“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1 (NIV)
What has been missing for 45 days? Starbucks! Maybe you are reading this from a part of the country that did not have this caffeine separation, but where I am from, the coffee community has suffered a slight set back. I did not know it had been 45 days until I anxiously drove up to the drive thru. I had heard they had opened, and this was the perfect opportunity to stop and get an afternoon pick me up. My family texted me their wish list and I placed the order. I must admit I was a little out of practice. I could not remember how to order my usual. It had been 45 days! I was having a socially awkward moment with the intercom. After placing the order, the nice girl with the face mask zapped my bar code on my phone for payment. As she did, I asked the question... How long have you been closed? At first, she was surprised, even wondering how much to engage in the conversation due to the dangers of the virus, or so it seemed. And then she answered... 45 days. Wow! That seemed like such a long time. I had seen a video that a friend of mine had taken just a few days before of the drive thru at Starbucks stretching for what seemed like a ½ mile. People had missed this experience and were willing to wait as long as was needed to enjoy their favorite beverage.
Why did they miss it? Because Starbucks and places like it had become part of their fellowship experience before COVID19. There they met others to catch up on life. It was a place of connect and comfort. Before this pandemic, how many Facebook posts had a coffee shop picture as they did their devotions or met an old friend. Coffee shops represent places to gather, work and to relax. In our culture today, they are an invitation to relationship building. They portray a place where everyone wants to be.
The local church is to be a place to connect with others in genuine fellowship. The Church works best when it gathers in unity of purpose. God created us to come together to encourage, equip and pray for one another. God’s people in unity is a beautiful thing. Jesus said that the greatest testimony to who He is happens when His people come together, love one another and are in unity. The Psalm captures the picture. Unity is a picture of something good and pleasant. People want to be a part of it. The Holy Spirit does incredible things when God’s people come together in a unified purpose to worship Jesus. It is powerful and attractive to others!
It has been since the second week in March of 2020 since we came together as a church family. I thank the Lord for the venues of social media that have helped us stay connected and growing. Through things like Facebook and Zoom, we have been able to facilitate services, spiritual growth and.... you guessed it, FELLOWSHIP! We are doing our best to create ways where you can gather and talk, learn and grow. We know you cannot do everything, but what you can do, it will certainly help. It is simply facilitating opportunities for our church family to stay connected and grow. Do not feel pressure, just connect where God leads.
During this season, I hope we have learned our relationships with others in Jesus is important. Maybe showing up casually late to church will be a thing of the past as we look forward to seeing our brothers and sisters in Christ. I trust that we will forgo the small impersonal talk when we see each other again and be genuine in our interest for one another. It would be great if when we do see each other, we have not forgotten how to say a genuine, “Hello” followed by a genuine “How are you?”.
When this is all over, we need to make sure we do not stay self-quarantined. We need to resist the temptation to stay virtually connected because of its convenience. To help you get ready for reentry, ask God to prepare you to connect. It may be a little awkward at first like me and the Starbucks intercom, but we will get through it. The important thing is we will be together. It will be a slow roll back into action. We will take precautions to ensure safety. We will introduce phases of opening. But the goal is to come back together, with the lessons learned from this time away. How precious it is when God’s people come back together to worship Him, encourage one another and invite others to join them.