Are you missing your church family?
I hope you are. For us (Maggie & Eve), we can’t wait to go back to church. The last two months have been quite hard for us. We did not realize the power of community and church family until now. Fellowship and community are powerful. No wonder we are told not to neglect the meeting together of believers and to encourage one another as we see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25). Christian life has an individual responsibility and a community responsibility.
However, for the last 2 months, this physical community is cut because of the pandemic and we are staying at home. Away from the same people supposed to spur one another to Christian living. Is it all lost? Can we still do something as Christians to spur one another during this period?
What is One-Anothering
Paul mentions a lot about the famous “one anothering” commands in his letters. He says we should bear one another’s burden, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone, encourage and build up one another, speak the truth in love to one another, serve one another, love one another and many more one-anothers (Read 1 Thessalonians 5:11,14, Colossians 3:16, Galatians 5:13-15, 6:2, Ephesians 4).
We are called to care for those of the household of God and to stir and encourage one another to living our Christian faith (Heb. 3:12-13).
How should we go about one-anothering now that church buildings are locked? How do we spread the gospel?
- Soak and meditate on God’s word
Keep reading and studying scriptures more because this is what you want speak and share as you get in touch with friends and family. The word of God is living and active, it doesn’t grow old, it is unlimited in its work and works in our hearts at all seasons (Hebrews 4:12). We tend to be a crazy busy generation and our devotions are so much rushed. However, in this “stay at home” season, I (Maggie) have come to realize this is more of an excuse rather than a reality. At the beginning of the lockdown I still struggled with my devotion discipline yet I had all the time. I had to set a schedule and be intentional about the books I want to do and when I want to do them. I also took this time to study the bible books I rarely do like the minor prophets. One can actually study those 12 books of the minor prophets in 2 months. There is a sweetness that just comes with slowly digesting God’s word. I am not sure I will have this much time in my hands again and I want to challenge myself not to waste it. As the psalmist prays in Psalms 119:28 “My soul is weary with sorrow, strengthen me according to your word”. May we be strengthened through God’s word.
2. Be intentional about communication with other Church Family Members
Before COVID -19, I (Maggie) would meet people for coffee and host sleepovers. Most of the times I wasn’t intentional about our conversations hence it was easy to find myself in gossip or unwholesome talks (Ephesians 4:29). The crisis we are in presents us with a challenge of restrictions in meeting and limited airtime. Have you realized how fast internet bundles are getting consumed?
Recently, a friend challenged me to think through what to discuss before I call. What is it that I want to achieve through a call to a friend or family? Will my call be edifying? Get to know how your friends, fellow church members, and families are managing in their spiritual life, social and mental life. Ask them how you can pray with them. Help them see God in these times of crisis. You can do this by asking questions such as, “What are they thankful about?” “What are your struggles?”, “How can the church or friends help?” and spend time to show the anchor of our confidence in Christ.
Do not make it a one-sided conversation. Share what you are learning either from the crisis or your devotion and how things are faring with you. Share your struggles too. When people do not talk, there is a false thinking that what they are going through is unique and they are alone. A good strategy from the enemy to keep people depressed and in self-pity. In the end, if it possible, pray over the phone with the person that you called.
3. Speak and Write with Grace
I (Eve) begin this point with words from Ephesians. “Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). We are a competitive people. We love winning. We like arguing and power plays everywhere including social media. We are so quick to respond to each another with words that are not well thought out and gracious. It also happens at home, to our spouses, children, neighbors and to those we are hosting at this time.
Words matter and taming our tongues is a big challenge. James reminds us this in James 3:1-12. Particularly the warning that it is hard to tame our tongues. V.7 “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and seas creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
The imagery here is so deep. The taming of our tongues is compared to taming of animals. Yet the irony is clear. You can tame an animal but no one can tame their tongue. Words can be verbal or non-verbal. Written words are as devastating as spoken ones. And therefore, in spoken and written, we ought to exercise grace and restraint.
When heard or read, these words have the potential to build fear, hurt, remorse and sow seeds of confusion. But we have the option of speaking kind and seasoned words. Several things to be particularly careful with are:-
- If it not true and unverified, do not say it or spread it.
- Spreading unverified false information is unloving and playing into the father of all lies and gimmicks. Avoid it. Try and get information from trusted media sources and verify by cross-checking with other sites.
- Let’s keep reminding ourselves that by default, we want to be arrogant, harsh and unloving to those close to us. This keeps us alert and helps us to ensure that we are gracious.
Remember the words in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” As is fitting the occasion, it may call for our words to confront brethren in an area of life that is not conforming to the pattern of the scripture. Inbox those brothers/sisters and have a talk about it. This will not be easy though because we naturally like being defensive but we need to persevere. May the Lord help us to love one another through our mouths.
4. KYN (Know Your Neighbor)
We may be ashamed when it dawns on us that we go to church and plan outreach events and yet we are not deliberate in getting to know who our neighbours are. Imagine if every Christians reaches out to their neigbours during this season. Maybe some could be distressed and have no one to speak to. We don’t have to wait until churches reopen to plan for evangelistic programmes.
I (Mag) have really learnt a lot from my neighbors when hanging cloths. There are times I have gone for dinner or they have come for dinner to my place. Of course cautiously. I have known where several of them work and what they do for a living. How I wish I wouldn’t have waited until this crisis but I’m thankful it is serving this purpose of loving my neighbours. I am not all perfect but at the back of my mind, I have at least learnt that I need to be deliberate about this. Through these conversations, it is easier to create friendships that can be evangelistic and even disciple-making.
Another key observation are the many kids in our neighborhood now who are not that busy. We can try to befriend them and engage them. If you live in the same compound, why not engage them with helpful conversations. Ensure that government directives on social distancing and others are adhered to.
To be cont’d…
Article Written by Everlyne Wambui and Margaret Achieng. Eve works for iServe Africa as Apprenticeship Member Care Officer while Maggie works as the HR Manager.