing, learning, and following the rhythms of Jesus’ own life that we start to see our own transformed.

I’m reminded that true community is born in messy circumstance, and involves more that pre-service prayer and post-church coffee in the foyer. I’m reminded that loving your neighbour can be as simple as checking in to see which elderly neighbour needs toilet paper and extending an open invite for whoever would like to come around for dinner.

And, when we gather again in time to come, because of the reflections and actions made now, maybe I’ll be a more active church member; a more united church member; a church member more in love with Jesus.

And with faith lived by every person, everywhere, every day, perhaps our gathering together on a Sunday will make more sense than it did.

* Editor’s note: Eternity is aware that in coming days, it’s likely that small groups will be restricted and for some that may already be the case – and that Christians will be meeting as households or over Skype, etc as some churches are already doing.