One of the sadly successful tactics of Satan during this Covid-19 pandemic has been in causing people to become disconnected from the very support they need. In the context of a local church, this is especially concerning because God has created the church to function as a body.
Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 both liken the composition of a local church to that of a physical body. In both passages the primary point is that every member of the church body is essential.
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.—Romans 12:4–5
But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.—1 Corinthians 12:18–26
In spite of the importance of every member, many Christians feel disconnected—either from an inability to attend services, simply having gotten out of the habit of coming, or even the social distancing happening at church. Many of us feel the loss of being able to shake someone’s hand, give a hug, or simply converse with an unmasked face.
These challenges do not relate only to church services. Church body life happens throughout the week as members connect with and encourage each other through times of hospitality, meeting up at a restaurant for coffee, home visits, or group activities. The current guidelines in our state of California as well as in other areas have made these moments of connection difficult and, in some cases, impossible.
The end result is a real sense of loneliness and isolation among people who should be the spiritual support system for one another.
So how can individual church members—people who are members of the local church body—help foster a spirit of connectivity that runs deeper than the external limits imposed on us?
We’ve had a saying at our church for years—“every member a minister.” The point is that although it is my job as a pastor to serve as an undershepherd for our congregation, I am only one member of the church body. In order for our church—or any church—to function the way God intended, all of us must use our spiritual gifts and minister to the rest of the body.
As a leader, I find myself wanting to develop programs and strategies to bring our church family back together and to help reconnect every member to make sure no one is left behind. The reality is, however, churches are not going to be able to organize or strategize their way out of this situation. Wise planning and members working together is good. But we need the entire church family looking out for one another.
This is a time when every member must recognize, I’m part of the body. And for that reason, I care about every other part of the body and will reach out to minister to others.
With that in mind, how do we reach out? Here are five ways church members can foster greater connectedness through this season:
1. Pray to be a blessing.
Add to your daily prayer list that God would allow you to be a blessing to someone and specifically that He would give you opportunity to be a point of spiritual encouragement to another church member. God will honor that prayer.
You don’t have to be the pastor or class leader or have any kind of official title to reach out to someone else.
Incidentally, if you do lead in a church ministry so that you have a class roster or choir directory, make sure that you are praying for those in your group by name. You’ll be surprised how the Lord will direct you toward who needs encouragement.
2. Remember and respond.
When God brings someone to mind—perhaps someone you used to sing next to in the choir but haven’t seen in a while, a widow who may be concerned to come back to church due to underlying conditions, someone who used to sit near you in services—remember and respond.
Write down what the Holy Spirit impresses on your heart so you don’t forget, and then be sure to follow through. Send a note. Make a phone call. Stop by the house. Obey every impulse of the Holy Spirit to reach out to someone as part of the local church body.
3. Step out of your comfort zone.
There is something about wearing masks and maintaining several feet of distance from others that makes it challenging to be as friendly at church! This makes it all the more important that each member works toward greater connectiveness when the church is assembled.
One of the best ways to do this is to greet everyone you know and to introduce yourself to anyone you don’t know. The people you don’t know may be a first-time guest who is also struggling with what it feels like to come to a socially-distanced church. Or they may be church members struggling with isolation and loneliness through the week.
All of us like some routines, and we too easily make those routines a comfort zone from which we never break free. If you typically come to church and sit in the same place and just smile at the people immediately around you, make it your goal to reach out to meet and encourage others.
4. Seek to help.
Is there someone a couple seats from you who didn’t bring her Bible? Offer to share yours. Do you see a family struggling to find the childcare locations? Offer to walk over with them and introduce them to those who will be caring for their children. Did someone sitting right in front of you respond to end-of-sermon questions that he doesn’t know the Lord? Meet him and offer to show him how he can have a personal relationship with Christ.
Once again, social distancing guidelines sometimes make us feel that others won’t want us to reach out to them. But being friendly and helpful—even while being careful—goes a long way toward communicating genuine care.
5. Share the gospel.
The Great Commission of Christ—to share the gospel, baptize new believers, and disciple Christians (Matthew 28:19–20)—didn’t go away with the arrival of Covid-19. In fact, now more than ever before, people need to hear of the love of God and the sacrifice of Christ for them. They need a Savior, and we need to tell them of His salvation.
One of the ways to bring greater connectivity to the body life of the church has always been by adding new members. When you share the gospel, not only does that bring the potential that more people will become connected to the local church, but it also allows the entire church family to rally in exercising their spiritual gifts as they welcome and serve new Christians.
The Christian life was designed to be a life of connection—a body. And during this time when aspects of the church body life are hindered or feel more awkward because of Covid guidelines, it will take the body working together as a whole to overcome these challenges.
Every member is a minister, and every saint is a servant. So jump in, and do your part!