You need the local church!
Yesterday morning I spent some extended time in our sanctuary praying for each of you by name. As your pastor and as a fellow human walking through this strange and extremely disruptive and exhaustive season, I want you to know that am concerned for each of you. I know the condition of my own heart (see this Facebook post) and I think I can safely assume it maybe be true of yours in one way or another as well.
What spurred my prayer for you? A Gallup poll. Yep. A poll. It was sent to me by a fellow pastor. It is entitled "Americans' Mental Health Ratings Sink to New Low." There were no surprises in it: Americans’ mental health ratings are at a new low. “Americans' latest assessment of their mental health is worse than it has been at any point in the last two decades,” says Gallup.
Yikes. If that is true, what does that mean for me? For you? Our children? Or neighbors?
It’s important for you to hear me say this: I am called to "...pray with and for the people, being careful and diligent in seeking the fruit of the preached Word among the flock" (Book of Church Order 8-3). I am (including the Session) committed to walking with you through how you’re working through things in this weird season. I am available for counseling (in-person or Zoom) or to take your prayer requests. We are in this together.
There was one piece of encouraging news in that poll. Mental health has improved for only one category: those who attend religious services weekly.
Now don't stop reading as you may think that I am applying some form of Christian guilt/shame, because that isn't true. And please don't use this information as a weapon to show others how "right" you are. I understand that for some of you your conscience, convictions, yours or other's health conditions, fear, or workplace safety may be dictating whether you want to attend worship in person or via the internet.
The point I want to remind you of is that God has given us a tremendous gift, the local church. Through the administration of the sacraments, the preaching of the Word, the prayers, and the fellowship of the church, we continue to grow as Christians (Matthew 28; Acts 2:42). We cannot live apart from these wonderful means of grace! Also, when we are part of a local community that worships Christ, we are part of something that is bigger than ourselves. In this community, we receive instruction, reproof, encouragement, and we experience community by belonging to a localized body in this way.
The point is this, if the poll is right, then it is a reminder that you need the local church just as much as the local church needs you!