By my calculation, this morning was the 21st Sunday in which we did not attend a church service outside of our home. I had not realized that it had been that long, which is normal for those living the quarantine life. One week just kind of flows into the next and the next thing you know, it’s August. Wait. It’s AUGUST?!?! See what I mean, it’s hard to keep up with all the days flying by when not a whole lot is changing due to all the limitations imposed on us by this virus.
Because of this time creep that has been happening, I wanted to take a second to take stock of how we have been doing church. But first, I want to detail what we had been doing pre-pandemic for church. We were regular attenders at a church, located just down the street from our house, making it to about 80% of services on average, I would guess. We weren’t heavily involved but were trying to get to that point, believing that we needed to be in order to get the most out of it. Our kids enjoyed the Sunday School and Youth classes for their ages for the most part and we were doing our best to fit in on the adult side. The actual Sunday services were not tremendously engaging but the preaching was Biblically sound and the members were friendly. Like many parents in churches all over the world, it was often a struggle to keep the kids awake once we sat down for “big” church. We had been going there just over a two yes when the doors temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
Then the second week of March, 2020 came and the spreading virus caused churches everywhere, including ours to close and to move online. And so they did and so did we. We attended the online service from the comfort of our living room with my parents joining us most of the time. It was, in a word, okay. We did this for about two months, doing our best to sing along to the lyrics on screen and listen to the sermon being preached. We even attended our Sunday School class for adults via Zoom and the kids did Youth the same way. But, it just wasn’t feeding us the way I felt it needed to.
So I called an “audible” (football term) and made some adjustments after discussing it with my wife and dad. We all needed more and felt that this was the perfect time to do church in a way that would do something for everyone. For the last 3 months, we have been doing church our way, taking advantage of the opportunity provided by this pandemic to cover topics, verses and words that were new to the kids and some even for us. We’ve been pulling in video resources from the Bible Project, RightNow Media and even YouTube to teach all of us about God and his plan through His Son.
We really felt like it was important to dig deeper into things like apologetics and history while discussing each week’s lesson with them. Our goal is to give all of them a much firmer base for their faith to stand on and not focusing so much on feelings and emotions as the basis for our faith. In previous weeks we have discussed the Sabbath, justice, sin, generosity and the creation, among other things, Many of the early weeks’ resources came directly from the Bible Project’s Church at Home series of resources. These include a short audio talk, a video to watch together and some scripture readings with questions to ask. These were immensely helpful to me and helped me to get more comfortable with leading my family in this way. I must admit, teaching my family with my dad in attendance was a bit intimidating at first, as he is a lifelong preacher of God’s Word and one of the most knowledgeable, scholarly, men that I know.
Here for the last 4 weeks, we have been doing a book study during church. We have been studying Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, otherwise known as Ephesians. We thought it would be good for all of us to really dig in on a single book and allow the kids to see how it all will play out. We have been using Phil Vischer’s “Ephesians – What is God’s Plan?” as our base, as it really appeals to the younger kids in the house and allows us to supplement with other resources for the older ones. Phil is one of the guys behind Veggie Tales, and he is just a lot of fun while being deep in the Bible at the same time.
So far, the study of Ephesians has gone well and we’ve been able to teach them all manner of new things. For example, last week, my dad stepped in and taught us about using Bible study resources like commentaries and Bible dictionaries to better understand the words being used in the Bible text. We studied what the word “seal” meant in Ephesians 1:13-14 and what the historical significance of a seal was. Today we studied Ephesians 2:1-11 and went deep in on the topic of “grace.” We watched a total of four videos, all working together to explain more and more about grace. We spent time in discussion between the videos and it was another good study. I will follow up with another post which will include the resources that we used today in our discussion of grace.
What has been most important to me is that we are doing church together in a way that is feeding all of us. We are choosing and singing songs of worship that move us. My wife has done a tremendous job each week of choosing worship songs that fit with our topic of study and enhancing our overall experience. We are spending time in our Bibles with the kids reading out loud for us during church. We are taking the time to ask questions and learn together about God. It has been a true blessing in every sense of the word. Even as our local church has re-opened (with all manner of protective protocols in place), we have chosen to continue doing home church for the time being. We are far from comfortable with where things are with the virus and feel that this is where we need to be right now. We are blessed that our church has continued to provide communion supplies to those members like us who are not yet comfortable with meeting in person.
Now if we could just figure out how to keep our dogs from falling asleep five seconds into the first song, that would be great. Their sleepy vibes get real strong on the 10 year-old.