I packed up my office supplies in preparation to spend the next few weeks working from home, and then I walked across the street to our Granite Bay campus. As I stood in the courtyard and looked around me, I realized this place has come to represent so much in the years that I’ve been a part of Bayside. It’s my workplace, yes, but more than that, it’s my Church, my community, and my home-away-from-home. When I moved to California five years ago, I packed my life into the trunk of my car and left the only home I’d ever known. With no relatives or friends nearby and only my (extremely patient!) husband for company, I so desperately missed the feeling of acceptance and belonging that comes with having a church family.
When God led me to Bayside a few months later, I couldn’t have possibly understood all that it would bring to my life. So many of you know what I’m talking about because you’ve experienced it yourselves, whether on a Bayside campus or at another church you call home: the deepening of faith, the spiritual breakthroughs, the life-changing friendships, the enriching conversations. The joy, the laughter, the tears…the glory is given to God through it all, within the sanctuary of these walls.
And now, suddenly, we were all facing a new reality – one that challenged our perception of “church” as we know it. I’m not going to lie. I was anxious, sad, and maybe a little afraid.
I said a prayer at that moment: that in this season, when we as churches can’t gather together physically on our campuses, God would use us to become the “capital C” Church outside our buildings, in ways more powerful than ever before.
What I learned is this, church fam: be careful what you pray for because God’s always listening!
Something’s happened in recent weeks that can’t be explained away. As individual churches around the world have gone from onsite to online ministry, people have started connecting to the Church – and to each other – in unprecedented ways. With every hour of every day, the number of praise reports, prayer requests, and hands raised to accept Christ for the very first time keeps growing…and growing…and growing. Entire ministries continue to gather like they always have – only now, it’s online. Small groups keep up with their weekly meetings via FaceTime or Zoom. Here at Bayside, we’re getting calls, texts, and e-mails from so many of you, asking, “How can we help the church to help the community?” A situation that began as a barrier suddenly became a challenge that we, as believers, were determined to overcome – together. As we lost our ability to gather physically, God, in His grace, provided the most incredible opportunity for us to connect spiritually.
Acts 8:4 tells us that in the early days of the Church, “Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went.” We’re living out the model of the early Church right now! I don’t know about you, but that excites me beyond measure. I’ve never been so motivated, so committed, and so hopeful about the future of God’s Church. The recurring theme I’ve heard time and again in this season, from so many, sounds a little something like this: “I’ve never been closer to Jesus. I’ve never felt stronger in my faith. I’ve never been so involved in church activities. I’ve never felt more part of the family of God than I do now.”
Friends, the Church has left the building — and that’s really good news. Don’t worry. It’ll be back! But when it returns, may it never be the same as it was before. May we never be the same as we were before. May our commitment as a Bayside family, and as the Church at large, not fade when the crisis fades. May our dedication – to breaking down barriers, to reaching beyond our walls, to going the extra mile in loving and encouraging one another when physical restrictions threaten our ability to connect on sincere and meaningful levels – not dwindle just because the doors of our buildings are open again. When this situation has passed, and it becomes a distant memory, may we not forget the supernatural things that are taking place in the Church in these landmark moments. How good is our God, that He would create and place us in a defining moment in history, for such a time as this?
-Taj Smith, Bayside Staff