Ep. 19: How I'm Praying for Us as a Church
July 6, 2020 Speaker: Jeff Brewer
Hello, Hope Fellowship! Welcome to our podcast “Full of Hope: Encouraging One Another with the Word of God,” where we seek to regularly equip the people of Hope Fellowship with truth from Scripture in order to help us cling to our Savior during troubled times. My name is Jeff Brewer, and I’m one of the pastors at Hope.
Pardon the interruption over the last month. Our intention is to put out a new podcast each week that helps us cling to Christ and encourage one another as we are separated from gathering. Two things have kept me from publishing regularly. First, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking and praying about the state of race relations here in America after the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and, tragically, many others. I’ve been editing an interview with Jeremy and Novella Sullivan, members of Hope, who graciously agreed to sit down and talk more about what their experience has been growing up black in America. I can’t wait for you to hear it.
But in addition to the interview, as you know, we’ve been planning and preparing for our return to live, in-person worship gatherings. I’ve told a few people that this is exactly how church planting felt in the early days—setting up new A/V equipment, finding a location to meet, making sure we had leaders over the various areas . . . oh, and preparing a sermon!
While we’re glad to meet together, we’re very cognizant of the fact that we’re not all together yet, that it feels different—that social distancing is difficult—but boy, it sure is nice to see your faces!
As I was working on my sermon today, I thought I would record some thoughts about how I am praying during these days.
1. I’m praying that we deepen in a knowledge of God’s love for us in Christ.
It was really encouraging to think about the love of God for last week’s sermon. I chose to do a different passage than our Hebrews series because I wanted us to stop together and remember the deep, deep love of God in Christ during this time.
Like the song we sometimes sing:
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Far surpassing all the rest
It's an ocean full of blessing
In the midst of every test
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Mighty Savior, precious Friend
You will bring us home to glory
Where Your love will never end
It was so encouraging to me personally to see all the ways the love of God is spoken of in Romans 8—and how nothing can separate us from this love—and then to make the connection to Ephesians 3 where Paul prays that believers would be strengthened in the love of Jesus.
2. I’m praying we do not neglect the word of God during a time when our schedules are completely thrown off.
If there is one thing that has been constant during these months it’s that nothing feels consistent! One day is full to the brim with Zoom calls and activity and the next feels like a slog to get through. It’s easy to have our schedules revolve around late nights and hectic mornings, making quiet time with the Lord all the more difficult to find.
So I’m praying that we are intentional about seeking to grow in a love for and knowledge of God’s word—that we don’t waste this moment by watching TikTok videos or reading the news for the umpteenth time today, but that pick up our Bibles and slowly read, asking God to encourage, strengthen, equip, and challenge us from his word.
3. I’m praying that we deepen in understanding about the true purpose of the church and how we can effectively hold out a light in a dark world.
I think the ray of sunshine behind these dark, threatening clouds of pandemic and political upheaval has been the fact that as a church universal, we’re having to think about what it means to be the church in essence, not just in practice.
It’s really easy to make church about programs, or activities, or habits—but when all of these things are stripped away, we come face to face with the true purpose of the church. Because, as we said this last week, the church thrives during times of adversity, we need to remember that the church was built for these very days. Nothing can topple her or cause her to lose effectiveness in the world, no matter how dark the darkness.
It’s been encouraging to me to see how seamlessly we, as a local church, shifted to caring for one another in our mission groups. I’m thankful that Pastor Jon and our mission group leaders have done such a good job setting up the groups and training leaders that we really didn’t have to do anything all that different except move to Zoom. We’re built for small groups of believers encouraging one another in the faith and reaching out with the gospel, which we believe is right at the heart of the purpose of the church.
But we also long for our church to know what it means to show mercy and kindness when we come up against unjust circumstances and challenges. It’s good for the church to affirm the statement “black lives matter” even if we do so without endorsing the political group of the same name. But it seems that it would be better if we could also help participate in bringing equality and justice in our neighborhoods and schools in tangible ways. I pray that we can be a church that contributes to helping people care for others no matter the color of their skin and we help promote peace by listening and serving the needs of others. I pray that we become more aware of these needs.
These are just a few ways I’m praying, and I’m longing to see God work in our midst during these days. Would you pray with me?
And so, Hope Fellowship: remember, we have hope in Christ. Let’s encourage ourselves with this hope and by making that hope known in a struggling world. See you next time.
Music by Joseph McDade. https://josephmcdade.com. Used with permission.