“Church isn’t closed, it’s changing.” That’s the ongoing mantra at the moment and one which is certainly true. Church will never be closed; the doors, maybe, but the people, no. However, if you were to ask many people on the high street today the question, ‘what is the Church?’ I can almost guarantee you 90% of the responses will be, ‘that building up the road’ or something along those lines. But the Church is more than the building, it’s the people. Paul speaks to the Ephesian elders in the book of Acts and says how they are to ‘watch over all of the flock’ and to ‘shepherd the church of God’ (Acts 20:28). It’s the people, not the building. And in Matthew 18:20, we read how Jesus says, ‘where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.’ It’s not, ‘where two or three gather in a building with a tall spire, a font, communion table, and with a vicar or two, there I am with them’. Don’t get me wrong, the Church in terms of the physical place and all that comes with that is super important, I am not anti-Church building or organisation. They are really important in terms of spiritual well-being and how the Church worships God corporately. Some of the most powerful spiritual encounters that I have had, happened in a Church building. And they are places where people come with the intention and mindset and expectation to meet with God. There is also something really, really special, worshipping in a building which has been worshipped in for hundreds of years, as we join with our brothers, sisters and ancestors that are with us now and have gone before us. But, and it is a big but, the Church is more than the building. It’s the people of God, in the presence of God, joining together to worship God, Father, Son and Spirit – that’s the Church. It’s not how many people there are, where you’re doing it or how you are doing it, that makes it Church. It’s what you’re doing that matters.
Doing Church differently isn’t a new thing; fresh expressions of Church have been popping up for years. If you get a moment, Google them and see what people are doing, some of them are so cool and might inspire you to do something new yourselves! But also, whilst for many Church will be different to how we know it, Church is almost going back to what it was when it first started, house churches, the difference being though that we do it with our family and in a safe place. At SML we are doing YouTube playlists with the service being recorded in different ways and then put together. This is to help people engage in worship by providing an order similar to what they are used to. And we as the Kids Team are putting together resources for you too, which we hope will help you and your children to engage with the living, breathing, word of God. But maybe this doesn’t work for you, and that’s fine! Adapt it or find your own way of worshipping together as a family in God’s presence and that can be your Church. Just because it doesn’t look like what we normally do on a Sunday, it doesn’t mean that God can’t use it and meet with you by His Holy Spirit.
Did you know that we all have different ways we connect with God? A guy called David Csinos did a lot of work on what he called ‘Spiritual Styles’ in Children, but this is so applicable to adults too (Children's Ministry that Fits: Beyond One-size-fits-all Approaches to Nurturing Children's Spirituality, 2011). It’s a little bit like VARK Learning styles, but for how we connect with God. There are four spiritual styles: word, emotion, action and symbol. I won’t go into what they all are now, but you should definitely look them up because they’re really helpful in learning more about how we connect with God. What is good to know though, is that most people are word or emotion, connect with God through scriptures and liturgy, or music and art. People rarely have just one spiritual style, rather they have a mixture of a couple or all of them. For me, my spiritual styles (in order) would be (1) emotion, (close 2nd) word, (joint 3rd) action and symbol. I wonder what the spiritual styles of you and your family are? Why not take some time to think about this and to talk about it as a family? What are your favourite things about Church or Kid’s Church? There will be some clues as to what spiritual styles people are in the answers. Is it the talk, the worship, the response or activity, or do you love serving others? We can connect with God and worship God through all of these. One isn’t better than the other, as long as your style helps you connect with God.
And in this time of the COVID-19 virus, connecting with God, spending time in God’s presence, for me anyway, is more important than ever before. Because as we spend time in God’s presence, we spend time in His love. And God’s perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). You don’t need me to tell you there is a lot of fear and anxiety around at the moment, just look at what is coming out in the media and what we see on Facebook and other platforms. And for me, as someone who has struggled with anxiety in the past and is still in the process of walking with it now, the nation’s general sense of anxiety exacerbates the feeling within me. The best thing I have found for managing it is spending time in God’s presence and love. As that happens, I feel peace come upon me and the fear goes. Because, in the words of Josh Baldwin, ‘my fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand in Your [God’s] love’. As we are in this COVID-19 season, with the fear that surrounds, of course we have to do what the government and medical experts tell us about social distancing and washing hands, but it’s so important to spend time in God’s presence, to pray, to worship, to listen to Him and to see how much He loves you. Spend time in His presence. Let His love wash over you. And do this as families too. Adults pray for the kids. Kid’s pray for the adults (cause you’re epic at praying and God does so much through you). Kid’s why not get your grown-up to play a worship song, lie on the floor or get comfy in a chair, shut your eyes and ask God to speak to you and show you just how much He loves you. And maybe if there is something that you’re worried about, tell Him that, or ask your adult or sibling to pray for you (and adults you can do this too). Just because we’re not at Church, it doesn’t mean that God won’t meet with you, or that you can’t pray. In fact, some of the most special times I’ve had with God has happened outside of the Church building. God just loves to meet with us, His children. He is madly, mind-blowingly in love with you. He knows you better than you could ever know yourself. He even knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7)! He longs to tell us this, we just need to listen. Doing Church differently provides a framework this. It can be completely different to what you’re used to and that’s great! But we still need to do Church, to worship, to pray and to listen to God as He speaks over us, His children.
I pray that you would help us to do Church differently in this season. To spend time deliberately focusing on You. To spend time worshipping and praying. And God would You come and fill us with Your Spirit of love. Cast out all fear by Your Holy name. Would You meet with us in new ways because we long to meet with You. And we pray for Your protection over this world, for Your peace where there is sadness, and for Your healing where there is hurt.
In Your mighty name we pray,