Church from afar – some thoughts on lockdown church from Philippians

How should church function during lockdown? Here are some thoughts based around the book of Philippians (all references are from Philippians unless otherwise mentioned).

Brief outline

There are lots of things that we normally do during Sunday worship, that it is harder to do when we are not physically together.  Yet, these are things that we need to seek to try and do as church.

The apostle Paul writes Philippians to a church many miles away from where he is in prison.  He can’t meet with them and so, he send the 1st century equivalent of a YouTube video – an epistle.  It is worth sitting and reading this book in one sitting.  It will really encourage you.

In this short video, I would just like to highlight a few important things. 

1:5 – your partnership in the gospel.  Separate doesn’t stop us sharing the gospel.  In fact, the hope that Christians have that in life AND death, we are the Lord’s, gives us opportunity to share the good news.  Pray for your friends, family and neighbours.  Use the opportunities that God gives you, even if it is just a few words.  Also share with one another who are you praying for – we are partners in the gospel together.

1:19  – praying for one another.  Paul is in prison, but the church is praying from afar.  We can still pray for one another.  In fact, we may have MORE time to pray.  Let’s use it.  Let’s find out news from one another.  And if we don’t have any up to date news, then we can pray 1:9-11.

2:4 – looking out for the interests of others.  Paul is encouraging them to go out of their way to serve one another, sacrificially.  It is hard while we are on lockdown. But it is not impossible.  Older brothers and sisters, you can serve through your prayers and words of encouragement that you can give to the younger members.  Those who are able to go out, we can serve through shopping, collecting medicine, making calls, sending cards.  Let’s be aware of the needs around us and seek to meet them where we are able.

3:3 – being alert to false teachers.  Paul was aware of the danger that people would exploit the fact that he was not there in order to teach error.  There are people doing that today and it spreads as we share things on social media.  Let’s listen to people who open up the word of God faithfully.  Let’s be careful what we share.  Check with a trusted mature believer or church leader before you share things.

4:1 – Loving one another.  This verse expresses Paul’s longing and love for the fellowship – which is why he wrote the letter.  Today, while physical fellowship is not possible, fellowship IS.  Praise the Lord for technology.  Let’s use telephone, video calls, text messages, whatsapp, Facebook, to make contact with each other.  Members, you have the church prayer diary.  You can use it to pray, and you can use it to call people.  Why go through the prayer diary and try and call some people.  Even one person a day, or one every other day.  

4:19 – Giving.  If you know me, it’s not the thing I like to talk about, but here in this book (from 4:11-4:19) and it is part of our responsibility as believers.  The Bible has a lot to say about money and believers are called to give to support the ministry of the church.  Many of you give through you bank.  Praise God, and I encourage you to continue and to give generously.  A good number of you put cash or cheques in the offering bag each week, which you can’t do at the moment.  So what do you do? 

If you don’t give through your bank, then perhaps start doing so. Your church treasurer should be able to help you. Give him/her a call.

Most churches still receive cheques – again contact your church treasurer for the right address to send.

If you are not comfortable with either of these, put aside each week – 1 Cor 16:2:  “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper.”  This requires discipline.  Put it in an envelope, put it out of sight, and then bring it on the first day we meet together again.

So let’s continue being church, even though we can’t meet in the same place.  Let’s serve one another, show care, pray for one another and give for the support of the church.  And when we meet again all together, it will be so precious.  

Phil 4:19-20: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

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