4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. ~~Romans 12:4-5 (NASB95)
Before I say anything else, let me be perfectly clear. If you are able to get in a car and go anywhere, you have no excuse for missing church. Attending a local church and actively serving as a member of that church is absolutely essential, and I’m by no means writing this article to suggest that you should stay home on Sunday mornings and “do” church by watching a live streamed service. For most Christians, physically being with the Body is a no-brainer.
That said, John and I have been unable to attend our wonderful church for almost three years because of various circumstances — most notably my back problems. I’m improving, and we hope the Sunday will come when we once again enter that building to worship the Lord with our cherished church family.
For now however, the Lord has graciously provided live streams of the Sunday morning service and the Wednesday night Bible Study. Additionally, one of the elders comes to our apartment on Friday mornings to teach Bible Study and occasionally give us the Lord’s Supper. The church administrator emails us the Sunday bulletin and the weekly Prayer Guide. In return, we stay faithful in our giving, praying daily for the church. As far as I can, I use this blog to represent our church, asking the elders to oversee it. Despite being shut-ins, therefore, John and I feel connected to our church.
Several months ago, I wrote Can Shut-ins Serve Their Local Churches? as an encouragement to shut-ins that they still have avenues of ministry. I know from experience how easily someone can jump to the conclusion that the inability to physically attend church releases her from the responsibilities of church membership. Nothing could be further from the truth! Her sphere of service is obviously more limited because she can’t come to the church building, but God doesn’t leave her with nothing to do.
If, like me, circumstances keep you from attending church, I implore you to remember that you are still a part of your local church body. As such, you have a responsibility to serve in whatever way you can. Don’t forget that you can pray for your church, and that prayer is probably the most powerful way anyone can serve a church. Although you may feel tempted to lay back and assume that you no longer have an obligation to serve, you must resolve to do whatever you can as a functioning member of that body.
Most of you, however, probably have the ability to go to services and activities. Hopefully, you serve faithfully in at least one area (as well as praying for your local church). I encourage you to cherish the opportunities the Lord has given you to enjoy active involvement. Please resist any temptation to stay home on Sunday mornings and watch live streams of the services. Most shut-ins will tell you that we’d give anything to meet with our brothers and sisters for corporate worship.
But we’d also tell you that, although we recognize our responsibility to reach out to you, we need you to occasionally give us a call or invite yourselves over for a visit. More often than you might imagine, our daily activities leave us exhausted. Dealing with caregivers alone requires us tremendous energy even under the best of circumstances — and the best of circumstances are few and far between. We may want to call you or write you an encouraging email, but the daily grind simply wears us out. For that reason, we often need our church family to take initiative in communication.
A few weeks ago, our associate pastor accepted a ministry position in another state. John and I left him a brief voice mail to say goodbye, assuming he would be too busy to return our call. A few days later he ambled into our apartment (surprising us), and spent well over an hour with us. I can’t begin to tell you how much that time with him meant! We felt valued as members of the church.
Shut-ins desperately need our church families to do things like our pastor did. It’s easy to feel forgotten and disenfranchised, so little affirmations that we still belong go a long way.
We get that people are busy. We rejoice that you can enjoy vacations and small excursions that we can no longer take. Of course it pleases us when you help out at church. I by no means want to add to anyone’s commitments by demanding that everyone make time to minister to shut-ins. At the same time, I want to encourage you to occasionally remember those of us who can’t be in church on Sundays. And I want to encourage my fellow shut-ins to do what they can to serve your local churches. Only in working together can we keep shut-ins from being shut out.