Incomplete Apart

Dr. Phillip Burden  |  April 15, 2020

As we enter this fifth week apart from one another, one of the godly feelings you can nurture is that of being incomplete apart from each other. Is our Savior incomplete? By no means! Is our salvation incomplete? Thank God the answer is again “no.” But are the people of God incomplete when they are not able to assemble? The answer is most certainly “yes.”

Mission trips are a joy to my life. It is the call of God upon our lives.  However, this often means separation from my bride (Natalie).  During these times, I never once think, “Oh, being apart is just as good as being together.” Nor do I ever think, “The internet is a perfect substitute for an in-person relationship.”  No, I find the time apart to be deeply challenging and one of the most consistent lessons I learn is that it is not natural to be apart for long. The distance leaves us incomplete apart from each other.

The same should be true of the church. One of the pillars of the early church was a devotion to fellowship (Acts 2:42). The church is intrinsically defined as being those who come together, those who assemble (see 1 Cor. 11:17). The Apostle Paul longed to see (not just write) the churches that he wrote to (Rom 1:11, 1 Thess. 3:6, 2 Tim 1:4). To be apart from each other affects the very foundation of the church.

This lack plays out in the most practical ways. Each Wednesday night we record for the coming Sunday. We record the service with a skeleton crew of saints. First, let me say that the technology we have today is an incredible blessing.  But a tiny crew in a big sanctuary is an eerie experience. Hugs are gone, handshakes gone. The play and laughter of the children are gone. Congregational “amens” are gone. The roar of voices joined in praise… gone.  We sit far from each other. There are no bands of brothers and sisters, huddling in their respective groups after service in fellowship and prayer. No fellowship at Godfathers over lunch. No greetings over coffee.

The Word still goes forth in power. Our God remains good and sovereign. The Gospel still saves. And yet what a hole there is without the congregation! What a lack. What a longing for the way the Lord’s Day used to feel.

Both the Bible and everyday experience preach the same message: The church is incomplete apart from one another.

The scattered church should desire to be assembled once more. During this time of absence, rejoice in the means that keep us as close as possible. Faithfully use what means you have in order to stay near your brothers and sisters. But even as we rejoice in our provisions, do not mistake any of it for a substitute.   Long for the day when we are back together. Plead with God that it would be soon. May the people of God emerge from this trial with a passionate love for the church of Jesus Christ.