It’s not good for Christians to be unable to meet together. An early Christian leader wrote:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24–25)
How can we spur each other on or encourage each other if we cannot share one another’s company?
In this time of social isolation Christians have modern technology to thank that we can ‘meet’ together online to share fellowship. Tools such as Skype or Zoom allow us to see and hear each other despite being physically separated.
What would we have done had this same crisis occurred twenty, fifty or a hundred years ago?
Here are three things for us to consider:
Those already isolated
Even before the coronavirus crisis there were some Christians already in the position of being unable to physically meet with fellow believers, whether due to ill health or living in a remote location or living in a place where it isn’t safe to openly identify as a Christian.
Has this period of forced physical separation given us a greater understanding of what they face? Has it encouraged us to do more to connect with them when this crisis is over?
The bare essentials
By necessity online church services are considerably shorter and more simplified than what would previously have taken place on a typical Sunday.
In most cases we now simply do Bible reading, prayer, a word of encouragement and the sharing of bread and wine to remember Jesus’ sacrificial death.
These are the essentials, the core elements of a Christian memorial service. These are what matter most.
These are what will encourage us in our faith, show us the way forward, remind us of the need to repent and seek forgiveness, inspire us to greater efforts and if necessary correct our wayward attitude.
Do we sometimes allow the other things on a Sunday to get in the way? The clothes people wear to church. The music and worship style our church uses. The noise made by the children. Having things done in exactly the way we think they ought to be done.
Do those things (or others like them) concern us so much at a Sunday service that we lose sight of the essentials? Does this period of forced separation give us an opportunity to focus on what really matters when we meet together?
Our emotional response
A Christian’s emotional response to forced separation will depend partly on their personality type.
For Christians who tend to be more introverted or who are on the autism spectrum, social distancing on a Sunday can (to a certain extent) actually come as a relief.
A noisy, busy church service in a room packed with other people may be the ideal worship environment for those who are more extroverted, but for the introverted it can be almost impossible to focus on the essentials of Christian faith with so much sensory overload going on.
On the other hand it’s likely that forced separation will cause significantly greater problems for the extrovert who needs the face-to-face interaction with other people.
May Christians of all personality types strive to be aware of what others need and how it can best be lovingly provided.