How Can We Know If It’s Safe to Get Together?

Should we gather or should we not? Is it safe to get together? As Thanksgiving approaches, this decision weighs heavily on the minds of families across our country. The thought of not being together during this time conjures up more visions of pain and yet we ask: Is it safe?

To gather. gave me two different definitions for this word

  • to bring together into one group, collection, or place:
  • to assemble from various places, sources, or people; collect gradually:

We get together for all kinds of reasons: sometimes that reason is for comfort.

In John 20:19 the disciples gathered together: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews…” The followers of Jesus were scared and stuck, traumatized by a scenario they hadn’t see coming. It certainly was not safe to get together!

Weeks ago, their leader was gaining momentum. Each day more and more people were believing Jesus was who He claimed…the Son of God. Messiah. The One they had waited hundreds; thousands of years for. Crowds swelled when He was present. More and more were believing every day. Crowds cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Even as I read John 12:13, I can picture the electric energy of the crowd. Our king has come! This crowd had seen Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead. Now they were calling Jesus their leader.

Days later, the apostles get together…traumatized. Confused, exhausted, weary … numb. Dazed, they sit in silence and wonder what will happen next.

I imagine the thoughts swirling around the stagnant room. Murdered at only 33 years old, their beloved leader was gone. Brutally, publically murdered and now, association with Him forced them into hiding.

Here Comes Jesus!

Here, in this sorrow-filled place of getting together, Jesus came. They had just witnessed His death; the shattering of their hopes and plans. Then He appeared, bringing peace with Him.

Jesus brought peace.

Later, He physically left them again and went back to His Father, but before He left “…he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 (ESV)

Jesus had given them a command with a promise attached to it. They were to get together and wait expectantly for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I wonder if they had any idea what they were waiting for? This is the first time in Scripture we see this combination of phrases. They had heard of and witnessed baptisms. Scripture spoke of the Holy Spirit, but here is the first time they hear of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Why did it mean? What did it even look like?

I love that the disciples probably didn’t know, but they obeyed. They followed Jesus’ command. They gathered and they waited. It didn’t matter how they felt. (When I feel sad, I don’t want to get together with others. I want to be by myself; alone with my thoughts and my pain. I’m so glad that even if the disciples felt the same way, they gathered!)

Yes, they came together. But they didn’t just hang out together. “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” Acts 1:14 (ESV)

Anything But Predictable!

While some of these gatherings were predictable, simply following through with what they knew was the right thing to do, one gathering was not. It was supernatural.

Acts 2:1-4: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

When they came together, the Holy Spirit met them and empower them. They received, as the Holy Spirit came, gifts, and power that they did not have before.  

The Holy Spirit brought power.

The result of this new, fresh, now in-dwelling power? Gifts and power that they did not have before. The ability to move on from the trauma, disappointment, weariness, and exhaustion. Greater still, the gospel, the Good News of forgiveness and brand new life in Jesus, spilled out of that gathering. Acts 2:37 – 38 shares Peter’s power-induced sermon, with the gathered crowd responding: “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit …” Verse 41 reports 3,000 souls were added to the newly forming body of Christ that gathered that day.

Out of the apostles’ weariness, brokenness, exhaustion, and trauma, Jesus, through the peace He brought with His appearance after the resurrection and now through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, brought salvation and power as they had never experienced.

And it all started from the place where they gathered. When the believers gathered – whether they felt like it or not, Jesus performed miracles. In each of them and through each of them. He brought them the peace and power they needed.

Should we be gathering too, then?

I’ll admit there are some Tuesday nights when I don’t want to gather on another ZOOM call for my Changed Choices Bible study. We’re weary from doing life differently; exhausted from reinventing, pivoting, and changing course from the working systems we created! The trauma from the global pain of COVID and our nation’s pains of racial tensions and the elections; it’s been a lot and it has been one exhausting year.

This upheaval, is it a shove of sorts to get us out from under our systematic spirituality? A push to get us beyond the independent ways of our own problem solving so that we would gather together? Could COVID’s causing us to come together be part of God’s plan to get us to lean on each other; be dependent on one another? Or even greater yet, for us to gather together so that we can experience the greatness of the in-filling of the Holy Spirit and His power … together? (And by together, I am not advocating for in-person gathering, but using technology and those devices we have in our hands continually and actually calling one another. 🙂

I know I need the power of the Holy Spirit more than ever. I’ll be honest, my hustle is hollow. My normal “get-‘er-done” strengths depleted. I need the strength that comes from gathering with other Christ-followers for prayer and studying God’s word. I’m guessing you do too!

Jesus told us in Matthew 18:19-20, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (NIV) This word, this promise to us, di void with COVID. The Bible’s promises and commands do not contain a COVID clause. In fact, the need for us to gather has never been more pressing! And so we still gather. For many of us, not in person the way we would like and prefer, but we are together.

Why We Gather

When we are intentional and gather together, however that looks right now, we remind one another of the truth of who we are: His. We remind one another of whose we are; image-bearers of Almighty God. We are carriers of the Spirit of God; bringing Good News of salvation and new life through the Son of God. Another social media meme or putting up a post won’t work. We need personal interaction where the power of the Holy Spirit is present.

Learn the technology that allows us to “be together”. Call those in the body of Christ! We need each other!

You are an essential part of the body of Christ. You are a living, breathing, vibrant part of the family of God. This family needs your prayers, your gifts, and the Holy Spirit that indwells you.

Hebrews 10:24 – 25 tells us, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near, 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.” ESV

This is why we gather.

I’d love to hear how you are gathering during this season. Let’s encourage one another right here in the comments below!

Looking for the right study for your group in the New Year?

Click here to learn more about my study for women about women:

Make Your Move:

Finding Unshakable Confidence Despite Your Fears and Failures

Make Your Move: Finding Unshakable Confidence Despite Your Fears and Failures. A BIble study for women about women.



  1. Make Your Move is such an encouraging book. There were chapters that I had to read over and over again because it spoke to my heart and I had to put faith into what I read in the Bible that God was telling me to have through those examples. The one chapter about Moses’ mom was sooooo encouraging and really spoke volumes as a nurse myself. I used some of those verses as memory verses and I decided to go back to school to get my PhD as an encouragement from reading the book. God does big things when we move in faith with Him. I even have a full scholarship ….. I never thought that I would qualify for but God. I really needed to see how God had moved in other woman lives in the Bible and this book exposed in a loving way how we can practically follow their faith in action.

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Sharla, thank you SO much for your testimony! I cannot tell you what this does for my heart! These women in God’s word went through so much, much to be afraid of, yet they found what they needed in God. Just as we can!

      Congratulations on going back to school … and the scholarship too. He loves to surprise us with His goodness. 🙂

  2. Elaine Manning says:

    I’m afraid this is going to sound like a vent session. I can appreciate all that you said. We do put our trust and faith in the Lord. I do feel it is very irresponsible to be encouraging folks to gather together in the middle of a pandemic.
    I can tell you that I work for our denominations main church headquarters for our state. I have been mandated to work back in the office since 6/29/20 even though over 98% of my job is online. No social distancing, spotty health checks even though they are to be doing them daily when they come to the office, no mask wearing. I can’t tell you the number of local church clerks/secretaries that I have spoke with over the last 5 months who feel like they can no longer attend church because of the belligerent attitudes of church members who refuse to wear a mask or social distance.
    Yesterday my office had their annual Thanksgiving day dinner. 18 people gathered in one room together, elbow to elbow. 10 of those 18 have been exposed to Covid in the last 13 days. No one quarantines for 14 days. 2-5 if I am lucky.
    My husband has health issues. If he gets Covid, he is probably going to die. His employer has no intentions of attempting to bring anyone back to the office till at least March. I am doing all within my very limited power, to keep my family as healthy and cared for as possible. My employer (the church) does not care about the individual. It is a business.
    So while I know the Lord cares for his own, he gives us tools and knowledge to use as well. If we won’t use the tools and knowledge that he gives us…..should we be surprised when we all get sick?
    I’m at the point with my church work that I’m hanging on by my fingernails. Anxiety and depression is drowning me. And I feel they don’t care till someone gets sick and dies in the office.
    I stay locked in my office. Door closed and a 2 signs on my door. Wear a mask properly or don’t come in. They treat me like a pariah.
    I think once my employment ends, I’m finished with church work. My relationship with the Lord and my family is the strongest it has ever been. But organized religion……I’m almost finished.
    Be safe out there.

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Elaine, I am so glad you commented! It made me realize that I didn’t make myself clear when I was advocating for “gathering”. I went back and edited my words adding technology and calling. 🙂

      My husband and I do not attend church in person. I take care of my elderly mom several times a week, so we do not feel safe going into crowds. We socially distance and wear masks. I am with you!!!

      What I was saying is that through technology and actually calling one another as we used to in the “old days” we need to still be “gathering together” for encouragement. (I don’t advocate doing that in person though. 🙂

      Thank you again for sharing. You are in a very tough situation. My husband and I can both work remotely. I wish all could right now.

      1. Crystal Hayduk says:

        Thank you for editing your post to clarify. When I read it the first time as it was delivered to my email inbox, like Elaine M. above, I also understood it to mean getting together in person. I am a Christian, but my husband and I work in public health. I agree with and have seen what Elaine is dealing with and am saddened to say that it surely seems as if many churches lack care and empathy in the way they are (not) handling the COVID-19 crisis.

        1. Lynn Cowell says:

          As a writer, you know what is in your head, but it doesn’t always translate clearly, that is for sure!

          Any one want to volunteer to read my posts before I hit “publish”? 🙂

  3. Angela Gibbons says:

    You are an amazing speaker. My daughter and I saw you in PA last fall. (Wow…who can even remember last fall?)
    My heart has been tugged all over the place during this time. As an elementary school teacher my heart was broken the day I learned I wouldn’t be seeing my students again last school year. I literally stood in the kitchen crying when the news was announced PA was shut down for the rest of the year. I understood, but was angry and skeptical.
    In summer, when we were finally able to go back to church and I could watch my son play baseball again, I was elated.
    Starting the school year was different, but at least I was in a classroom and I had eager children in front of me again.
    Then in October my dad got sick. My parents live away so I hadn’t seen them in months due to all of this. (We did visit on Zoom though…thankfully). My dad had been diagnosed with everything BUT CO-Vid. His test was negative. However, after two weeks of nothing helping him, he ended up in the hospital. Guess what? He was positive for COVID. He passed away 16 days later with none of us getting to see or talk to him.
    We “gathered” at the house…social distancing in the living room. Me, my mom, my brother, sister, and daughter cried, laughed, and told stories. We gathered for the next three days without any hugs of comfort. But we still gathered. We will not have a proper memorial for my dad for several months, when hopefully, we can gather safely. This has been a horribly sad time. I want to be with my family for Thanksgiving, but won’t risk it because of my mom. I am so afraid of bringing germs to her, and we can’t go through this again. My dad was healthy, still working full time. His brother died in July, several states away, also of COVID. He diligently followed all the proper measures because of that specifically. You just never know when this could happen. I never thought my family would be personally touched by this disease the way we have.
    I will gather with anyone who wants to…using technology, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’m sad to not be physically present with my mom and siblings, but we would be socially distant anyway. I look back on last Thanksgiving as one of the most precious ever, and that will be the one that helps me get through this one.
    Thank you Lynn for this post. ?

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      It is so good to hear from you, Angela. Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us.

      I am so very sorry for your loss. I lost my father when I was in my early 30’s. We wish you and I didn’t have this in common with each other. Nothing can replace having your dad by your side.

      You have hurt so very much because of COVID. I am so very sorry that this awful pandemic has been so personal for you.

      My husband and I have not been meeting in person with others. (I realize I wasn’t that clear in my post. Somehow, I thought the mention of ZOOM and the picture would make that clear.) I just know that with the help of technology, we can still “gather” and pray with and for one another and I believe that is important!

      May next year, by the Lord’s grace, Thanksgiving look differently! God’s best to you, Angela, and thank you so much for serving through your teaching!

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