Faith Spotlight | Westminster Presbyterian Church of Middletown, NJ

MIRA GIBSON

There are many reasons to attend church services. Hebrews 10:23-25 tells us, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Attending church gives believers access to discipleship, fellowship, and confession as it is written in James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul reminds the church of Corinth that every believer in attendance offers a unique gift, the totality of which contributes to a beautifully diverse, strong, whole, and healthy community. This community is the very “body of Christ”, and like the physical body parts of a human being, the individuals in Christ’s church body each make up a different vital aspect. Some believers are like the eyes of the congregation, others like the arms, and others are like the heart, liver, and legs. It is when we come together in worship that we are complete, and our togetherness is part of what makes our worship legitimate in the eyes of God.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dismembered the body of Christ as we have come to know it, breaking parishioners apart from one another and scattering them away from our houses of worship, but that doesn’t mean that believers have put worshipping the Lord on pause.

American Christians are adjusting. We worship in physical isolation but not in secret. Many homes have now become churches of their own with household believers connecting with one another in front of a computer screen.

This Sunday morning, the Christian Daily Chronicle is shining a Faith Spotlight on the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Middletown, NJ. Westminster has been holding Sunday services via Facebook livestream, but today the church is offering a drive-thru Palm Sunday experience where members and believing Christians from far and wide can drive up and receive a branch at the window along with a Psalms card.

“This ‘Palms and Psalms’ service will provide the comfort and strength that the Cross and Word of God offers in the present crisis situation,” Reverend Joseph Hein, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church of Middletown told Michael Gryboski, reporter for the Christian Post.

Volunteers and members working with the church to hand out palms and psalms will protect their health and the health of Christians who drive through by wearing PPE masks and keeping their hands sanitized.

The Westminster Presbyterian Church has been called to help Christians keep their spirits up during this period while services are suspended. And the Christian Daily Chronicle would also like to help strengthen our readership’s faith as Christians worship from home. Here are four areas to focus on throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

DEEPEN YOUR FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD

No matter what is going on in the world, you are in control of your connection with God. Christianity, as a religion and as a spiritual faith, is all about relationship with the Lord, and that relationship was never designed to be a one-way street. The Lord knows exactly who you are and he has been with you during every struggle, hardship, doubt, and victory you’ve ever experienced. He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Even if you were the only person on earth, Jesus would have still died on the cross for you and taken upon himself the punishment for sin that was meant for you. Think about that. How powerful! The Lord’s sacrifice also annihilated the separation and distance that would’ve otherwise stood between you and him. We know that God is omniscient and omnipresent, which means that we always have access to him. Set aside time to connect with the Lord, treat him like a friend, talk with him, ask him questions, invite him into your everyday life, and he will meet you there.

WORSHIP CREATIVELY

You might not have access to your regular Sunday church services, but you can still dedicate time to worship the Lord, whether that be every Sunday morning or other times throughout the week. Worshipping from home doesn’t have to resemble church service either. Necessity is the mother of invention and if you want to stay invigorated in your faith, you might want to think outside the box. Yes, you can put on your favorite Christian music and sing your heart out with the whole family. You can also venture out into nature, go for a walk or a hike, and contemplate scriptural passages you’ve read that stirred your heart.

Outdoor, active worship is a great way to pray out loud, talk to God, and verbally list all that you’ve been grateful for despite the upheaval from this pandemic. Using arts & crafts is another creative way to engage your whole family in worship. Sit the kids down on the living room floor with construction paper, markers, stickers, glitter glue, and any other decorating supplies you can think of and challenge them to make posters of the various names for the Lord—“lamb of God”, “King of kings”, “Savior of the world”, etc.

STAY IN SCRIPTURE

Regularly reading the Bible, staying in scripture, and taking time to really consider what the Word of God is communicating has been known to improve the quality of a believer’s life and this improvement goes beyond spiritual growth. A recent study conducted by the Center for Bible Engagement discovered that people who spend time reading the Bible four or more times a week experience significant, positive changes in their lives. Among the most noteworthy changes: feelings of loneliness dropped 30%, feelings of anger and succumbing to anger-related issues dropped 32%, and feelings of bitterness dropped 40%.

If you have fallen away from dedicating daily time to reading your Bible, especially if this is due to nationwide shut downs, sheltering in place, and loss of job, income, and hope about the current economic climate, you aren’t alone. Feeling unmotivated, indifferent, and even resistant to connecting with the Word of God at a time like this is understandable. But times like this have plagued believers throughout history. The Bible is chalk-full of examples in both the Old and New Testaments. What was God trying to convey in those scriptural examples of plagues and pestilence? What was God’s role? How did the Lord advise his people to persevere?

The answers to all of these questions and more can be found in scripture, so crack open your Bible and let the Lord guide you. Make Bible reading an activity for the whole family by incorporating a few verses into your everyday routines. Perhaps before digging into dinner, every member of your family can pass the Bible around and read a verse from a select chapter. Encourage your children to discuss the meaning of those passages over dinner. Or maybe reading a certain story from the Old Testament can be part of the bedtime routine for the whole family.

CONNECT WITH CHRISTIANS

Human beings weren’t designed to be isolated and the current “shelter in place” and “stay at home” lifestyle really isn’t a natural one. As believers, we have come to understand that faith thrives in Christian community. The good news is that even in the midst of extreme governmental measures to protect citizens from this virus, you can still connect with other Christians and invest in your spiritually grounded friendships.

Seek out Christian friends who are strong in their faith and who show evidence of good fruit in their lives. Reach out through a phone call, text, or social media message to schedule dates and times—either daily, weekly, or at some other consistent frequency—to speak on the phone or Facetime for a set amount of time. During these calls, share with one another how you’re coping with the massive lifestyle change that the pandemic has caused. Bring prayer requests to the conversation and take turns praying. Read scripture to one another. You can even read one of Paul’s letters on every call—the majority of New Testament letters takes between 5 – 12 minutes to read out loud. And keep the lines of Christian communication open throughout the week.

In this trying time of COVID-19, consider the meaning and significance—both literal and metaphorical—of James 4:8, which tells us, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

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