Well it’s hard to believe, but it has been over five months since the start of the pandemic. So much has changed about our lives during these past five months! And while it has been encouraging to be able to experience once again some of the everyday joys of life as we once knew it, such as a trip to the park or enjoying a meal at a restaurant (outside of course!), it is very clear that life is still very different from what it once was. And from all indications, it doesn’t look like it’s going back to normal anytime soon. At least for the foreseeable future there is a “new normal.” If you’re anything like me (this is Pastor Matt, btw), maybe in the back of your mind the first few months of this pandemic you’ve thought that if we just hunker down, in no time this will all soon be past and we’ll get back to normal again. But five months into this, and with no end in sight, I’ve found myself having to rethink this approach. One of the greatest challenges for me has been missing the blessing of Christian community and fellowship in the way I was used to experiencing it. I know as I talk to many of you, you feel the same way. We miss being with other believers. The way God designed the body of Christ, we need each other for spiritual growth and encouragement.
It’s in this context we find ourselves in, that the book of Hebrews can be particularly helpful. Hebrews is written to a group of Christian’s who, like us, find themselves experiencing life differently than they are used to. Things have changed, life is suddenly harder and more complicated, and they find themselves living in the midst of a difficult season in need of encouragement. In an effort to encourage this group of Christian’s, the author of Hebrews writes to them pointing them to the greatness of Jesus and all He has done for them, and then in Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds them that in difficult seasons we need each other. In fact, we need each other more than ever as we see the Day of Christ’s return drawing closer. He writes:
“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, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
So how do we do this? Especially in the midst of a pandemic where meeting together isn’t as easy as it once was, how do we find ways to encourage one another? We do this by starting where the author of Hebrews tells us we need to start. We first need to stop and “consider” how. We need to take some time to sit down and think through how to best do this. And this might look different from person to person. Your “how” might be different than my “how”. But regardless of “how” we do this, we all need to put ourselves in a place where we can be used by God to “stir up” others and to be stirred up as well. As we’re considering what this looks like, I think our text points us to two categories to think through: context and rhythm.
First think through context. Get creative. Think through the question, “Where and how can I meet with people for fellowship?” Understand that there will probably need to be some changes made to how you were doing this before. Maybe you were someone that enjoyed having people over for dinner. Right now, that might not be possible, but can you invite a friend on a walk instead? Or if you’re married, can you invite another couple out on a walk? I’ve been encouraged to see how different members of our church have sought to adapt and be creative in finding different contexts. A couple members I know of with young children have been doing weekly morning phone calls before the kids are up, to talk and pray. I’ve enjoyed an early morning meet up at the park with a couple of guys as we read through a book together. One of our members told me how he realized that calling people on his lunch break was the best time for him to connect with people from his Small Group, so he’s making a point to do that.
Second, as you consider how to do this, think through how to not just create occasional times of fellowship, but rather how can you help create a rhythm of fellowship in your life. Occasional times of exercise, while not completely in vain, are nowhere near as helpful as a regular rhythm of exercise. The same is true with fellowship. If there ever was a time when it would be easy to fall into a habit of not meeting together, now’s the time. We need to be on guard against this. As we saw in our text in Hebrews because of the challenges that they were facing, some of the Hebrew Christians had fallen into this habit. The only way I know of to avoid falling into this habit, is by forming the opposite habit. Creating a rhythm of fellowship in your life. How can you engage in fellowship in a sustainable way? If you can only go on a walk once in the next month, maybe there’s another context that is more repeatable for getting together with people. Maybe you weren’t able to previously attend Small Group because childcare was an issue, but now that many of our Small Group’s are meeting on Zoom it is now possible. Whatever the case, as you are considering how to do this, think through how to find ways to do this consistently.
Friends, though it may look different for each of us, I believe God wants to use this season in our lives where we have to take greater ownership of our faith, and exercise greater intentionality, to grow us to be more like Jesus. I’m looking forward to hearing of the ways that God is using us in each other’s lives to stir one another up to love and good works in the months ahead! In fact, sharing with each other how God is leading us to pursue fellowship sounds like a good place to start stirring one another up.