The President is asking the American people to avoid gathering in groups of ten or more. How can we be the church under such limitations? Fortunately, we are not the first church ever to encounter this obstacle. The first church had no church buildings, so this is what they did:
Acts 2:46 b – 47: They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who are being saved.
For the early church, “church” did not happen in church buildings, but out in the community and in homes as people prayed together, worshipped together, learned to follow Jesus together and cared for each other.
The following is a guide for being the church out in the community and in our homes. The current restriction is for groups of greater than twenty-five, but we are recommending that these small groups not exceed ten people. Some will choose to do this only with those who are living in their home. Others may choose to invite a few others to worship with them.
Again, listen to our government officials. Wash your hands and practice good hygiene. Avoid shaking people’s hands and hugging people. Stay away from people if you are sick. If you are elderly or have a compromised immune system, it will be better for you to stay home and not entertain visitors. You can still follow this guide if you are home alone.
The guide is based on a very simple idea:
The church is a community of followers of Jesus who are:
- growing in love for God
- growing in love for their neighbor
- making new disciples of Jesus who love God and love their neighbor
This guide will help you love God, love others, and make disciples in your homes and in the community where God has placed you. It will guide you through the essential elements of a worship gathering:
- Prayer. Prayer is simply a conversation with God where we listen to his voice and respond to him with prayers that love Him (worshipping God, surrendering to his will) and love others (our daily needs, our forgiveness, and our protection).
- Worship. Worship is our response to God’s greatness, power, mercy, and love. It is our way of saying “thank you” and “we love you” to God.
- Word. Disciples of Jesus follow him by listening to the Word of God, responding to the Word of God (responses can vary from doing something (or stopping something), repentance, worship and thankfulness to God, praying in a specific way, trusting God with something specific), and finally sharing something simple from what you have learned with someone else.
- Outreach. We are to love the neighbors that God has placed in our lives. This includes: praying for them, caring for them, and inviting them to follow Jesus with us. These neighbors can be family, co-workers, but in light of the circumstances we find ourselves in, we will be guiding you specifically in loving the neighbors that live next door.
You see all four elements as we break down the parts of doing a worship gathering in your home.
Church Small Service Outline
Each week we will give you a Psalm to read as your opening prayer. The book of Psalms is a collection of Holy Spirit inspired prayers that were originally set to music. While we have the lyrics, the tunes have been lost to history. Each Psalm expands on one or more of the themes of the Lord’s Prayer (See Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4). These themes include:
- Worship. Telling God how great, wonderful, powerful, merciful and/or loving he is.
- Surrender. Because you love God, you surrender to his will. You simply want what he wants.
- Our Daily Needs. The psalm prays for what is needed to get to the end of the day, either for themselves or someone else.
- Our Forgiveness. The psalm asks God to forgive them for their sins.
- Our Protection. The world is a dangerous place, and these psalms often ask God for our protection.
Read the Psalm. Think about it and respond to the themes you hear in the psalm with a prayer in your own words.
Worship is simply our response to who God is. It is one way we love God together. It can be expressed through music, but it can also be expressed through prayer. Music is a wonderful tool for worship, but it is possible to worship without it.
If you feel comfortable with singing a capella, or if you have musicians in the house, we will provide suggested songs in our weekly worship gathering guide. But we will also provide non-musical approaches to worship. They will include suggestions such as:
- Each person shares one thing from their experience with God that they are thankful for. After the discussion, have someone offer a prayer of thanksgiving and worship tying together the things that have been shared.
- We may share Scriptures that describe reasons to worship God. These Scriptures can be read and then prayed back to God in our own words.
Simply put, disciples of Jesus listen to his teaching, respond to his teaching, and share his teachings with others. We listen to Jesus, by reading the Word of God. Here is how it is going to flow:
- Prayer. Ask God to open our minds to what we are about to read so that we can understand what we are going to read, to open our hearts to respond to what we hear, and to give us the courage to share what we are learning with others.
- Scripture reading. We will provide a Scripture reading that will go with the Children’s Message and Sermon.
- Sermon and Children’s Message. We will provide links to a pre-recorded sermon and children’s message that you can watch together.
- Going Deeper (adults) and Family Challenge (children). We will provide a discussion guide based on the sermon and children’s message. These guides will walk you through the three discipleship questions:
- Listen. What did you hear? Describe in your own words what God was saying through this Scripture.
- Respond. If this is God’s Word to you, how will you respond? There are a number of possibilities (not all may apply, but be personal and specific in your responses):
- Is God calling you to do something (or stop doing something)?
- Are you moved to repent of a specific sin?
- Are you inspired to trust God for something specific in your life?
- Are you moved to worship God?
- Are you called to pray in a certain way?
- Share. What is something simple that you learned that you can share with others? Who will you share this with?
- Prayer. Ask God to help us put into practice what we have learned and to share it with others.
We are asking that we take some time to pray for the following groups of people:
- For those who are gathered together. Ask those who are gathered in your house: Name one thing you are thankful for and one thing that is stressing you out. Pray for each other.
- Church Prayer Guide. The church will put together a weekly prayer guide. This will include prayers for the church’s ministry and also people in the church community.
- For our neighbors. Pray for the people whom God has placed in your life, especially your immediate neighbors (see Outreach section for more information).
Can you do outreach during the corona-virus outbreak? Absolutely. Here is where we would like you to start:
- Draw a tic-tac-toe grid. Place your house in the center square. If you know the names of your neighbors, put their names in the squares surrounding your house. (If you don’t know their names, write down what you do know.)
- Pray for your neighbors. Following the outline of the Lord’s Prayer, pray the following:
- That God supplies their daily needs. (daily bread)
- That God will work through the circumstances of their lives so that they are open to the Gospel. Pray also that God will give you an opportunity to invite them to follow Jesus with you. (forgiveness)
- That God will protect them from the virus and whatever threatens them.
- Look for opportunities to serve your neighbors and for signs that God is working in their lives. If they have a need that you cannot meet. Please reach out to the deacons for help or email@example.com to add them to the prayer chain.
Do you have any questions or concerns?
Feel free to reach out to Pastor Nate at firstname.lastname@example.org