Church family, as has been stated, we are living in different times. It’s not like the depression of the 30’s, WWII of the 40’s, nor the wars and cultural revolutions of the 60’ & 70’s. We as a country & a world are facing a pandemic. I am not an alarmist by nature, and I hope and pray that the fears many people are having over the COVID-19 virus will, in time, show themselves out to be exaggerated. Yet, our world has had a long history of diseases that have wreaked havoc on mankind. Thus, the precautionary measures that are being taken, I believe, are wise and reasonable for the time being. As such, how we handle services as members of Park Grove Christian Church are going to look different for a time.
Earlier, I sent out a list of 7 points that we as a church can follow as we conduct at home worship services. The focus of this blog is to take each one of these 7 points and expand on them in order to help assist you in the weeks ahead.
1. Pray: Decide how you'll incorporate prayer into your home gathering.
Whenever the people of PGCC gather together, we put a heavy emphasis on prayer. We have a short prayer gathering every Sunday around 9 a.m. Followed up with prayer requests and prayer during Sunday school. Then before service, the leaders gather around that morning’s preacher (most often myself) and each person takes turns praying over them and the message they’ll preach. Often, the worship team will gather on the stage to pray before leading in worship. Numerous prayers are offered during the service time (opening, communion, offering, message, response time, and closing). As you can see, our Sunday morning gatherings are bathed in pray. This doesn’t even include all the prayers offered during the week as teams gather to practice worship songs, prepare Sunday school lessons, and I myself as I prepare that week’s sermon. I’d encourage you, make prayer a priority in your home gatherings. Before the message is livestreamed each Sunday at 11 a.m. take time to pray for me. Pray before you begin worshiping, pray over communion, pray over your giving, pray in response to the message.
Fathers and husbands, this is an excellent time for you, as the head of the house, to lead out spiritually in directing your family. This doesn’t mean you do all the praying, but prepare in advance who will pray and when. Seek the spirit out in this. As well, make time for everyone to pray together. If your home has a different dynamic, that is fine, and it doesn’t make you any less spiritual. If you are a single mom, widow/widower, or in some different situation, you can still do all of these things. Even if it is just you by yourself. Though we may be separated physically, we are joining together Spiritually during this time. Which is incredible to think about! If each one of our gatherers takes responsibility to pray, we will have more prayer covering our Sunday “gathering” than we’ve probably ever had before!! PTL
2. Worship: Get your favorite worship songs ready in advance.
Today is a great time to be Christians when it comes to worship. Each Sunday we have a variety of people leading the church in worship. Some leaning towards the “traditional hymns” other more toward the contemporary worship songs of today. All of which offer deep meaningful ways to engage our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, with our hearts. As you meet at home you have the opportunity to worship in the style and way that means most to your heart. Prepare how you may go about this.
If you are a musician, pick up your guitar, or sit at your piano, and lead out in worship. You can put on your favorite worship album, or videos on YouTube. You could even pick up an old hymnal, or print lyrics off the internet and sing them acapella. As well, you can choose when you or your family choose to worship. In my house, we are doing our worship and communion time after I’ve finished preaching the message. The choice is yours in this regard.
3. Communion: Get the emblems for communion together, and decide how you will serve them.
This may be a point of contention for some, but I see nothing in scripture that forbids taking communion apart from the Sunday morning gathering. In the book of Acts we read, “46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…” (Acts 2:46). Some would say, and I’d agree, that this refers to communion, which was originally more than just a sip of juice and piece of a cracker, and as you can see they did it in their homes as they met. So, it seems right and good, that our weekly observance of the Lords supper should not stop just because we can’t all be together physically.
Again, how you will conduct communion at home is up to you. Read over 1 Cor. 11:23-29 to get the basic guidelines of order and what is to be involved in preparing the emblems and yourself for communion. How you choose to serve the bread and wine (juice) is up to you. You can use individual cups, one large cup (but consider the spread of disease) one loaf of bread you break pieces off of, or crackers. Such as saltines or matzah. I’ve heard it said, that it’s not about the emblems themselves but the state of the heart. Thus, you could use Doritos and coke if you so choose. I honestly feel like this could take away from the reverence that should be associated with the Lords supper, and would encourage you to be thoughtful in what you choose. I do understand there may be grape juice shortages in some places, so feel free to substitute it with wine (if your conscience allows) or some other beverage. Whatever you choose, the emblems of communion find their roots in the Passover supper, and what they represent for us as Christians, should not be treated flippantly.
Before taking them, choose someone to pray over it, and have them prepare some kind of devotional or scripture reading. I will work with the leaders to have prerecorded communion meditations prepared if you would so choose to utilize them. After you have spent the appropriate time preparing your hearts, pass the emblems out, and take them either separately or together. Whichever way seems best to you.
4. Give: Decide how you will continue to give to the work of the Lord.
I personally don’t like mentioning giving. Not for doctrinal reasons, but because, as your pastor who receives my salary from your gifts and donations, I don’t want people to accuse me of false motives. Yet, the bible is clear on the importance of giving to support your teachers, and as an act of service, as Park Grove will still have bills that need to be covered during this time. Even if we are currently unable to utilize the facilities.
Paul says, “6 The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.” (Gal. 6:6) and elsewhere, “6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:6-7) During this time, don’t let the discipline of giving to the work of the Lord slip. There are numerous missionaries and other organizations that benefit from our regular gifts to them as a Church, and other needs that depend on our tithes and offerings. As I have seen in my own life, when we are faithful to give to God and His work He is faithful to provide for our every need.
As of right now we have two ways in which you can get your tithes and offerings to Park Grove.
By Mail: Park Grove Christian Church P.O. Box 247 Lowry City MO 64763
5. Read Scripture: Pick someone in your family to read this Sunday's Scripture.
Each week I will post the passage of Scripture that I will be going over that week. Before you view the message I livestream that morning, pick someone in your family to read the scriptures out-loud to whoever is gathered (or alone if it is just you) and pray for the Holy Spirit to speak those truths, and plant them deep in your heart.
6. Sermon: Tune into either Pastor Jack's or Park Grove's Facebook page for a live stream of the sermon at 11 a.m. each Sunday morning.
Every Sunday, at 11 a.m. I will livestream my sermon over Facebook. You will be able to find it on either my personal Facebook page or Park Grove’s page. I will always make it a point to start the livestream a few minutes before 11 a.m. in order to give you time to find the livestream on my page. I will then begin preaching at 11 a.m. I’d encourage you to have your device, T.V. or computer prepared so that you’re not scrambling to find it after the service starts. If you are unable to watch the livestream, you will always be able to watch the video at a later time, as it will be saved to our Facebook page. I’d also encourage you to share the video with others so that they are able to join us as well. The first time I livestreamed the message I was surprised by the amount of responses I received from people in other states, and cities. They saw the livestream of the message on their friend’s page, tuned in, and were greatly blessed by it. So please do your part to share the preaching of God’s word.
As a note, I’d like to encourage you to make it a point to join in with the rest of Park Grove in watching the message during this time. I am a great proponent of downloading podcasts, watching sermons, reading good books and receiving from various other Christian teachers from around the world. BUT I also believe it is of the utmost importance that we as a Church body, join together around the teaching of the word of God as it pertains to us as a local congregation of believers. We need to not get out of the habit of joining with one another under the teaching and authority of the elders (pastor/pastors) of our local Church family (read: Titus 1:9 and Heb. 13:17).
7. Respond: With your family, take time to reflect on the message that has been preached, and respond appropriately.
Whenever the word of God is taught, we are responsible to put it into action. This begins with making it a point to meditate on the teaching, and decide in our heart that we will put it into practice. You may choose to discuss the message and pray about how you may apply it. It may be a personal conviction that you bring before the Lord. Or it may manifest itself in some other way. James exhorts the Church, “prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” and the “one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” (Jam. 1:23&25). If we desire to be faithful believers who receive the blessings of God in our lives, we need to put into practice, that which we have been taught.
Let me emphasize something, this is not ideal. In some ways, it can seem kind of fun and exciting as we are forced to gather together “as the church” in ways we aren’t normally used to. At the same time, we miss out on the fellowship, care for one another, and mission, that we are supposed to be on as we are ALL gathered together corporately. So, let us pray that this is a short-lived way of going to church, so that we can all come together again soon. As well, let’s seek the Lord out, so that whatever good fruits the Lord brings out of this time, which He will, we can carry them over to our gathering when we are finally able to come back together again.