Lockdown has certainly created a strange landscape on the church front. No one would have thought on 1 January 2020 that in 3 months’ time we would be restricted from meeting face to face, let alone that this would become the norm for months to follow.
The last 5 months have been difficult for most, it is not natural and should not be seen as natural for God’s people not to meet together regularly. It is painful not being able to worship God together or encouraging one another as we meet together. The longing to gather is natural, we are missing something that is important and vital to who we are as God’s people – fellowship in community or relationship.
I miss being unable to worship in song together, I have missed not being able to share in the Lord’s Supper together, I have missed being unable to hear God’s word read and taught along with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is easy to become completely disheartened in light of this. But I remind myself of Paul’s words of encouragement to the believers in Corinth when they felt down because of external circumstances.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Even in this discomfort that we face God is at work! We still belong to Him, we still march forward to eternal glory and God’s Kingdom is still being built even in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic when the physical gathering of God’s church is not possible. It is through this COVID19 pandemic that we have seen God’s word go out to more corners of the world than ever before.
Our church along with millions around the world have been forced to go online. Through this wonderful provision of technology God has enabled the church to remain in touch, albeit not perfect, and for his word to be heard by people who would never have walked into a church building.
As Christ Church Pietermaritzburg we can celebrate, because through our preaching and through our daily devotions people have had access to God’s word who would never have responded to a traditional message. On a typical Sunday our online Sunday service reaches an average of 250 individual devices, each device could have one, two or more people watching. So our Sunday messages are viewed potentially by 500 – 750 individuals each Sunday!
But being online means they are continuously being accessed, our service from the 24 May 2020 is now at 529 device views that’s 1300 – 1600 potential individuals who have watched that one service! This is something to give praise to God for. Multiply that by thousands and thousands of services around the world being uploaded and we see God’s truth reaching all corners of the world. Our Sunday messages are being listened to in countries that don’t normally have free access to teaching from God’s word.
But added to this we have our daily lockdown devotions which have been well received by our own church community. We have 300 people spread out among our 4 church communication groups. If each person sent the message on to 3 people (many forward it to more), we would reach an additional 900 people a day. But these messages are not only used by our church, they are online where they are regularly accessed; they are also sent to, and forwarded by, the Presiding Bishop to others.
My much loved Christ Church family, lockdown is tough, it’s not fun. But through our momentary troubles, God is surely at work. Would you celebrate with me as we see His word go out powerfully and like never before from our midst, and then celebrate in what it will achieve wherever it’s gone!