In this time of online-only services and virtual small groups, it is easy to have moments of frustration due to slow connections, buffering videos and extra steps to engage with others. No matter the time it might take, it is well worth all extra effort to build community and continue to grow together in Christ.
In a few weeks, things will likely begin to shift toward more face-to-face meetings and a return to gathering in-person. Though we all look forward to that time, I have tried to think about the positives of the last few weeks. Despite the sometimes-negative impact of putting society on hold for the greater good, I have discovered some things that will probably be harder to maintain easily after this season passes. For me, the one that stands out above all is being able to linger in God’s presence without interruption. In the flurry of everyday life, unbroken time to be still before God is more and more of a rarity.
I was sharing this with a pastor friend of mine the other day. He said, “Preaching online is great in some ways because you don’t have to contend with yawns, blank stares and the distraction of people talking during the sermon.”
I responded, “True. And though they may choose to be disengaged from the church and not watch from home at all, or they may turn the service off halfway through, at least you don’t have to watch someone physically get up and walk out at the 30-minute mark while you are preaching your heart out.”
“I have a few of those ‘over-before-it-starts’ kind too,” my friend said. “I’m also talking to people who complain, ‘I just can’t worship online with my family. I really can only worship when we are in the church together. I’m not going to watch online; I’ll just wait until we can come back together and worship like it is meant to be.’ We all have preferences, but when people say things like that, it goes beyond preference; they elevate it to a level of right-or-wrong.”
I said, “If you could look at their lives, you would probably find that they have never learned what it means to worship privately. Some people don’t want to worship online because they have never developed a personal form worship that is vibrant and life-giving. This is a season where others will continue to grow in the practice of worship, while they will just remain the same.”
Psalm 46:10 reminds us: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Be still, quit grasping, slow down, wait quietly and linger in his presence. We can only know him by being still before him. The busyness of life can override the stillness of a worshipful heart. How many times are we so busy making and carrying out plans, that we miss God in the process. He’s there, and we shuffle about under our load, with heads down and miss the still moments with him. We don’t linger in his presence because we don’t recognize the value of his presence. You can’t approach an eternal God with a sitcom-length attention span.
Since every worthwhile relationship takes time, could it be said that your relationship with him is being shown as worthwhile by the time you spend with him? We may say, “There is no time!” Yes, life is busy; there is no mistaking that. But there is time for God, assuming you make time. Martin Luther once said, “I have so much business to do today that I shall not be able to get through it with less than three hours’ prayer.” He understood that we must always have time for the One who made time.
Let’s become “holy lingerers,” seek to abide more closely with God and make our season of “safer-at-home” a time where we grow “at-home-with-Jesus.”
We will practice being still in the presence of God as we worship him. – Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”
We would abide, stay put and remain close to Christ no matter the season. – John 15:4 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
We would not be distracted by our activity but direct our focus to Christ before all else. – Luke 10:38-42 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”