Finding the Kingdom During Covid 19

Finding the Kingdom During Covid 19

March 2020

I sat with a towel twisting my wet hair up on our bed, back in our master, while our worship pastor, our children’s director and my husband sat no more than 10 yards away and I listened to their honest, pure, worship. Tears began to fill behind my eyes and threatened to stream down my face. The words that rang throughout my house were, “You are making all things new…” And yet, as I sat in bed with a fever and a desperation to heal quicker, I knew and loved that my church was still being a church.

In the Confusion

This time with the craziness of Covid-19 has been a whirlwind or as some have referred to as being like the movie, Groundhog’s Day… over and over. Social media has gone RIDICULOUS with people now having free time to spout off their thoughts and ideas about the situation (I’ve seen an immense amount of good come out of our situations) but this morning… I could just be… and listen… and softly sing to my King while no one watched. Honestly, I could barely get the words out. Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to amidst all of this chaos and disorder:

  • I’ve found peace where once my heart was jumbled and stressed.
  • I’ve been able to breathe, really breathe in, and experience pure joy with my kids daily.
  • I’ve been able to dig into Scripture and geek out to the possibilities I find there.
  • I’ve been able to worship with no one watching.
  • I’ve been able to spend time reaching out to my church family more regularly to ask for or pray for them.
  • I’ve watched my kids settle in and just be… without the crazy amount of time constraints they used to have.
  • I’ve been able to see all of my church family’s faces via Zoom and laugh with them.
  • I’ve watched our church family come together in a tighter knit community to support and love on each other even virtually.

Chaos and the Church

It’s not the same… we can’t meet together collectively. It’s not normal… we aren’t allowed to worship together in the same room anymore. It’s not even similar… we are spending church virtually instead of spending next to flesh and blood. But here’s the thing… we are meeting separately… but we are together in spirit.

We’ve got to let go our our stubbornness… our resentment for how things were handled… our need to want things our way… and move into a time of healing, rest, and thankfulness that we live in a time and age where we can still meet- even if virtually.

I think back to one of the first Sunday’s after Jesus’ death. We find the disciples and Jesus’s followers spread out all over the city of Jerusalem… hiding. Some followers had even left the city and were headed home to Emmaus. But when Jesus finally appears to them in Luke 24, they think he’s a ghost. They can’t even believe he’s back!

The Kingdom they thought was coming… didn’t.

The life they thought Jesus had alluded to- was completely upside down.

I mean- the guy they’d been following around had been preaching of a new Kingdom… and then, whelp, he was killed. And now, they were huddled in a house, just waiting for something and thinking that there was no way this Kingdom was going to happen anymore.

“Then he said to them, “Don’t you remember the words that I spoke to you when I was still with you? I told you that everything written about me would be fulfilled, including all the prophecies from the law of Moses through the Psalms and the writings of the prophets—that they would all find their fulfillment.”  He supernaturally unlocked their understanding to receive the revelation of the Scriptures,  then said to them, “Everything that has happened fulfills what was prophesied of me. Christ, the Messiah, was destined to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.  Now you must go into all the nations and preach repentance and forgiveness of sins so that they will turn to me. Start right here in Jerusalem.  For you are my witnesses and have seen for yourselves all that has transpired. And I will send the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to you. So stay here in the city until the mighty power of heaven falls upon you and wraps around you.”

Here’s what’s crazy about us humans: we think we’re soooo smart. The disciples thought it was all over when their Savior was killed (and who’s to say we wouldn’t have thought the same?) They thought the Kingdom that Jesus preached, would never rise up. And yet, it did.

The Kingdom is happening around us. I’m seeing it in the faces of people who are selflessly dropping off food on our porch so that my husband doesn’t have to scramble to make dinner for all of us after taking care of us all day. I hear it in the voices worshipping from my living room. I receive it from the texts and social media messages that encourage and build me up with promises of prayer and healing. I read about it through the words of my King in scripture. I feel the Kingdom when I pray while weeping when no one is watching. It is all around us. God is with us.. even when we feel like church isn’t normal. The Kingdom is here… do you feel it?

Competition: Part 1

Competition: Part 1

This one has been a long time simmering in the back of my heart and mind. And honestly, I try to ignore and wish away this ugly truth. It goes against everything that Jesus spoke of; it has no benefit to the advancement of the gospel; and it creates hypocrisy in our churches that non-believers notice.

So… pretty much… all negative. (And the inner peacekeeper in me screams, “Why can’t we just all get along????”)

I noticed it when I was just six years old, playing out in the yard with a neighbor boy. We were seriously discussing our churches (which is hilarious when remembering our age at the time) and I started to realize something strange.  Anytime I mentioned something at our church, he would mention something better at his church. And when he mentioned something different at his church, I felt the need (and followed through on it) to one up him with something equally cool or more different at my church. I left that conversation feeling disappointed in myself; I still wish I could go back and change the way I talked with him. It was competition… plain and simple. And I knew (even at that young age) that we should have been encouraging each other in our differences instead of competing with each other.

Church Competition

Through our ministries, my Hubs and I have watched and regrettably listened as people use their own churches to compete against each other.

“We have an amazing children’s program! Seriously. I don’t know why families in our town go anywhere else!”

“That church only sings hymns. They are so out of touch with the rest of our society.”

“I could never attend a church that used drums in their worship.”

“We left our previous church because they had decided to do another building program. I mean… why? Aren’t they taking enough of our money?”

“That church is way too big. I like for my kids to sit with me and not feel judged when they are antsy during service.”

These comments make my heart ache. Like almost a depressing ache. Oh… and people… it gets worse. It gets worse when ministers, elders and leaders in churches speak these words or let their actions portray this to others. That breaks my heart. It makes me physically weak and pushes me to my knees.  I don’t understand it.

I do understand that as humans, we feel the need to compete with each other: in our jobs, our friendships, our athletics, how we raise our children…  But I wonder, is this what God created us for? From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus created a team (12 disciples).  And then, at his ascension, he sent his team out to do ministry all over the world (while still working together.) They didn’t get it right all the time– (check out the book of Acts to see this in action)– but they tried to work together as best as they could.

I think a lot of the time, churches today get this wrong.  We compete with each other: for people (most of them already believers), for fame (should we ever be seeking this?), for money (but it’s God’s money), for kids (create the best kids program in town), for teens (provide tons of food, games and loud music)… the list goes on and on. What I don’t understand is why we can’t all work together to accomplish the goal of Christ TOGETHER. Do we not understand how much more effective we would all be if we would be there to love and support each other as fellow churches?

At Thrive, we strive to work together with other churches. If someone comes through our doors and doesn’t click with Thrive- we support them in finding another Bible-teaching church that will push them in their walk with Christ that we couldn’t. We would rather them leave Thrive than  never serve or use their gifts that God created them to use.

The Body of Christ

When reading through the book of 1 Corinthians, I have always loved chapter 12. The section I’m gonna focus on starts in verse 12:

12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. 28 Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:

first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.

29 Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? 30 Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! 31 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.

But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.

Guys.  Girls.  What if the apostle Paul wasn’t just referring to a single body of believers (a single church) here. What if he was referring to the ENTIRE BODY of believers.  Every church. Every nation. Everywhere. If we read this like that– I wonder if we would start acting as if we are on the same team instead of competing teams.

Why can’t we as churches work together to be the body of Christ to those around us who don’t know Christ? If one church has a need, why is it so hard for another church in the area to step in and help fill that need? Why do we always feel the need to compete with other churches?  And again I think, “Why can’t we just all get along????”

 I think Paul was trying to give us a major hint in verse 31 when he wrote, “But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all…”
Guys. Girls.  The entire next chapter (13) is all about LOVE. 
…to be continued…


Joys in Planting

Joys in Planting

Although planting is difficult, and sometimes crazy, there are joys that come from growing a new church.

1)People Take Ownership

Something amazing happens when people in your new church see gaps.  And by gaps, I mean areas that need help.  Soon, they’re asking you, “Where can I help?” or they just roll their sleeves up and jump in.

2) It Morphs Into a Family

When you see the beginning stages of a family form, in the name of Christ, you will witness something amazing.  You will almost be able to sit back and watch as people begin to connect and form relationships.  They will soon begin to own the relationships, taking time to check in with each other, providing for each other’s needs, reaching out and asking questions in order to help… basically acting the way a true family should.

3) New Believers

This is the most exciting part of church planting: bringing new believers to Christ who beforehand would never have stepped inside a church.  Church plants are able to reach more people for Christ than stagnant, established churches.  Why is this?  Maybe it’s because most church plants don’t have established cliques or rules that have been in place for hundreds of years (Why can’t kids run through the sanctuary??).  When you share the Gospel with a new believer, something amazing happens and an instant family bond is formed.  It is worthy of a celebration!

What other joys do you find in church planting?  Comment below.