The Regathering—Five Heart ReflectionsBy Blair Cushman
May 21, 2020
Redemption Bible Church regathered for in person worship this past Sunday after eight weeks of online and in home worship. We persevered through those eight weeks by the grace of God through the diligent work of many. When things changed rapidly our best responded with excellence and innovation born out of our convictions. Their reward will be rich for their faithful service.
We, like you, have been seeking wisdom from the Lord about why and when and how to regather. As elders and leaders at Redemption we sought to make decisions and lead through these three categories: conviction, caution, and charity. Our biblical convictions drive us, though they do not necessitate recklessness so we proceed with caution, and in everything show love and compassion to those with varying opinions, preferences, and non-biblical convictions. We communicated these categories to our church through emails, podcasts, and FB Live videos.
Now that Sunday #1 is behind us, what did we learn? I am happy to talk through logistic lessons but for now I offer Five Heart Reflections.
Apprehension was the predominant attitude.
As our church began to gather for both services you could tell that the people were apprehensive; not anxious, not fearful, nobody was overly exuberant, just apprehensive. It was like the first day of summer camp when everyone is arriving and excited but still figuring out how to act and who to befriend. The counselors are going wild with excitement and music is playing but the campers just aren’t there yet. The first Sunday felt like that. You want the band to bring the energy and speakers to have enthusiasm, but embrace the gap from where the people sit and lead them in graciously.
We communicated the precautions we were taking to our church so they would be prepared for regathering. That added to the apprehension since the rhythms and space were different. We encouraged masks and had our leaders and volunteers wear them before and after services. Yet, we were primarily the only ones wearing them. Less than 2% wore masks. The diligent mask wearers did not come.
We missed seeing those on the edges.
As anticipated, our older folks, those with vulnerable conditions, the sporadic attenders, and parents with kids in the crawling/toddling stage did not come. We served them by streaming the service on Facebook Live. We took measures to serve them while online and to invite them back and will welcome them back when they return. We did have a few new families in each service join us in person for the first time!
A lifetime has passed in eight weeks.
As I got up to open our services and looked out upon the room it hit me just how much has happened since we last met. Many have experienced intense trials and immense grief through the pandemic. I imagined that this is what it feels like in war as squads regathered after fighting their respective battles and holding their lines. Many are wounded, some severely. All are famished and ready for a hot, home-cooked meal. They need to be re-clothed and re-supplied.
We acknowledged this reality and then began our services where we left off—on our knees in prayer. Our last in person gathering was March 15. I read Psalm 75:3 (When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars) to begin that service. We closed that service by asking the entire church to get on their knees and led them in a time of prayer. You should have heard the prayers then this Sunday! Psalm 75:3 had been rock solid for them through the pandemic and they let the Lord know it.
I was more empty than I realized.
This one surprised me the most. Tears flooded my eyes as I opened our first service. I had to choke out a greeting. I could hardly sing in the second service as I was weeping. I needed the sound of the saints singing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” to put strength in my soul. It was as if the Lord opened His hydrant of mercy on my soul and filled my empty cisterns to overflowing. It solidified my convictions about the importance of the gathering. Something supernatural happens when the church gathers for worship.
Spiritual warfare is intense.
When things wrapped up and I was able to head home I was tender before the Lord. He had done a good work in me and through me. I had my debrief conversations with elders, staff, and leaders. And then the enemy hit. I know better than to be caught off guard. But that snake hit me with all the discouragements and doubts he could muster. I heard Robbie Symons say in a message awhile back that when we get serious about the Lord then the devil gets serious about us. I have taken comfort in this reality often, for if the devil is concerned about me then the Lord must be doing a good work, otherwise he would not have much reason to take notice of me.
My time with Lord Monday morning was especially sweet. I am in the minor prophets right now in the reading plan I am doing with our staff and found particular strength from these verses. I won’t expound upon them but leave them for your encouragement and application.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” (Nahum 1:7)
“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:7)
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”
“Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” (Habakkuk 3:18-19)
“Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility;”
“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
We press on to Sunday #2, making some tweaks to our processes for greater excellence and expectant that God will continue His good work among us.