The Church Experience

If this quarantine has taught me anything, it has shown me my lack of appreciation for the church. My earliest memory of Sunday mornings was being woken up with “get ready, so we’re not late”. That tradition has spilled over into my adulthood…into many of ours. Even if we do not routinely attend church, we know that it is happening. What exactly is missed about church? What is it that leaves us feeling incomplete even as we stream a variety of services online? We have all of the tools in the comfort of our own home, yet something still seems off…

We are missing the Church Experience.

There’s a certain something that takes places within the 1-2 hours that one partakes in on Sunday morning.

  • The Drive: You are in your Sunday best. Make-up done. Fresh fit. Maybe a little hungry since you spent more time than usual on your appearance, but no worries because there are donuts and coffee waiting in the foyer. The anticipation of what will happen leads you to drive a little faster, as you realize traffic is at an all-week low.
  • The Door: As you get out of your car, maybe a few minutes behind, you see a few smiling faces at the entrance. They make eye-contact with you while you’re several feet away. Even if you considered going back home, you’re stuck now.
  • The Donuts: Maybe there are not donuts at your church. I’m referring to the idea of   a space where you stop and gather yourself before walking into the place of worship. It could be coffee, water, or picking up a few mints. It is the moment where there may be one or two others at the station that you can speak to. This particular set-up allows you to know that this place is for you with you in mind.
  • The Doxology: Praise and worship! This is probably the most notable aspect of church. It is hard to replicate this virtually. The beat of the drums, the rumbling of the bass, and the rhythm of those around you creates a “bigger-than-you” moment. If you dare close your eyes, you’ll be swept away to heaven’s gates as the lyrics ground you to God’s truth in a beautiful and melodic way.
  • The Dissection of God’s Word: Our main course is here. Hearts open, distractions minimized, cups out. No doubt in mind that God has called specific men and women to bring forth his Word in a powerful way to the church. Many of us choose the congregations on which we’ll join because of this aspect. I don’t blame you. It’s very important, maybe the most. We read the bible throughout the week and listen to podcasts, but this is where we submit to the authority of the one that God has chosen to speak to us through. We take out our journals and extend our empty cups to be filled again.
  • The Deliverance: Oh, the altar! (Personally my favorite part of church.) It’s the moment where each person is center stage. There may be background music or communion, but it is not the same as before. From public praise to individual intimacy, we are invited into a space of response. Did the sermon convict you? What is God saying to you? What should you repent from? In this moment, what is God calling you to surrender? Do you need to lean on others around you, as they intercede through prayer on your behalf?

My heart tends to grow weary as I drift into the thought of those days being behind us. But do they have to be? Can this happen virtually? Are we able to create this experience at a distance? I hope this challenges us to think deeper and strategize as we strive to find normalcy again. I pray that we keep the integrity of the Church so that God’s glory will not fall short due to our pitying. I pray that we can adapt and adjust to these isolating times with the gifts that God has given us.

Let’s gather again as we distance.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
Matthew 18:20