There are only a handful of times in biblical Israel’s history in which there were reforms to bring the people back to the Lord. Among the kings of the north (Israel), there were no true revivals. Among the kings of the south (Judah), there were a few, but most notable were the reforms that happened under Hezekiah and Josiah. When Hezekiah led the reforms, the people appeared to dedicate themselves to being faithful (2 Chron 30-32). Sadly, within a generation or two, that faithfulness waned. Josiah brought back another reform (2 Kings 22-23). This, too, only lasted a short time. One of the lessons in these reforms is that every generation must be rededicated to the Lord. No generation may rest upon the accomplishments (or the failures) of those who have gone before. One generation repenting and reforming is no guarantee that the next generation will do so. All will be accountable before the Lord for their own actions, and even within any given generation there will be those who will not submit themselves to the Lord.
Christians must take stock of their situation, examine their spiritual condition, and rededicate themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This world makes it easy to slip away slowly so that we become comfortable with our complacency and soon we are adrift with no anchor. Perhaps this is one reason the Hebrews writer gave the warning: “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it” (Heb 2:1). This takes continual diligence.
The year 2020 was hard, a time in which the world was shaken up by a pandemic and its accompanying problems. Churches were very much affected by what happened because of its impact on the assemblies, classes, and other gatherings. Many churches were no longer meeting except online, and for some, this went on for a year or more. Many others, after weeks or months, began the slow process of trying to reestablish their assemblies. The process has been difficult because it was also attended by many disagreements about how to handle the situation. Some churches have divided, and many have found themselves wondering about the future of their respective congregations.
One of the difficulties that some congregations have faced, though, is that they have members who quit coming altogether and, in some cases, do not give much indication that they are coming back. Is it possible that for some Christians, the pandemic made it so that they could essentially disappear without much accountability? Assemblies have also been hit by the fact that some who previously were faithful to the Sunday evening assemblies and midweek Bible classes have not reestablished their previous habits of returning at those times. For some congregations, these absences really show up in their numbers and can be discouraging to many.
The point is not to judge motives or particular circumstances. Rather, we want to encourage each of us to look at our own motives and circumstances and see where we stand. Have we become complacent? Have we established new patterns and habits that now keep us from being with the brethren more? Are we supporting the work of the congregation through our participation in a way that is encouraging and edifying for all? Can we do better, and if so, how will we engage ourselves to this purpose? We can see a time like this as one that damages our spiritual vitality, or we can see it as an opportunity to meet the challenge and grow closer to the Lord and one another. That’s up to us.
Difficult times like this do not get to redefine the work of a local congregation or the body of Christ as a whole. The whole body is still “held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph 4:16). While a local congregation may need to make some adjustments from time to time, given that what they do is still within the boundaries of God’s authority, there should still be full participation and active engagement of its members in whatever else they are doing.
Let us see times like this as opportunities to do some soul searching and to rededicate ourselves to the Lord and His will. The world has once again been shown that there is much corruption and death. We can take this in a fatalistic sense that finds no redemption or hope, or we can take it as another indication that this world is truly not our home and that there is something yet far greater to come. If the latter, then we surely want to “be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you” by developing our spiritual attitudes to glorify God (2 Pet 1:10). Restoration and reformation are but a decision away, and by faith we can and will endure to the end.