Before you go back to church, answer this question.

Listen, I want to be back in church, I really do. I was encouraged to hear the President talk about worship as something essential to the individual and now that our country is moving forward back into church buildings, I hope that a new season of God’s Spirit floods our places of worship.

But, in addition to all of that, this question lingers in my heart, why do we want to go back? I’m not asking a question of should we go back; I’m asking a spiritual question. This isn’t about safety and rushing to quickly to be around others who may or may not have COVID-19. I’m asking a spiritual question.

Why?

For me, this question raises all sorts of other questions. Why was I going to church before the pandemic? What am I hoping to find once I get back there? What will be different and what will be the same? The answer to some of those questions are yet to be seen, as we may be in a different form of church than were used to for quite a while.

The question of why can only be answered in the heart.

Is it to recapture a sense of normality? I fear that’s not enough. Is it to begin to re-socialize? I’m not sure that’s enough either. Is it so we don’t have to worship through an online experience? While all those reasons have merit, I’m not sure they’re enough.

You may be thinking, enough for what?; I don’t think those reasons are enough for the survival of the future of the Church. I’ve been thinking about something for weeks, this pandemic did not surprise God and He allowed it to happen. Why God? What are we supposed to see, what are we supposed to do, and what do we need to change through all of this?

In the midst of this pandemic, racial tensions have increased, social divides are widening, and fear is crippling the hearts and minds of people. The world is getting darker.

And what else? People are reaching out for hope everywhere. There are more people reaching out for Bibles, prayer, and Jesus through online mediums than ever before. It’s incredible.

Not only that, but I’ve had more interactions with my neighbors than ever before, even spiritual conversations.

So, while the world seems to be being presented as growing darker, nothing can put out the light of Christ. Which brings us to the point of why we should be hungry to be back in church together.

Listen to these words of Jesus in Matthew 5. I want you to read it from The Message version because I love the way Eugene Peterson translated these words, mostly because this is how we would’ve understood them if it was said to us.

13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

As we go back to a sliver of what was normal a few months ago, I pray we remember why we are here. We are here to be salt and light to this world. We are anointed and given God’s Spirit to keep the world from going rotten and from going dark.

If we lose this, our purpose, our reason for gathering, how will the world see God? If we raise our voices in church but not in our world, how will the world know what God thinks? If we save our smiles for church than how will the world see the kindness of God?

Why am I going back?

Because I love to worship and pray with believers, I love to see God’s people serving, giving, and caring for each other, and I love Jesus.

I see now more than ever that our churches are meant for more. Our churches are meant to launch salt and light into communities in which they’re planted. They are meant for others to come and experience the love of Jesus and to be cared for by other believers.

Jesus draws us to himself, forgives and renews us, then sends us out. It’s the sending part that we must grab onto in this next season. I believe that Jesus wants our communities to feel the impact our re-opening more than the actual church members themselves.

As we gather back together, let’s hold each other accountable.

Don’t just attend church, become the church.

I believe God isn’t re-opening churches just to us, but to the world, through you.

And me.

See you soon.

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