Pandemic From The Trellis and the Vine

One of my favorite books on intentional discipleship is The Trellis and the Vine. I’ve been looking over it again to be reminded of its’ message, and found the conclusion of the book incredibly prophetic. It was written in 2009, but imagines a situation where a global pandemic has prevented large groups from gathering. How would it impact the church? Here is what they say:

As we write, the first worrying signs of a swine-flu pandemic are making headlines around the world. Imagine that the pandemic swept through your part of the world, and that all public assemblies of more than three people were banned by the government for reasons of public health and safety. And let’s say that due to some catastrophic combination of local circumstances, this ban had to remain in place for 18 months.

How would your congregation of 120 members continue to function—with no regular church gatherings of any kind, and no home groups (except for groups of three)?

If you were the pastor, what would you do?

I guess you could send regular letters and emails to your people. You could make phone calls, and maybe even do a podcast. But how would the regular work of teaching and preaching and pastoring take place? How would the congregation be encouraged to persevere in love and good deeds, especially in such trying circumstances? And what about evangelism? How would new people be reached, contacted and followed up? There could be no men’s breakfasts, no coffee mornings, no evangelistic courses or outreach meetings. Nothing.

You could, of course, revert to the ancient practice of visiting your congregation house-to-house, and door-knocking in the local area to contact new people. But how as a pastor could you possibly meet with and teach all 120 adults in your congregation, let alone their children? Let alone door-knock the suburb? Let alone follow up the contacts that you made?

No, if it was to be done, you would need help. You would need to start with ten of your most mature Christian men, and meet intensively with them two at a time for the first two months (while keeping in touch with everyone else by phone and email). You would train these ten in how to read the Bible and pray with one or two other people, and with their children. Their job would then be twofold: to ‘pastor’ their wives and families through regular Bible reading and prayer; and to each meet with four other men to train and encourage them to do the same. Assuming that 80% of your congregation was married, then through these first ten men and those that they subsequently trained, most of the married adults would be involved in regular Bible-based encouragement.

While that was getting going (with you offering phone and email support along the way), you might choose another bunch to train personally—people who could meet with singles, or people who had potential in door-knocking and evangelism, or people who would be good at following up new contacts.

It would be a lot of personal contact, and a lot of one-to-one meetings to fit in. But remember, there would be no services to run, no committees, no parish council, no seminars, no home groups, no working bees—in fact, no group activities or events of any kind to organize, administer, drum up support for, or attend. Just personal teaching and discipling, and training your people in turn to be disciple-makers.

Here’s the interesting question: after 18 months, when the ban was lifted and you were able to recommence Sunday gatherings and all the rest of the meetings and activities of church life, what would you do differently?

Marshall, Colin; Payne,Tony. The Trellis and the Vine . Matthias Media. Kindle Edition.

Notes from December 27 Sermon

Here are the various Bible passages I used in my sermon for December 27.

Eph 4:11-16 “And  he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. 

1 Cor. 15 

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

Worship Acceptably 

Heb. 12:28-29 “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.” 

1 Cor. 10:31 “ So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 

Rom. 12:1 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 

Gospel First 

Rom. 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” 

Pray Fervently 

1 Thess. 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 

Attend Regularly 

Heb. 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” 

Give Generously 

Matt. 13:1-9 Parable of the Sower “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” 

1 Peter 3:9 “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary,  bless, for  to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” 

Serve Faithfully 

1 Cor 12:4-11 “Now  there are varieties of gifts, bu t the same Spirit; 5 and  there are varieties of service, but  the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is  the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of  wisdom, and to another the utterance of  knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another  faith by the same Spirit, to another  gifts of healing by the one Spirit,10 to another  the working of miracles, to another  prophecy, to another  the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another  various kinds of tongues, to another  the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually  as he wills.” 

Communicate Honorably 

1 Thess. 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 

Col. 4:6 “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” 

Submit Joyfully 

Eph 5:15-21 “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,16 making the best use of the time, because  the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what  the will of the Lord is. 18 And  do not get drunk with wine, for that is  debauchery, but  be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in  psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father  in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 

Christmas Activities COVID Style

With us not meeting at church right now, I thought it may be helpful to have some fun ideas for you to enjoy at home! I’ve sent a few of these out already, but wanted to compile them in one place for you to look through the list! I’ll add new things at the top of the page as they become available so you don’t need to scroll all the way to the bottom each time. If you’ve got any ideas for other things we can add on here, please send them my way!

Jenna Paulson has put together a Christmas Bingo 2020 edition! I will give 10 Caribou Coffee gift cards to the first 10 people to complete a Bingo WITH PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE!
The Young Families Group is making “Snowman Soup” then bringing it to neighbors and giving them an invite card to our Christmas Eve Service. (Thanks to Erin Rivenburg for giving me this idea!)
This concert was WONDERFUL! Lots of smaller groups you may not have heard of!
JD Greear’s Advent series at Right Now Media. This is a great, brief series looking at the 4 names of Christ in Isaiah 9:6.
Slugs and Bugs Advent videos at Right Now Media. My kids absolutely LOVE Slugs and Bugs, and this Advent series is no exception! If you’ve got little kids, they’ll probably love this.

Feel free to download the invitation card for your own use! Just right click on the image, then click “Download image” to save it to your computer.