Gathering Together Again as Church
Pastor Oliver lists five reasons why we should gather in person for worship. [Watch this video on what to expect when you return for worship services.]
I met a brother last Saturday after GBC's first Saturday 5pm service. He was with his son and they had regathered for church. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, they, like many others, have been viewing our livestream services via YouTube since April 2020. It was the first time in almost ten months that both of them had gathered in person. As this brother spoke, tears welled up in his eyes, as he expressed how thankful he was to assemble physically in person. He said it was a different experience to gather in person for worship service, rather than virtually over technology. He left that evening, feeling deeply encouraged.
Singapore has moved into phase 3 of Covid-19 safe reopening from 28 December 2020. With this, the government authorities lifted some restrictions and churches can now gather in larger numbers. At GBC, with the necessary Covid-19 safe management precautions, we can now gather up to 244 for our worship services. Preaching and service leading without masks are now allowed. We can resume live music performances with our song leaders unmasked. As a congregation, we still have to remain masked and not sing aloud, but some worship service elements have resumed. We have also started two services, one at 5pm Saturday, and another at 9am Sunday. Our desire is for most of our members to have an opportunity to gather as a church every weekend.
We have been able to connect virtually and view our services online thanks to the common grace of technology. But now that more of us members of GBC can assemble in person, we encourage you to regather as a church. We understand that some, because of valid health concerns, will continue to view our service virtually from their homes and participate in this manner. It is okay, and you can continue to do so. For the rest of us, after we follow all the Covid-19 precautions, let us now make an effort to gather.
Why do we gather in person as a church? We gather because the church is an assembly. In the old testament, after their rescue out of Egypt, the nation of Israel gathered together at Mount Sinai to hear God's Law. Moses later referred to that event as "the day of assembly" (Deut 9:10). At other critical junctures in Israel's history, the nation similarly gathered as an "assembly" before their covenant Lord (Judg 20:2, 1 Kgs 8:14, 1 Chr 28:8). The Greek translation of the Old Testament for "assembly"—ekklesia, is the same word the New Testament writers use to refer to the local church. It's simply the term for a gathering. Besides we see churches in the New Testament regularly gathering in-person—Paul uses phrases like "when you come together as a church" and "the whole church comes together" (1 Cor 11:18; 14:23).
We gather because we sit together under the Word of God. Early believers assembled to hear the Word of God (Acts 13:44). Gathering together to hear and sit under the preaching of God's Word expresses our submission individually and corporately to Scripture. It is also part of our corporate discipleship. We hear together to allow for the continual reverberation of God's Word preached in our lives as we talk about the sermons in our conversations over meals or in our meetings. When we hear God's Word together, we are also implicitly saying to one another, "help me apply this Word into my life". Assembling under God's Word helps us account for each other's growth to Christlikeness and pray for one another's maturity.
We gather because we make the church visible. When we assemble, we the church becomes visible to ourselves. The church is people. When we gather in-person, we see one another, and more importantly, we see the outworking of God's grace in one another's life. We see the new believer's vibrant faith who recently trusted in Jesus amid difficult opposition from her family. We hear the testimony of a couple who lovingly cares for their special needs son with the special grace that comes from God. We celebrate the faithfulness of an older couple who just had their 50th marriage anniversary - their marriage a small picture of Christ's love and devotion to His church. When we assemble, we— the church—also become visible to the watching world. When non-believers see the church, they see a group of people, young and old, from different ethnicities and backgrounds serving and loving one another, pursuing Jesus Christ. They see a taxi driver serving with a well-respected medical surgeon as part of a shepherding team. They have very few worldly categories to make sense of it. And perhaps through this, they can glimpse the gospel of Jesus Christ. Anyone who trusts in Jesus Christ is justified by faith alone and joined together to belong to God. It doesn't matter if you are a taxi driver or surgeon; you are joined together to Christ as one people of God.
We gather because we serve and encourage one another. There are nearly sixty of "one another" commands in the New Testament. Some of these include "Love one another" (Jn 13:35), "Forgive one another" (Eph 4:32), "Do good to one another" (1 Thess 5:15). Though we can do some of these virtually, it is nowhere near the same. As the old Mastercard advertisement goes, "You cannot fax a handshake." These "one another" commands are best followed in person. Nothing can entirely replace the in-person forgiving of one another when you speak face to face seeking reconciliation. And the tears of joy and relief and the hug that comes after. Priceless. As we strive to obey these "one another" commands as a church gathered, we serve and encourage one another.
Lastly, we gather because we point to the glorious reality of what is to come. In Revelation 7:9-10, we see the nations: people of every ethnicity and backgrounds gathered to worship God and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. The church is an outpost of God's Kingdom's reality as pictured at the end of history. When we assemble as a church on a Sunday, we are a little picture of the future brought into the present. We display in a small part, the worship of the nations that happens when Christ returns. We give a portrait of this glorious reality: the Lamb of God who at his first coming, died on the cross to take away the sins of the world and was raised to life for our eternal life. This very Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, will return again as the Lion of Judah, who sits on the throne of God, to reign forevermore. When we gather as a church, we point one another to this future glory, and it will spark joy unspeakable as we proclaim, "come Lord Jesus!"
Beloved family and friends of GBC, in the words of the author of the letter to the Hebrews:
"let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Heb 10:24-25).
Parts of this article were adapted from Why Gather? Thinking About Gathering When Churches Can't and The Church Irreplaceable: Why God's People Must Gather. You can visit the respective websites to read their compelling reasons for gathering physically as a church.
1. We urge more church members to regather physically for worship services. Given the safe-management practices in place, help us make the process quick and smooth by being punctual and prepared (watch this video on how you can do so.) Do leave the church premise immediately after service, do not inter-mingle. Have fellowship offsite according to the government's guidelines on social gatherings.
2. As more members regather, we will resume serving the Lord's Supper as part of our worship service's order once a month on the first Saturday and Sunday. Let us come together to remember the death, resurrection and the anticipated return of Jesus Christ as we observe the Lord's Supper together.
3. We need volunteers for the second service (5pm Saturday) in the following areas:
- Worship Leaders
- Sound Team
- AV (projectionists)
- Covid-19 safety volunteers
- Volunteers to steward the offerings
If you are interested in serving in any of the above areas, please drop Pastor Ollie an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. We are continuing in our sermon series in the Gospel of Luke. As part of this series, we will cover a mini-series on "Living by Faith" from Luke 17-18. Do join us for our Saturday at 5pm and Sunday 9am services in person, or our Livestream service via YouTube at 9am on Sunday.