As we enter this second week apart from one another, one of the most godly feelings you can nurture is that of being incomplete apart from each other.
Is our Savior incomplete? By all means, no! Is our salvation incomplete? Thank God the answer is again “no.” But are the people of God incomplete when they are not able to gather together? The answer is most certainly “yes.”
My wife, Naomi, and I had an unusually long period getting ready for marriage. In whole, we spent four and a half years together before getting married. During this extended period, we spent approximately two years apart from each other, mainly related to our educational paths. During that time, we never once thought, “Oh, being apart is just as good as being together.” Nor did we ever think, “The internet is a perfect substitute for an in-person relationship.”
No, we found the time apart to be deeply challenging and one of the most consistent lessons we learned was that it is not natural to be apart so much. The distance left us incomplete apart from each other.
The same should be true of the church. One of the pillars of the early church was a devotion to fellowship (Acts 2:42). The church is intrinsically defined as being those who come together, those who assemble (see 1 Cor. 11:17ff). The Apostle Paul longed to see (not just write) the churches that he wrote to (Rom 1:11, 1 Thes 3:6, 2 Tim 1:4). To be apart from each other affects the very foundation of the church.
This lack plays out in the most practical ways. This Sunday, we livestreamed the service with a skeleton crew of saints. First, let me say that the technology we have today is an incredible blessing as are the Saints at Sermon Audio, who are working harder than we can imagine. But a tiny crew in a big sanctuary is an eerie experience. Hugs were gone, handshakes gone. The play and laughter of the children were gone. Congregational “amens” were gone. The roar of voices joined in praise… gone.
We sat far from each other. There were no bands of brothers and sisters, huddling in their respective groups after service in fellowship and prayer. No fellowship over lunch. No greetings over coffee.
The Word went forth in power. Our God remains good and sovereign. The Gospel still saves. And yet what a hole there was without the congregation! What a lack. What a longing for the way the Lord’s Day used to feel.
Both the Bible and everyday experience preach the same message: The church is incomplete apart from one another.
The scattered church should long to be assembled once more. During this time of absence, rejoice in the means that keep us as close as possible. Faithfully use what means you have to stay near your brothers and sisters. But even as we rejoice in our provision, don’t mistake any of it for a substitute.
Long for the day when we are back together. Plead with God that it would be soon. May the people of God emerge from this trial with a passionate love for the church of Jesus Christ.