What a fellowship, what a joy divine

Published 1:17 pm Monday, August 24, 2020

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By MICHAEL J. BROOKS | Guest Columnist

Note: This is an opinion column.

“Back-to-school” was always a sad time for me as a child. The “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” was a time to sleep late, to visit with cousins and to read. But, alas, September neared. In those days we reconvened after Labor Day. Then my mom came into my room every morning singing, “School days, school days, good ‘ol golden rule days.” How I hated that song!

But the routine resumed, and most of us boys and girls enjoyed learning new things and making new friends in the new term.

This year our children face unique challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced delays in many school systems, alterations in others and in some cases both. Many children will be shepherded online by their teachers—an innovation we never would’ve imagined in my days of public school.

Many of our churches have gone online, too. I talked with a proud mother recently who now watches two broadcasts on Sunday mornings. One is from the church of her pastor-son in North Carolina and the other is from the church of her music minister-son in Colorado.

Denominational leaders are suggesting churches consider “both/and” when the COVID days are finally past; that is, we continue to broadcast while we gather in person. One Sunday School conference leader said he plans to continue his Zoom broadcast on his laptop while he teaches in his regular classroom. This may be the “new norm” in churches.

One of our members jokingly told about how she enjoyed the “at home” experience.

“I can sit on the couch and watch church and eat potato chips,” she said.

At least she’s “watching church”!

But she did highlight an issue with home church—engagement. It’s easy to be distracted at home.

Another issue is fellowship. The New Testament word is “koinonia,” and it speaks of the relationship believers have with one another. We gather as brothers and sisters in the Lord to study, to worship, to pray and to strategize for ministry in our world. This task is more difficult in the broadcast world. The internet tends to isolate us from one another, and perhaps draws us away from our shared mission.

In the days when televangelism was new, one TV preacher used to call himself “your TV pastor.” The late J.D. Gray, pastor of the First Baptist Church of New Orleans, countered, “Pshaw! No man can pastor a church by remote control!”

It remains to be seen how the current way of limited gatherings and livestreaming will impact us in the future. But we must never lose sight of the importance of relationships. The family of God gathers in the name of Christ to worship and serve him in partnership.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.