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“Don’t Drift or Shift! Stay Focused on Christ!”

We are coming up on the year anniversary of the shutdown due to Covid-19. Our last worship service at HOPE Church Raleigh without ANY restrictions was on March 8, 2020. On March 15th we went to only live streaming with NO in person worship until the end of May 2020. The first of June we began to allow attendance, but kept live streaming our worship too. While taking out a number of chairs to open space the worship area and using the fellowship area for seating, we have been able to spread out for those wishing to worship in person. Our numbers have grown a little over time, but there are still many who have not returned yet to worship in person due to concerns of Covid-19. We certainly respect that decision. Everyone needs to do what they feel is right for them and their family.

It seems that every month since last March someone has said, “I can’t wait until this thing is over and we can get back to normal. I can’t wait until everyone is back in worship together!” I wish this was the case, but I don’t think the “church” (not just HOPE) will ever go back to Pre-Covid where everything is as it was. A lot has happened in a year.

Think about it. We have been conditioned now, not just on Covid-19, but on all health concerns. If social distancing, wearing a mask, and staying home helps with Covid-19, then it should help with the Flu and colds. Right? If I don’t have to shake someone’s hand, be near them, stay very long around them, eat with them, visit them, then I am safer from a health standpoint, correct? Our mindset has changed and how we live life in relationship to others outside of our home and families has forever changed. This will impact the church.

Last Wednesday, our Coastal Region of the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic offered a “Resource Session” via Zoom for pastors and elders. One of our presenters was David Dwight, pastor of HOPE Church Richmond. David used two words that he believes will we indicative of the church post-covid. Those words were “drift” and “shift”.  He believes that some church members have and will continue to “drift” away from going to church. Many who tune into live streaming from their living rooms each Sunday will continue to do so. Many have drifted away from in person worship and from church as a whole and will not come back. The drift is real.

He also said he believes there will be a “shift”. Some that attended one church will use this post-pandemic (whenever that happens) as an opportunity to explore other churches, thus shifting from one church to another. Shift is real.

I believe that what the church is experiencing, while real and unique in some ways, is not unique in all ways. The church has experienced changing times, pandemics, trials and hardships before. Each time there has been a major testing of the church, the church has been refined for the work of the Lord. The fire of trials burns away the chaff so that the pure can rise up and be seen more clearly and purposefully.

Peter and the prophet Jeremiah remind us that we will be tested by fire and the purpose is “the proof your faith” and “may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Verses below)

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”
1 Peter 1:6 - 7  

“Is not My Word like fire?” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?” Jeremiah 23:29

God is doing a work through this pandemic. He has not shut up the office, closed down the business, while sitting back sipping on some tea. He has been and is continuing to refine His church for the work ahead. That, in many cases, will be with less people in some places, along with other people and new people that have their focus on Him. Those whose faith was/is marginal at best, will most likely not return to church. Those who have been enriched by what God is doing in their lives and the life of His church will be on fire to move forward with God’s work and mission because HE has become their focus even more.

In this past year, has Jesus Christ become more of your focus or less? In this past year have you been more concerned about Covid-19 or your relationship with Him? In this past year has church/worship become an option that competes with everything else in your life or has it remained a priority? God doesn’t mince words here. “Is not My Word like fire?” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?” He calls us to focus on Him even in the midst of trials and temptation. Has your focus waned off of Him? If so, let God shatter that rock you are hiding under so that you can return to Him, the only rock of your salvation!

Don’t drift or shift! Stay focused on Christ!

Blessings friends,
Pastor Marty - HOPE Church Raleigh

Worship . Grow . Serve

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