Hello Church Family, this is Pastor Phil!
Over the past month and a half, we’ve gotten an opportunity to try many different ways that being part of a Church Family is accomplished. For us we’ve used my YouTube meditations and my blog, zoom meetings, drive-through communion service for Easter, texting, and lots of phone calls. This Sunday, we’ll have the opportunity to try another way: Drive-in parking lot worship. I think it’s going to be fun if the weather cooperates.
I’ve also appreciated the opportunity to see many pastors stream their worship services on Facebook, like Pastor Jody for our partner congregation at St. Marks Victory. As a pastor, these are services I would not normally be able to see on a Sunday morning, so I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to see him and a lot of other pastors doing their thing.
I’ve also talked to individuals who normally work on Sundays or are for other reasons are not able to get out for worship. Having all of these opportunities for worship online has been a huge blessing to them. Plus, I keep hearing story after story of those who haven’t known Jesus or who have been away from the worship life of the Church becoming connected and reconnected to our Savior Jesus.
In all of these cases, the How, of how we do church has expanded and introduced additional ways for this to happen. Many of these are not the preferred ways of being able to worship as we are accustomed to, but many of these new ways of doing Church may stick around and be useful for the future. Throughout the centuries Christians have had to modify and adjust the How of their worship, for many different reasons. From our LCMS Lutherans, as well as all Christians, in 1918 having to postpone public worship services because of the Spanish Influenza pandemic, to Christians worshipping in huge public gatherings in gigantic cathedrals, to Christians worshipping together in the catacombs and crypts because of intense persecution. Christians have worshipped together in their homes under the leadership of a central Bishop or pastor for that area and Christians have worshipped together in what is familiar to us as Western Christians in these not-for-profit organizations that we utilize today.
Notice, as Christians we have a lot of flexibility in How we are a Church family. Recognizing that can be really hard for us. We get used to doing things a certain way and often assume that’s how it’s always been done or that’s how it should be done. But even though the How of being a Church family can adjust and expand due to circumstances and need, the What of being a Church family and the Why of being a Church family doesn’t change.
we have a lot of flexibility in How we are a Church family
The What of being a Church family is those aspects of church that are non-negotiable, that if we lost, we would stop being Church and become something else altogether. Acts 2:42 and Matthew 28:19 does a great job of describing what this What, looks like.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
Condense these verses to their base components, you have:
- Apostle’s teaching + what Jesus has commanded = God’s Word
- Breaking of Bread + Baptism = Lord’s Supper and Baptism
- Fellowship + Discipleship = God’s People called in Faith
Taking it all together, you have the What of being a Church family. God’s People called through faith who gather around the Word and the Sacraments. We call this the Means of Grace, how God delivers His gifts of Grace to us. This, What of being a Church family doesn’t change, even though many of the How’s might. Like the How of receiving communion either at the altar in a Sanctuary or through your car window on a paper plate, it is still the same What of being a Church family but not the same How.
Finally, the Why of being a Church family doesn’t change, even if the How’s do change. From Ephesians 2:8:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
Why we are a Church family is the grace of God given and received through faith in Jesus Christ our Savior. We are saved by God’s grace only and His work in our lives. It is Jesus that makes us a family. We receive this gift of faith through the Means of Grace, the Word and Sacraments, the What of being a Church family and we come together to receive Grace and Forgiveness in Jesus.
What is Church? God’s People called through faith who gather around the Word and the Sacraments.
As a Church family, even though many of the How’s we do Church have changed—and will continue to expand and adjust—What we do and Why we do it has not changed and never will. We are God’s people saved by grace through faith in Jesus, who gather together and receive that gift of salvation through the Means of Grace, the Word, and the Sacraments.
We can always hold on to the What and Why of being a Church family, because that will never change, because Jesus never changes.