Will COVID Kill Church?

Paul & Susan Dunk   -  

Will worship gatherings be resumed or reduced to apps? Will COVID kill the church?

While there will undoubtedly be changes, it is too early to predict what those changes could possibly be.

To borrow a phrase from CS Lewis, I am reluctant to look at the days we are living in with “chronological snobbery”, as though threats to the existence of the church is somehow new.

In Matthew 16:18 after Peter confessed that Jesus was not merely another religious teacher, but the Son of God, Jesus responded by saying, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

When Jesus said hell wouldn’t prevail against His church, it was circa 33AD. In 70AD Rome sacked Jerusalem and burned the temple. In 64AD this guy named Nero came on the scene and it wasn’t a great time to be a Christian. In 81AD Domitian came into power and persecution went from erratic to systematic. In 1347 the most fatal pandemic in human history wiped out between 75–200 million people. We could go on, but we don’t even need to walk down the corridors of history to imagine an utterly simple church, struggling to survive – we need only turn our attention to the modern day, persecuted church where being on the brink of survival is their day to day reality.

COVID has stripped everything away in a physical sense from  church, but it will not kill the church.

I am thankful for technology. Thankful that in this difficult time, I can see the faces of my Redeemer family on my laptop as I encourage you to rest and be revitalized in God’s grace, staring into my webcam, sending the occasional joke into dead silence. (Perhaps not much different than normal.) We’re all thankful for the ability to see each other on Sundays in our living rooms and yet, it is a severely limited form of connection. It’s a great bandaid for the present, but hardly the way of the future.

While we don’t know when it will be safe to gather together again, when it is safe and responsible to do so, we will gather again. The people of God gathering together is not a man-made institution, it has been God’s institution – from the beginning.

In the beginning, in the Garden, we find God walking with our first parents in the cool of the day.
God with us.

After man sinned, God humiliates Himself, condescends to dwell with His people in the Tabernacle, surrounded by 12 deeply flawed tribes, to be with His children who He loves.
God with us.

In the New Testament, God humiliates Himself again, wrapping Himself in the dirt of His own creation, human flesh, in Jesus Christ, surrounded by 12 deeply flawed disciples, who He loves.
God with us.

Today, united to Christ by grace & faith, the Holy Spirit indwells God’s children – His deeply flawed children, who He loves.
God with us.

In the end, according to Revelation, our King will return, restore all things, raise us from death to enjoy new life, and we will dwell with Him forever.
God with us.

From Genesis to Revelation we continually encounter the goal of our loving God: to be with us. God is with us when we are on our own, but Christian faith has never taken the form of worshipping God on our own. This is why gathering will never be “the old way” of doing church. Gathering is both ancient and eternal. The family of God has always and will always, gather in community to celebrate God’s grace.

We don’t know when it will be safe to gather again, and for the sake of the greater KW community, we will not gather until it is responsible to do so – but Redeemer family, we look forward to when we do!

When that day comes, we will gather around the Lord’s table and remember that Jesus drank our cup of suffering so we could lift our glasses in celebration. Gathering together to find rest and renewal in the grace of Christ is what “this do in remembrance of Me” looks like. It’s what the church is – and hell won’t prevail against it.

 

Press on,

Paul