The Power of Gathering
Several years ago I had the opportunity to write a book titled Better Together. It was my attempt to make the case for the community, even for people who are introverted like me.
Though this was not my favorite book I’ve written, it has been the most popular. I guess we all really do need to be convinced of the power of being together.
During this COVID season, extroverted people have been like plants without sunshine and introverts have been living their best life… for the most part. Even I have had some difficult days where I craved even a Zoom call.
This past weekend as our church regathered for the first time I was overwhelmed with several thoughts… and to my surprise, very few of them had anything to do with my introversion.
Over the last few days I’ve been inundated with texts from other pastors asking “How did it go?”, and it has caused me to reflect on our first weekend gathering experience in several months:
We’re Together, but It’s Definitely Different
To be honest, as a Pastor, I was not prepared for how much not being able to hug people, shake hands, see smiles and hear laughter (all due to masks and social distancing) would mess with my head. It’s hard to know how you are connecting with people when you can’t see their faces.
It’s hard to comfort people when you can’t put your hand on their shoulder while praying for them. And it’s difficult to stand on stage and see empty seats masked smiles, and muffled singing… In some ways it was a tough day.
But on the other hand, there is nothing like live worship music. Standing in the auditorium with my family, hearing our band lead us in worship, seeing hands raised around the room… Even though we could only have one hundred people due to current regulations, it was a reminder that as much as I crave alone time due to introversion, I am NOT alone.
We are in this together. And sometimes it helps to see others… even if it’s not that many.
The Church is Better Off Stage Than On
So my learning as a pastor is this: Church is better off stage than on. And let’s be honest, that’s the way it is meant to be. To be in community with each other rather than performing for one another.
To my fellow pastors… seize this season to connect with life in the audience more than life on the stage.
Soak in worship and community and the open hearts of our people. We get too caught up in what to say, how to communicate and how we are being perceived. Just embrace each other (six feet apart, of course).
To my fellow Christians… lower your expectations of what church will be like during a pandemic, and just enjoy the power of being together.
Whether it is on a Zoom call, a backyard watch party for church, or an in person gathering at your local campus, lean into the need to see each other. And even if it may not be life-giving to you at that moment, it may be to others. Someone seeing your faith may just help them continue their faith.
I think this next year will be a series of ups and downs. Openings and closings. Restrictions and regulations. And I think we will continue to all be migrating between online campuses and physical campuses.
But, remember the power of community. It’s not just for the extroverts, it’s for all of us. Because we are made in the image of the Triune God who exists in community. And because of that, we truly are better together.