What is The Church when it is not Meeting Publicly?

Dr. Craig Kraft
October 13 2020


As we live through the eighth month of the COVID-19 Pandemic in North America, many are beginning to wonder if it will ever end. 

We have a lot of questions: Will we be wearing masks next year?  Has our way of life been altered permanently?  Will we be able to visit our family members in care homes?  How will the school year unfold?  When will church get back to normal? 

I believe that the pandemic provides us with an excellent opportunity for reflection.  What if things never go back to the way they were before March 2020?  How will our lives look different in the years to come?  We are missing family activities, parties, sports, concerts, and vacations. 

Some of us are missing church. 

Identifying the Church

This is an opportune time to take an inventory of what is essential in our lives.  We may find that we can get by with a lot less stuff.  We can be creative about staycations or vacations closer to home, and we are all becoming more proficient with online shopping. 

But what does the church look like when no one is attending?

Do we identify the church by the location, facility, staff, programs, and services?  If our understanding of the church is tied to these things, then the church may be facing a major crisis right now. 

However, if we identify the church as the body of believers who worship together then scatter into the community, then maybe we can see signs of new hope.  I believe that the church is the people of God, wherever they are and wherever they may meet. 

When we take public gatherings and large worship services out of the equation, we still have the people of God, scattered in society where they can be the church.

This is an opportunity to focus on the things that matter to God. 

5 Christian Disciplines

I want to suggest five Christian practices or disciplines that will help us stay faithful to our calling as followers of Jesus Christ and which will positively reflect the church of Christ in this new pandemic reality.

1. Pursue Holiness. 

Followers of Jesus Christ are to stand out as different from the prevailing culture.  We are called to fear the Lord and pursue holiness and to be holy as He is holy (2 Cor. 7:1, 1 Peter 1:5, Eph. 4:24). 

This is not a time to neglect to spend time in God’s word.  North Americans are becoming more biblically illiterate every year.  This is an opportunity to stem the tide and spend time daily in God’s word. 

Through his word, God shows us a path to holy living.

2. Prayer

COVID-19 has been a global call to prayer.  We have needs in our families, communities, nations, and continents that continue to spiral out of our control. 

God has promised to hear our prayers if we humble ourselves before Him. 

Perhaps we could spend time each day praying through 2 Chronicles 7:14: "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

3. Love One Another. 

Jesus gave his followers a new commandment that they love one another. 

Our world needs more love today.  Christians have been perceived as hypocritical, opinionated, judgemental, and exclusive.  Jesus said that we should be identifiable by our love for others (Jn. 13:34-35, 1Jn. 4:7-8). 

The disruption to our usual way of life is providing new ways for the church to stand out through their acts of love for their family, neighbors, and communities.  How well are you reflecting the Love of Christ in your interactions with others?

4. Share the Gospel. 

We can not be true followers of Jesus without sharing the gospel with others.  Jesus commissioned the church to go and make disciples, and to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). 

Compelled by God’s love, the church must be sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, or it is just a social club. 

We all have opportunities to share the message of God’s love and grace in Jesus and the hope we find in Him.  We don’t have to be preachers, and we don’t have to be offensive, but we are called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.  This is an area where the pandemic may help us.  We have a message of hope that is as relevant in a friendly conversation as it is from a preacher’s pulpit. 

Relationships and intimacy provide an opportunity to authenticate our testimony.

5. Be Good Citizens

There are so many passages and principles for good citizenship in scripture, but a straightforward verse is Micah 6:8, “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?” 

We would do well to consider justice, kindness, and humility as it relates to our relationships and actions in our community. 

Be the Church

Accomplished and beloved basketball coach, John Wooden, wrote, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” 

Perhaps something similar should be written about the church.  Can we say the true test of the church’s character is what they do when they are not meeting together publicly? 

Let’s work together to be the church in our communities, to reflect Christ, love one another, and offer help and hope to a world that is in crisis.

Dr. Craig Kraft is the Executive Director of Outreach Canada.  Craig and his wife Heather have four adult sons.  They were involved in pastoral ministry in western Canada for fifteen years before becoming missionaries with OC.  Craig served with OC in southern Africa and now leads the ministry in Canada. After returning from Africa, Craig assisted with the formation of the OC Global Alliance, a partnership of over one thousand missionaries working around the world.  Craig is a graduate of Northwest Baptist Seminary at ACTS and a graduate of Asia Graduate School of Theology with a Doctor of Intercultural Studies. His study has focused on diaspora missiology in Canada.  His dissertation explores the potential for revitalizing Canadian churches through the practice of biblical hospitality with refugees and immigrants.

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