Right now, something I’ve been hearing for ages is turning out to be more shallow than I had previously believed. We’ve all probably heard at some point that we live in a time where we are more connected than ever. But now that it’s recommended that we socially distance ourselves from one another to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we can feel how devastating and lonely it is when we are not physically interacting with others in community.
But fear not, we know that there are ways we can practice fellowship and still support the local community while we are all apart. We even see this through the example biblical figures. One of the most prominent examples in Scripture is the apostle Paul. There are four books in the New Testament that Paul wrote from a Roman prison. Known as the Prison Epistles, the Books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were all penned while Paul sat in a prison cell. He was physically distanced from the congregations he wrote to and without an easy way for them to visit him. In fact, it’s not just the Prison Epistles that show an investment in community from afar. Most of the New Testament is comprised of letters written from away—many of them written by Paul.
So, what can we do to be in community with one another while apart? Let’s use biblical principles to discuss some ideas of how to support one another during this hard time.
Encourage One Another
One of the best parts about being involved in a community is having a source of encouragement; people who can help lift you up when you need it. Christian community is supposed to be encouraging. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 states, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
Just as you are doing. Is there someone who you see regularly at church who always tells you about what they are up to? Do you often say “hi” to the person on your right in the pew? Now would be the time to continue to do so, with some modifications. Send them a message on Facebook, check your church directory, or ask your pastor how you can contact them.
We ought to always pray. We should be praying for our communities and raising petitions for the Church at large. But without our usual routine, we may not quite know who and what to pray for. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” But how do we confess our sins to one another while social-distancing?
One way, as above, is to reach out and ask for prayer requests. Try ending conversations with “is there any way I can pray for you today?” Another way, for those with social media accounts, is to create a post asking for prayer requests. If you’re on Instagram, consider posting to your story and including a “question” box where you can receive prayer requests privately and directly.
Continue to Study Together
For the past few days, my friends and I have been video-chatting with one another to have devotions together. More than ever, we feel the need to be grounded in God’s Word and focused on Jesus. We all hop in the chat, share a little about our day, read our daily devotion, discuss it, and end in prayer. This helps us all share one another’s burdens.
Maybe your church had been going through a specific devotional or study together that’s now up in the air. There are many tools that facilitate continuing to study and learn with one another. We’ve been using Facebook video calling, but Google Hangouts is another solid option. Either way, continuing to study the Word of the Lord together is important, and it’s a great way to build a support system and foster community from afar.
Be a Doer
Right now, there are still things we can do to help and support those in our community. In Galatians 6:9, Paul reminds us, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Those in your community who are at higher risk for COVID-19 may need your help to get groceries and other supplies. Your church may have some work that needs to be done that is difficult to do under normal circumstances—reach out and ask if there is anything you can do (or clean).
In short, reach out to those in your community and see how you can best serve them through prayer, study, and action. As the body of Christ, we still have the opportunity to help others and stretch ourselves to support one another throughout this pandemic.
Spend time together remotely and focus on Christ.