by: Josh Conley
I remember from an early age my desire to serve Jesus in the local church. It started at about age 5 when I would line up my stuffed animals and preach sermons to them. I remember working all week, reading and studying the Bible to come up with a sermon that would be good for them. I never lost that desire. I started teaching Childrens Church at Miamitown Church of Christ when I was in Jr. High. I led the Jr. High Youth Group when I was a Sr. in High School. I got my first paid ministry position my Freshman year in Bible College. I have always loved the Church and the impact that it can have on a community.
So these last eight weeks have been tough on me not being able to meet with the Church. I have gone through different stages of grief really. I have been angry and wanted to rebel against all the guidelines, I have felt myself slipping into a state of depression from time to time. I have felt great sadness on Sunday mornings as my routine has been crushed. I have found myself thinking I just wish we could get back to normal.
As I was praying and thinking about the Scriptures the other night I thought why? Why do I want to get back to normal? Doesn’t God often challenge us to get out of our comfort zone? Of course I want Sunday morning services to come back. I can’t wait! I love gathering together, teaching, preaching, and leading. That’s why I got into ministry in the first place.
Then I was convicted by God, I didn’t hear an audible voice, but this is what I sensed, “Josh, maybe you love the church more than the Savior, what has this virus taken away that I have called you, created you to do?” With that on my heart I prayed for forgiveness and started thinking about what God has called me to do. I came up with Seven things as followers of Christ that cannot be taken away.
- Worship - Now I love corporate worship. A room full of people singing praises to our God is such an amazing sound. It encourages me, but if the only time I can worship is on Sunday morning with a gathering of people, is that really worship. Paul tells us in Romans 12, “to offer your body as a living sacrifice this is your spiritual act of worship”. Paul himself worshipped in prison with Silas. David worshipped in the fields, caverns, and wilderness all alone, read the Psalms. This virus may be able to stop us from meeting together, but it cannot prevent me from surrendering my rights, and desires and becoming a living sacrifice to God. I can sing to Him, praise Him, and cry out to Him and no one or nothing can take that away.
- Serve - Just before His crucifixion Jesus was having the Passover meal with His disciples. Jesus got up from the table and with a wash basin and a towel he got down and began to wash the feet of His disciples. Then He told them I have set an example now follow it. Serving people will open hearts to the gospel. I love that I still have the ability to serve even in quarantine. I love that our church is still serving and meeting needs in our community. From delivering project bread and school meals, those working at the food pantry, those showing love to their neighbors. Again I love Sunday morning, but Jesus called us to live a life of service, not give him an hour a week. There may be limits on how many can gather, but there is no limit to the ways that we can serve.
- Give - I think of the example of the early church, things weren’t a lot different. The church had to meet in groups in peoples homes. It was illegal to be a Christian from the resurrection up until 313 AD when Constantine the Roman emperor made christianity legal and allowed them to worship publicly. So when we read the book of Acts we have to understand that Christianity was illegal. People were imprisoned and even executed for their faith, but that did not stop them from giving. I love Acts 4 where people were selling houses and lands to take care of the needy among them. An amazing testimony, they were being persecuted, executed, and losing their jobs for their faith, yet they were still willing and able to give to meet the needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Nothing can take that away.
- Pray- Over the course of the last 8 weeks I have had amazing opportunities to pray with and for people. From online connection cards, phone calls, people stopping by the office, and just dial praying for the members of KCC. I have prayed for wisdom and discernment. I have prayed for our future and our leaders. I have prayed for J.B. Pritzker and Donald Trump on a daily basis. I have spoken to God in prayer and I have listened to God in prayer nothing can take that away.
- Teach - I have been able to teach consistently on Sunday mornings and we are reaching more people than ever before through our online services. Our staff is excited every week to get to share the word of God with a couple of thousand people. I have seen families teaching their kids more than ever, we have had many young people get baptized and accept Christ and I believe that is because parents are teaching and talking with their kids about Christ and next steps. It may be different, but we are still able to teach. I made this comment in a sermon, but there are no less than 50 countries in the world that if we were doing what we are doing now we would be found and executed. We can still teach
- Tell - I had the opportunity the other day to share the good news of Jesus with someone. I was in Walmart and was talking to the cashier. I told her I was a minister and she just kind of shrugged it off, and then we began talking about hope, and I shared the message of Christ with her. That our hope is not found in political leaders, or financial means, it is found in the Savior who loved us enough to die for us. Those conversations are intimidating I know, but as followers of Christ we are called to share the good news with everyone. The only time in the Scriptures where I read of followers of Christ going against the government is in this category. In Acts 4 again, Peter and John are arrested and told not to mention the name of Jesus again, and they said we have to talk about what this man has done for us. Imprisonment, beatings, and persecution could not stop them from telling about Jesus. This virus should not stop us from talking about Jesus and what He has done for us.
- Grow - I am growing more and more during this time of social distancing. I am learning more about myself and my selfish desires. I am learning how to surrender my wants and rights. I am dealing with this rebellious nature that I have had since childhood. I am consistently taking next steps and nothing can take that away from me.
So while I very much want to meet again on Sunday mornings, I am realizing more and more that I need to fall in love with the Savior and not the sanctuary. I love what Paul wrote in Romans 8:31-39, 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This virus may separate us from one another, but nothing can separate us from the love of God, and that is all that matters!!