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Reflections: Don't do this alone!

Last weekend, I was privileged to attend Extravagant Joy, a women’s conference hosted by a church in Arkansas where a few of my friends attend. I came away from the Friday evening-Saturday event greatly encouraged by the praise and worship and inspired to further study by the wonderful teaching; but most of all, the experience reaffirmed to me the importance of Christian community.

 

Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” The writer knew how important it was to gather in Christian community. The Apostle Paul and other New Testament writers reinforce the concept. Even in the Old Testament, stories of discouragement often include loneliness—not productive time in private prayer, but desperate isolation. And King David’s worst decision was made when he stayed home instead of heading out with his troops and leadership team.

 

COVID-19 restrictions forced churches in some states to cancel services for months; even in more moderate states, many well-meaning church leaders did so out of genuine concern. I think the evidence is in, though, that long-term effects on mental and spiritual wellbeing were severely detrimental, calling into question the wisdom of closing churches, schools and other points of social contact. Church in front of your computer just isn’t the same, folks, and Satan knows that! Whether through a discerning, Spirit-led pastor; or the person in the seat next to you in the pew who reaches over to grasp your hand during prayer time; or just a friendly “hello” at the coffee counter, in-person church can assure us we’re not alone.

 

To access that caring community, though, you have to be there—and maybe get out of your comfort zone. At the conference, it wasn’t easy to step forward about a personal need; but when I did, the prayer time with hundreds of other women was powerful. If your church schedules a women’s brunch or a men’s breakfast, go! There are great conferences in the Springfield/Branson area, too.  Don’t know anyone who’s going? Go anyway; you’ll meet people. Or invite a neighbor to go with you, maybe one you know needs encouragement. If you feel a bit faceless in a large church, check small group options or find a place to volunteer. If you work Sundays, find a weeknight meeting or even start a coffee break prayer time.

 

I get it, some people do have physical limitations, and I’m so thankful for improved technology that allows them to engage online; just don’t be afraid to reach out for prayer or conversation. Maybe you aren’t that person, but you know one—call them!

 

To me, a key phrase in the Hebrews statement is, “the day of [Christ’s] return is drawing near.” If the Early Church believed that, how much more so should we, especially as current events sound more and more like the Book of Revelation! Christian believers in restricted nations already experience persecution, yet they risk their lives to continue meeting if at all possible because they can encourage one another. I’ve heard former prisoners speak at Voice of the Martyrs conferences, and all say it helped to know fellow believers were praying. Let’s learn from them the importance of meeting for mutual encouragement while we still can.

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