This pandemic has forced churches into a crisis. Some, choosing to obey the laws of the land and to ensure the safety of their members have gone virtual, while others say they are willing to risk infection and possibly death for the sake of furthering the gospel. So some have chosen to defy the government restrictions and are holding in-person services.
While watching this, I have been thinking.
Firstly, God’s kingdom is mighty and stronger than any virus or earthly calamity. We should not make the mistake of believing that the health and well-being of God’s true church rests in any church model that man has devised. God is reaching out with the Gospel. He invites us to share in His mission to save humanity. But it is His and He will see it through. As Jesus said, the gates of Hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:17).
Secondly, I look at this time as one where the church is being sifted. There have been many nominal Christians, people who have considered themselves Christians without really committing their entire lives to Christ who will drop off from the church. John would say they were never really of us (1 John 2:19). The former model of church, the large gathering, often was much like an entertainment, a mostly anonymous affair where some would feel that they had done their Christian duty simply by attending. Jesus gave us the parable of the seeds and the sower. There were those who heard the gospel but the cares of the world choked out their faith. There were also those who were planted in shallow soil that died in the heat of the sun. This is going to happen. We should not be surprised.
My suggestion is that we stop fighting to preserve a structure of the church that is not endemic to the gospel. The organized church—with a main pastor and support staff, in a large building, with extensive programs and with all the infrastructure that entails—was never a part of the early church. The early church was centered in the home, the household (Greek—oikos). In all periods of human history, the home has been the central social unit upon which the rest of the society is built. It was definitely this way in the Roman world the church was born in. Charles M. Lowry writes, “The family understood this way, consisting of blood relatives, clients, and friends, was one of the bastions of Greco-Roman society.”
The early church spread to and through homes. Households (oikos), which were made up of adults, children, and slaves and often multiple families living together, would be brought to Christ and would spread the word to other households.
There are wonderful benefits from centering the church in homes. Here are some listed by Charles M. Lowry:
- Every household would know the Bible. They’d be studying it all the time. Each household would rely on the Bible and personal study, rather than a professional pastor.
- Christianity would become a lifestyle lived out in the home. It would no longer be a Sunday only affair.
- Families would set aside more time to pray.
- Children would be trained to love God by their parents and their example. No more reliance upon Sunday School and Youth workers.
- The church would be far stronger. Christianity would be a relationship with God rather than a religion.
- The home would create better citizens.
- The home would be strengthened, focused on God and relying on Him.
It did not meet in consecrated or special premises; its context was the home of one of its members. It did not center round a sacred text or particular ritual acts; its raison d’éntre was the sharing of the shared grace (charis) of God in its particular expressions (charismata). It was not characterized by an established pattern or liturgy nor did it depend on an official leadership to give it direction; rather it was to be expected that the Spirit would exercise sufficient control through the interplay of gifts and ministries ordered by him. Its aim was to bring about the mutual edification of all through a being together and by a doing for one another in word and action as the body of Christ in mutual interdependence on the Spitit.
Finally, one last benefit to making the home the center of the faith is that each family will have far more money to give to the poor and needy (and we surely have more of those just now). We should support those in our households who are out of work, who are unable to pay bills or buy food.
I am not against the organized church. I am for whatever spreads the gospel. I am for whatever God is doing to complete this mission.
All this to say, that God is in charge. He may allow a pandemic. He may allow it to be poorly handled so that traditional institutional churches around the land have to close their doors. Many churches will fail from a lack of offerings. Perhaps this is God’s way to show us that we have built a system that fits us more than one that fits Him. It has always been the temptation of God’s people to create a form of religion that is comfortable rather than rely on God when He is doing something new (remember the golden calf). Perhaps home-centered fellowships will rise. Fathers and mothers will take their rightful position as the spiritual leaders of their own households. Children will be trained in the ways of God by their parents. And all will rely on the Spirit.
I am not afraid for the God’s true church. Nothing can stand against it.
 Oikos, pg. 12. See also, chapter 7 in Tom Mercer’s book, Not My—Church and his book, Oikos: Your World, Delivered.
 The Responsible Congregation: 1 Corinthians 14:26-40, in The Church Comes Home, by Robert and Julia Banks, pg. 59