Covid 19: Adjusting to the New Reality of Community

By Joel Comiskey, check out: Living in Victory

Covid-19 has brought a state of crisis to the entire world, and even a sense of panic to many. When was the last time you could remember not being able to leave your house, except for essential care? And where I live in Riverside County, we now can’t go outside without a mask. I’m very grateful for family during these times—and not only for biological family members. I’m grateful for the family of God.

Paul writes, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Ephesians 3:14). From my study of Scripture, the image of family is the most important illustration of the church of Jesus Christ.  Paul said in 1 Timothy 3:15, “If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household [family], which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” We all need family.

But how do we meet as a family when we can’t gather in groups? (in Los Angeles where my cell meets, it’s forbidden to meet in small groups, even those under 10). We have been zooming in together every Monday night. Our zoom cell group follows the Sunday morning sermon, which is recorded on Facebook live. Our cell has met for three weeks, and I have several observations of our zoom gatherings:

  1. This is not a permanent state! Zoom meetings can be more comfortable but zoom should not be a substitute for face to face interaction when the crisis passes (I wonder if this will be a temptation in the future, just like some would rather watch a TV preacher than gather with the local body).
  2. The zoom cell group does offer continuity week to week and helps spiritual family members apply God’s word and stay connected.
  3. No physical limits. We have 8 core members in our cell group, but via Zoom, we’ve had about 12 people attend–people from Florida, Maryland, and Santa Monica, California. A couple of them are unchurched people. However, after the crisis ends, it’s essential that these people find a local church where they live. I like to remind our core members that the cell is for our local church members or for those who don’t have an evangelical church (unsaved, unchurches, etc.)
  4. Keep people muted that are not talking. I’ve become far more aggressive in muting everyone except for the person talking. Otherwise, the meeting can be chaotic.
  5. Worship “music” seems harder on Zoom. We are in the process of discovering how to stream music so that everyone can hear, but we’ve failed three times in a row. Last week we reverted to A cappella singing.

The church of Jesus Christ has adjusted throughout the centuries. The early church was building-less for the first several hundred years of its existence. The church of the 21st century has now been forced into a similar situation. The good news is that many churches are waking up the priority of house to house ministry as the new priority for the future. May it be so.