The question we are all asking is when we will resume in person worship services? The answer to that question is, “Soon, Lord willing.” We have decided on a “Returning to Church Plan,” and you can find it here. The Governor has announced health guidelines being released for in person worship services; so our plans may be modified, but these are our plans for now. We also are considering meeting outside in our courtyard initially.
Another question we have asked is why have we not met in person for so long, and why are we not meeting immediately? I want to address those questions directly. As believers and as a church we have many biblical commands and sometimes it is difficult to know how they apply in any given situation (especially the complexity of a pandemic). I want to share my thinking and heart with you. I also want to say it is okay if you disagree with my reasoning (I have changed my view over the last few weeks as well). These are complex issues of balance and proportionality and there is certainly room for us to disagree in good conscience with one another and still exercise love. I think it is important to exercise humility and grace as we all seek “to live to the Lord” (Rom 14:8) in this pandemic. There are a host of important constitutional and political questions related to the Governor’s orders. These are very important questions for us as Americans, but I do not believe the church should make its decisions based upon politics or anything outside of Scripture. I have personally disagreed with many aspects of the government’s response, but I do not want to base what we do upon personal opinions of governmental actions.
I want to give two biblical reasons we have temporarily not met in person. First, Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God supremely and love others as yourself, and upon these two laws hang all other laws. In light of the initial uncertainty and danger of Covid-19, we chose to exercise caution and temporarily move our services online. This decision would be wrong if motivated by fear, but I believe it was right because it was motivated by a love for others. As believers we do not fear death, but we also do not want to cause death either.
Second, the Bible says God has appointed the institution of government for the good of society, and by submitting to government we are submitting to God. This God-given authority, however, is limited because the Bible says we are to obey God rather than men. Jesus put it this way, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt 22:21). The government asked everyone to avoid all crowds and gatherings for health and life reasons and public safety falls under the sphere of governmental authority. If the government told us to not preach the gospel, or to not worship God, or to deny Christ in some way, we would not comply because those issues are clearly outside the sphere of governmental authority. We would disobey man in order to obey God. If the government’s order was a matter of persecution of Christians or gospel proclamation, we would not comply because to comply would be to deny the supremacy of Christ. But I do not believe at this point the governor’s order is a matter of religious persecution. He has banned all congregating crowds, not just religious ones. He has even closed schools which are central to his personal ideological perspective and agenda. With that said, if at some point the government’s objective moves out of the realm of public safety and into the realm of persecution (the government were to open schools but not churches), we will immediately meet in person to worship- that is the dividing line. If the government’s orders become completely unreasonable, then we will begin to meet. I think we may be approaching both of these criteria in which civil disobedience would be necessary, but I do not think we are yet at that point; so I think patience (while government and judicial processes continue to work out the legal issues) is the most biblical and prudent course of action at this specific point in time. If civil disobedience becomes necessary and it may, we would do so not with a spirit of rebellion but with a humble and submissive spirit that honors God while lovingly praying for those in authority over us. With all that said, I anticipate we will be worship together in person soon. As always, I am happy to discuss any of this with anyone and everyone, and desire to grow in wisdom as I learn from each one of you. I look forward to seeing you soon. May God bless you richly.