As we enter the 5th month of the COVID-19 global pandemic the short term looks as murky as ever, particularly here in the US. All of us feel the need to get back to life as we know it to some degree. Research is consistently showing the long-term effects of “quarantine life” on both adults and children are dramatic and almost universally negative.
Let’s be honest. We are all in an unnatural place. This is not a new “normal” because there is nothing normal about this at all. In many respects, to “quarantine” a human being is perhaps, one of the most “anti-human” things we can do. After all, humans were created by God to go. Eden was never meant to be a safe place for Adam to quarantine away from the world, it was a starting place from which Adam would bring the whole world under his dominion.
My desire to not to spark a debate on the legality or medical necessity of quarantines. There is already plenty of that on the internet. My desire, as a pastor, is to point out that spiritual dangers that have now crept into our lives as we have slogged through the COVID-19 pandemic. With this in mind, I have observed bad spiritual habits emerging in my life and the life of many that I shepherd as this crisis has unfolded over the last few months but the one habit that it causing the most spiritual damage is obvious.
Habit: “I don’t go to church on Sunday’s”
Now, due to the sensitive nature of this issue, let me provide a bit of qualification. For starters, I understand that many faithful Christians cannot and should not attend church services right now. Being unable to attend worship gatherings in a local church during a global medical crisis is certainly not a sin.
While I believe there is sufficient grace in these unique circumstances that have kept us from gathering, as a pastor, I cannot ignore the spiritual dangers present when a Christian cannot obey the New Testament command to regularly assemble with the people of God. (Hebrews 10:25) Just because it is necessary for many does not mean it is spiritually benign. Breaking the weekly gathering rhythm is a big deal. It just is. As this crisis continues to drag on, many churches are seeing the long-term effects of disconnect from the physical, weekly assembly in the lives of Christians. The pattern is emerging: The longer a Christian stays away from the assembly the less they feel connected to that assembly. Christians are reporting depression in record numbers. The number of Christians who say they are spiritually at a low point continues to rise. As a pastor, I have seen a clear connection between those who cannot attend and those who are suffering from spiritual depression, isolation, loneliness, and spiritual lethargy.
But what can we do? For those who simply cannot attend worship gatherings do this:
Work to Keep the Rhythm
Even if you cannot attend in-person worship gatherings, make gathering with your family to watch online services a priority. Many churches are seeing the number of people who watching online services drop. This is a sign that many of those who have chosen to stay away from weekly gatherings have stopped making weekly worship on Sunday’s a part of their weekly routines. This takes intentionality, but on the other side of this health crisis, the strongest Christians will be those who labored to keep Gospel-rhythms. Our kids (who are also getting used to not attending church) will thank us. Our souls will thank us.