Following Jesus, Yet Leaving the Church Behind

Because of the COVID-19 virus, it has been 8 weeks since my church has been able to gather together for worship or anything else.  Stay at home guidelines have been followed in order to keep the virus from spreading.  While I  hate not being able to gather with my church family, I think it is the right decision.  We’ve still conducted Sunday worship.  We tape the service early churchPNGin the week and then make it available online on Sundays for people who would like to worship.  The good thing about it being online is that people who don’t usually attend church are tuning in.  Yet, for anyone who has made church foundational for their life, a computer screen is nothing like the real thing of being present with others during worship.

I miss the faces of my church family.  I didn’t realize how much spiritual energy I drew from those around me until suddenly we could not be together.  The handshakes, hugs, smiles, and conversations with my church family are like food for the soul.  After eight weeks I find myself hungry for that steady diet of worship, prayer, study, fellowship, and ministry.  I’m glad that Jesus called us to be a part of the body of Christ, the church.  Following Jesus all by myself just doesn’t work for me.

Over my years of pastoring a church, I have had people tell me that they believe in Jesus, but that they really don’t need the church.  In one way this statement is true.  We don’t need Jesus plus the church to be saved.  A personal relationship with Jesus is what makes us a Christian.  We even get baptized. However, when we fail to be a part of the body of Christ and a local church, we are missing out on the kind of life that God intends for us to live.  I often tell people it is like falling in love, marrying the one you love, but then choosing not to live with the one you just married.  You are married, but you are missing out on the joy of the relationship.

When we enter into a relationship with Jesus, he invites us to be a part of his family.  When we bypass a relationship with the family of God, then we are out there on our own trying to live faithfully for Jesus.  I don’t want to be a Lone Ranger kind of Christian.  I need my church family.  Perhaps this what the writer of Hebrews meant in Hebrews 10: 24-25 – “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The day is approaching when we will be able to join together as a church family.  I can’t wait to be back with those who bring so much joy and meaningful relationships to my life.  The people of my church family are just like me:  fellow pilgrims journeying through this world as a follower of Jesus while trying to do the best to live for him.

As a Christian, COVID-19 has reminded me that I don’t want to follow Jesus alone and how much I need and love the family that walks with me.

Published by Dr. Philip W. Turner

Since 1991 I have had the joy of serving as Pastor of Pine Street Baptist Church in the community of Oregon Hill in Richmond, Virginia. The people I have met a long the way have inspired me in my daily ministry. I have truly been blessed.

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