This coming Lords Day, Im getting ready to do one thing Ive by no means executed: preach to a completely empty sanctuary. A stripped-down model of our service might be livestreamed from the church to our congregants as they watch from dwelling or in small teams.
Ailing be one among lots of, if not hundreds, of ministers and worship leaders doing the identical factor, as we glance to various strategies for worship amid the rising COVID-19 pandemic.
Im grateful for contemporary know-how that may make potential a broadcasted service. And I don’t resent the federal government for the restrictions and mandates they’ve put in place for public gatherings. That is for our well being and security, and complying with such directives is likely one of the methods we are able to obey the second biggest commandment.
I Was Glad?
That mentioned, the prospect of preaching to an empty church is, within the truest sense, miserable. Going to worshipin the Lords home with the Lords peoplefilled the psalmist with eagerness:
I used to be glad once they mentioned to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Ps. 122:1)
This weekand most likely for weeks to comeno one might be saying that to me, and Im already feeling the enjoyment slip away.
As a pastor, my entire week builds towards Sunday. Sermon prep within the research, coupled with varied conferences and fellowship with the saints, culminates within the crafting and delivering an entire service that by Gods assistance will meet the folks the place they’re, providing them gospel grace of their time of want.
Im nonetheless doing that this week, after all. However come Sunday issues might be completely different. Greater than differentthey might be weird.
There might be no name and response within the liturgy. I’ll say the company prayer privately. There might be no Flip in your hymnals to . . . And the preaching, a dynamic medium that relies upon in giant measure on the suggestions of the listeners, might be awkward at greatest. Im deflated occupied with it. My prayer is that these strategies might be enriching for these becoming a member of in at dwelling, and I belief they are going to be.
However for the pastor it is a true religious problem.
Pastors may be overly involved with the variety of seats crammed on a given Sunday. If nothing else, maybe the COVID-19 disaster will curtail our behavior of counting heads greater than caring for souls. As we peer into an empty sanctuary, the place it appears our congregants are invisible, wed do properly to recollect what theologians name the invisible church.
The Westminster Confession defines the invisible church as the entire variety of the elect, which were, are, or shall be gathered into one, beneath Christ the Head thereof (WCF 25.1). This echoes the instructing of Hebrews 12:2223, which says that after we come to worship, irrespective of the place we’re, we come to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the meeting of the firstborn who’re enrolled in heaven, and to God, the choose of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made excellent.
What a wonderful thought: the worship service of true believers that I assist lead each week has an attendance quantity via the roof. And naturally this has nothing to do with my preaching potential, visionary management, or profitable persona. It’s all because of the sprinkled blood of Jesus, mediator of the brand new covenant (Heb. 12:24).
Pricey pastor, there are extra folks current with you in worship than you might ever countand possibly it takes a totally vacant church constructing on a Sunday morning to remind you. It did for me.
Viewers of One
One other highly effective actuality we preachers must be reminded of in coming weeks is that this: the One for whom we preach is at all times within the viewers. Preaching, like all of life, serves the final word finish of Gods glory. And whereas we could not see our church household in-person Sunday, God is there, current by his Spirit. It may very well be that the extra persons are within the pews, the extra shortly have been susceptible to get overlook that.
Final week an fascinating factor occurred. We have been one of many few church buildings in our group that didn’t cancel providers, so we ended up getting guests from church buildings who werent assembly. Mockingly, we virtually reached report attendance. On a Sunday the place the sanctuary was so packed, it was tempting for me to overlook whom that is all about.
The alternative will happen this week, by way of our attendance. And but, once more, possibly thats what I would like. Maybe it takes the considered an empty sanctuary for me to sense the fullness that’s God himself. No matter it takes, I need it.
That is what I wanted to listen to, and I hope it helps you. And let me provide the exhortation Im giving myself: preach your coronary heart out this Sunday, pricey pastor. Dont be discouraged. Give all of it you’ve obtained into that digicam. Provide up your quarantined self as an act of worship. God will use this weird second on your good and the great of your flock.