More than six months ago, COVID-19 hit the United States, dramatically changing our everyday lives. The virus forced us to physically distance and isolate from one another and unfortunately, it appears that we are still nowhere near the end.
Over the last several months, we have all had to respond to changing contexts with school, work and relationships. Our context as a church has also changed, so the way we do ministry has also changed. Most notably, we moved all of our gatherings online. However, as some pastors have pointed out, moving church services online is not innovation, it’s just adaptation. We’ve simply taken what we used to do and moved it online. Moving a church online accounts for physical distancing realities, but it doesn’t adequately address the reality that, for many of us, the context has dramatically changed.
What then, should the church look like? What should the church be in these times? Well, the Scriptures tell us that the church is a gathering. When we gather together, Jesus is present in a very real way as He says in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” This is why the writer of Hebrews wrote what he did: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…”(Hebrews 10: 24-25). The church is a gathering, and when we stop gathering, we lose an essential part of ourselves.
Of course, one of the challenges before the church today in our disrupted and changed context is to figure out how to meaningfully gather as safely as possible. This is important because while virtual gatherings can approximate a physical gathering, they cannot entirely replace them. However, given the nature of the virus and the context of our church, it does not seem to be wise or feasible to worship together regularly in large groups. Therefore, if we cannot worship together in large groups, then we must consider worshiping together in small groups.
This Fall, we are asking you to consider worshiping together on Sundays in small 6-8 person gatherings, which we are calling micro-churches. In these micro-churches, I believe we will have a service with the potential to be significantly richer and more meaningful than our virtual gatherings. At the most simple level, a micro-church could essentially be a viewing party where you view the livestream together and then have a time of prayer and fellowship together. Or you could have your own worship and prayer but still listen to the message together.
The goal here is to create an environment where every single member is able to participate in a 1 Corinthians 14 fellowship of the Holy Spirit, with worship, scripture, prayer and prophetic words while also being missional to the surrounding community and inviting friends and neighbors to encounter the presence of God.
Our hope is for some of our first micro-churches to start meeting as early as September, but we’re going to take as much time as needed to prepare for this so that we can do this judiciously and wisely as possible.
In the meantime, I would like to ask you to pray about being part of a micro-church. It may take courage to gather, but for those who have decided that God is real and that Jesus is their Lord and Savior, we have to figure out how to do this. It doesn't mean we need to be foolish. We can both worship God and minister to the deepest needs of the human soul and try to be wise and safe at the same time.
Our virtual services will continue and will likely be a permanent feature of our church, going forward. But for those who are interested in micro-church, please fill out this form as soon as possible. This will allow us to plan and prepare as best as possible.
Our contexts have changed and things look very different from how they did just six months ago, but I believe that this is still a tremendous opportunity for us to join in God’s work and live out our mission in the city of Boston and all around the world.