Take a look at how different people have responded to these questions and challenges, and their reflections and thoughts. And if you have some thoughts of your own and would like to share them with us, we’d love to hear from you! Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Yes, I want to go back, but . . .”
– Poh Fang, 40s, staying with 2 elderly parents
“Yes, I want to go back, but . . .”
My parents are non-believers, but since churches started streaming their services online, I have been able to attend a Chinese service with them at home. It has become a weekly routine for us. Though they have not yet received Jesus into their lives, we are hopeful that “God’s Word will not return to him empty” (Isaiah 55:11) and “faith comes from hearing the message” (Romans 10:17).
Ever since my home church has resumed physical worship services, my sister—also a believer—and I have considered taking turns to attend the on-site service so that one of us can stay at home to tune in to the online service with our parents. However, due to various logistical reasons, we have not been able to do so yet.
Yet, I do believe that I need to go back to church.
Why? Because I need to be a testimony to my parents. In their younger days, they would make an effort to go to the temple on the 1st and 15th day of every month; it was their way of showing reverence to their gods. So I’ve wondered: What do they think of my God when they see me staying at home and worshipping Him through a screen? And how will my going to church possibly shape their perceptions?
Also, I believe in the importance of body life. Gathering physically in person helps us as believers experience body life in ways that digital platforms can never fully achieve. I can recall times in the past when I dragged myself to church even though I didn’t feel like meeting people—only to experience God ministering to me through others. I’ve been inspired by a smile on someone’s face as he sang in adoration, and encouraged by the faithfulness of a sister-in-Christ serving unassumingly in the background.
Meanwhile, I’m keeping to the essence of body life by participating actively in my church cell group and Bible study group, being mindful not just to be present physically, but also to be intentional in considering “how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
After attending church services online at home for most of last year, my wife and I made plans to start going back to church this year. While the online church services were comprehensive, we missed being in an environment where like-minded believers gather together to encourage one another in the journey of faith, even if just by our presence. We did not want us and our children to practise our faith in a vacuum—after all, faith has to be lived out in a community, in which we can encourage and spur one another on towards love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
But then came the news of Covid-19 community cases rising in the beginning of this year. It made my wife and I wonder: Would meeting every week in large groups, such as in church, potentially raise the risk of starting new infection clusters?
That’s when we felt that we had to consider our “dual citizenship”—as a citizen of the heavenly kingdom, and also as a citizen of this physical world. As believers, we are called to be ambassadors to represent the reality of the heavenly kingdom to this world (Matthew 5:16). While Christians may see the need for church attendance, our fellow countrymen of other faiths may not. And, I believe, every one of us in Singapore can play our part in preventing the spread of Covid-19 in the community.
With that thought, we decided to put on hold our plan of going back to church. In the meantime, we will continue to create space and time for our family to regularly feed on God’s Word as well as to live out our faith in the midst of our neighbourhood community.
– Ian, mid 30s, second-generation Christian, married with 2 young children
“Should I bring my children back to church?”
Growing up in a Christian home, I learnt certain habits that my parents inculcated in me: saying grace before a meal, spending time reading God’s Word, praying before bed times, family devotions, going to church on Sundays. These were all part of the exposure they gave me to help my siblings and I understand the Christian faith better.
Now, as a father myself, I want to do the same for my two young sons. Yet, the Covid-19 situation has changed their exposure to church greatly. With services disrupted and Sunday School going online, my wife and I now worry that this “new normal” might affect their understanding of what it means to be part of the body of Christ, and their future behaviour regarding going to church.
At the same time, we aren’t too comfortable with bringing our sons to the onsite services, because of how the Covid-19 situation is progressing.
For the moment, we are taking special care to introduce and practise the other aspects of Christian living at home, such as teaching my elder son how to pray on his own, and using daily life to teach him about God’s attributes. On Sundays, we make it a point to tune in to a regular online Sunday School programme, and walk him through different Bible lessons and hands-on activities. Our younger son is still an infant, but we’ve found that singing songs about God to him helps to comfort him, and we pray that the words of the songs will take root in his life.
We take heart that our children’s hope in Christ aren’t dependent on attending church, but on God’s mercy and grace in their lives. So we keep praying for them as we try to be intentional in passing on the faith and the hope of Hebrews 6:19, a hope that is “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure”.
While I look forward to the day when my children can go back to Sunday School and experience church life as I did as a child, we will make it an effort to make the gospel understandable to them through creative means at home.
When my wife asked me to go back to church late last year, my first response was, “Whaaaat? Go back to church? Whyyyyy?”
I wanted to laugh at my own words, but she wasn’t amused, and I could see why. Going to church every Sunday has always been part of my weekly routine, and yet here I was, treating it almost like a chore.
Many pastors have warned of how not going to church physically can easily become a habit that is hard to break. For me, this was true: the restrictions on on-site services, while necessary, had resulted in me becoming most comfortable with attending the online service—at my own convenience, in the comfort of my home.
But having been going back to church for a few weeks now, I have to say that it’s been absolutely wonderful meeting fellow believers.
Even with the ongoing restrictions on mingling, it’s so heartwarming to meet familiar faces in person, even if the only greeting we can exchange is a smile expressed through our eyes and a sometimes-awkward fist-bump.
And while corporate singing is still disallowed, it’s so uplifting to hear the songs of praise being played “live”, seeing the raised hands of worship, and catching the discreet humming of worshippers lost in wonder at God’s goodness.
In this time of Covid-19, I’ve come to see that ultimately, church really isn’t all about the Sunday worship service. But I am reminded by Hebrews 10:24–25 of the need for the body of Christ to meet as it acts to “spur one another on towards love and good deeds”.
Going back to church has reminded me that as a social and spiritual being, I need God, I need His Word, and I need the fellowship of brothers and sisters-in-Christ.
Even when the restrictions on corporate worship were eased, my wife and I felt a lack of impetus to return to onsite church services. However, we realised that our growing sense of apathy could be a concern, so we set ourselves a date to start attending church physically. To encourage each other, we thought of reasons to look forward to being in church.
At our first service back in church, we volunteered to help with safe-distancing measures and disinfecting the premises, which enabled us to see and greet all our fellow members. Though our interactions had to be kept short, I found myself delighted to be able to see everyone after the long break, and to know that they were well. I also made a mental note to find out how those I did not meet were doing.
At the onsite services, I’ve found that I am able to focus on worship and the sermon better than when I am attending church online. With a live setting and people around me, I can feel my senses being heightened and engaged, and all these add to a positive and uplifting experience. It is indeed a stark contrast to watching a worship service online, which sometimes gives me a feeling of being distant and isolated.
I am reminded of Romans 12:1, that as I participate in the church service, I am presenting my body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Although I can do the same while attending church online, the feeling is somehow different. The corporate gathering of believers, and the presence of like-minded people, somehow creates an atmosphere in which I can feel that my soul is being ministered to.
Returning to church physically has reinvigorated a sense of community life in me. It brings to mind Hebrews 10:25, which has impressed upon me the importance of social participation, the need to encourage each other regularly, and the wonders of being encouraged by others.