The Church is built around community.
In the Book of Acts, we read this about the church in Jerusalem:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).
But what happens when there’s a pandemic?
How does the coronavirus affect your church community?
How can your church be the Church in a post-pandemic?
Every church has had to adapt to life under quarantine, even as many church buildings remain closed until further notice.
But here’s the deal:
Your church can continue to be the Church.
Now, what being the Church looks like today will be different from the way it looked before COVID-19, and that’s okay.
To prepare your church for the post-pandemic, don’t focus on the present or what may or may not be in the future.
Instead, look to the past—in particular, study the Bible for inspiration.
To help you get started, here are four ways the twenty-first-century Church can channel its first-century counterpart from Acts 2:42:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Let’s take a closer look!
#1.…to the apostles’ teaching
The apostles taught what they learned from Jesus during the three years they spent following Him. They also showed how the central message of the Old Testament was always about Christ all along—even if the Jewish leaders of their day didn’t recognize it.
Today, we have the Old and New Testaments as a record of this teaching.
So how do we remain devoted to Scripture when we can’t gather to hear it preached?
- Sermons and Bible studies have moved online, with Facebook, Zoom, YouTube, and Google Hangouts allowing people to come together even while staying at home.
- Drive-in Church is now a thing. In areas where the land is available, some churches are inviting people to stay in their cars (or set up socially-distanced lawn chairs) to worship and hear a message on Sunday mornings.
- Tithe.ly’s church app allows church leaders to craft a unique experience for their congregation, with a media player, prayer wall, Bible, and newsfeed rolled into one.
- With many people looking for answers and turning to God, now is the perfect time to create or share resources for deeper Bible study. Online groups tied to these studies foster conversation, accountability, and friendship.
#2 …to fellowship
The Greek word translated “fellowship” is koinonia, a word that carries the sense of having common interests, of sharing life together. It’s no wonder, then, that just a couple of verses later, we read, “All the believers were together and had everything in common” (Acts 2:44). They shared each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), and we can do the same.
- Burdens come in many shapes and sizes, but many of them are financial. Some churches can offer practical help in the form of groceries and no-interest loans, courtesy of church volunteers willing to donate their time and money.
- Another way to bear someone’s burden is to walk with them in their times of struggle. Phone calls and times of prayer over Zoom are one way to do that when visitation is no longer possible.
- And since some needs are more sensitive than others, consider both public and private ways for folks in your congregation to share their needs.
#3 …to the breaking of bread
This probably refers to sharing meals together and to the observance of the Lord’s Supper.
We may not be able to enjoy lunch with the whole church family after services these days, but there are a few ways we can still break bread together.
- While not everyone agrees that the Lord’s Supper can be taken online, given Paul’s emphasis on the community eating from “one bread” in 1 Corinthians 10:17, some churches are doing just that. They even offer instructions for taking communion at home. Obviously, the apostle Paul was not thinking about virtual church services when he wrote his letters, so we have an opportunity to extend grace as we navigate this tough issue.
- Actual potluck meals may violate all kinds of social distancing rules, but now there are virtual dinners to be a part of. The whole point of breaking bread together is to enjoy one another’s company, and we can still do that over Zoom, even if there isn’t a way to pass the tuna casserole.
#4 …and to prayer
Now more than ever, the people of God need to join together in prayer for one another, prayers for their church, for our country, and for the world.
- Message boards, Facebook groups, and apps are great places to post prayer requests and words of encouragement, though it’s important to communicate your congregation’s strategy for online prayer requests.
- In some churches, prayer meetings have moved online. Though we may be physically separated, we can still be united together as we bring our requests before God’s throne.
- Being devoted to prayer also means that we are committed to praying for one another, even as we live apart. Consider a twenty-four-hour prayer vigil with church event registration software, where individuals can volunteer to pray for one hour, wherever they are.
Over to you
From those early days in Jerusalem down to the present, local churches have always had one thing in common: we’re all waiting for the Lord’s return.
As we move toward being the Church in a post-pandemic world, may we be reminded that when Jesus does return, there will be no more sickness or mourning or fear—and we will all come together once again for a meal two thousand years in the making (Rev. 19:6–9).
Coronavirus tool kit for pastors and church leaders:
- 5 Ways to Be the Church in the Pandemic
- Coronavirus in Church: 10 Ways to Keep Your Church Healthy and Discipled During the Outbreak
- Online Attendance Down? Here Are 4 Ways to Re-Engage Your Church
- Transitioning to Church Remote Work: The Definitive Guide to Managing Your Church Staff During the Outbreak
- How to Preach on Coronavirus: 7 Overlooked Sermon Writing Prompts from Scripture
- 7 Ways to Avoid Pastoral COVID 19 Burnout: How to Care for Your Soul While Caring for Others
- The CARES Act: 4 Must-Know Provisions for Churches
- Church After COVID: 7 Predictions for How the Church Will Change by 2025
- Returning to Church After COVID 19: Practical Lessons from the Bible
- Live Discussion w/ Pastor Larry Osborne of North Coast Church: 3 Things to Think About Before Opening Your Church’s Doors after COVID 19
- 7 Ways to Avoid Pastoral COVID Burnout: How to Care for Your Soul While Caring for Others
- 11 Online Church Ideas to Use During the COVID 19 Coronavirus Outbreak
- The Best Live-Streaming Video Solutions for Churches
- How to Take Your Church Virtual (Fast): The Ultimate Guide to Church Live-Streaming During Crisis