Hi Shoreline family and friends,
I love you and am praying for you. This pandemic has been difficult on everyone and I am praying God will use it to grow our faith and love for Him, as well as our love for one another. The Lord has greatly and continually humbled me over the last few months and I am truly grateful. I want to thank you for all your prayers and for being so gracious as we have tried to navigate difficult waters.
I sent out a letter to our church on May 20th (I will quote from it and you can find it here) where I explained why we temporarily stopped physically gathering and moved our services online. I argued “public safety falls under the sphere of governmental authority” and since the stay at home order was generally applied and not content specific we should comply. I also gave several criteria for when I believed biblically civil disobedience would be right and necessary. First, if the government told us to not worship God (or preach the gospel or deny Christ in some way) we would not comply because worship is “clearly outside the sphere of governmental authority. We would disobey man in order to obey God” (Acts 4:19). Second, if the government allowed other “congregating crowds,” but continued to ban religious congregating then the order would move from an issue of public safety to an issue of religious discrimination. Such a situation would be a “dividing line” and we would immediately meet in person to worship. Third, if at some point the government’s orders “become completely unreasonable, then we will begin to meet.” While I believe there are other criteria as well, I still believe in the biblical and theological reasoning and veracity of these criteria. Thankfully, soon after sending the letter the governor lifted the stay at home order for churches and we began to meet in person while streaming the service online for those who are high risk.
Last week the governor put out new guidance for churches, which includes a prohibition of singing or chanting in public worship services. The order is neither generally applied nor is it content neutral. I shared with our church Sunday that as for now we are going to continue to sing praises to the Lord for two reasons. First, as stated before, God simply has not given government the authority to dictate the content of a worship service no matter how well intentioned the motivation. We must acknowledge God’s absolute sovereignty when it comes to how we worship. Second, in the Bible from the time of Moses (Exodus 15) all the way to the early church (Eph 5:19), God’s people have gathered to sing praise to the Lord (Psalm 150). Paul told the church in Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
I understand there may be those who disagree with this decision. People of good faith and conscience can disagree. The apostle Paul said God has received us, therefore, we are to receive one another and not despise one another due to issues of conscience (Rom 14:1-6). Let’s rejoice that God has received all of us in Christ, and “with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15:6). If you cannot sing and worship in faith and with a clear conscious before the Lord due to health concerns or to the governor’s order, then I encourage you to join us online so that you can sing unto the Lord with a pure heart.
I want to encourage us to pray. We must pray we never develop a spirit of rebellion, and for the Lord to give us grace to have a humble and submissive spirit that honors God. We must fervently love and pray for our leaders. Our government officials are having to make many difficult decisions in very difficult circumstances. There simply are no painless or perfect solutions where everyone will agree. We are all having to think through things we have never faced and as fallible humans will inevitably make some mistakes along the way. We should pray for our leaders to make good decisions (1 Tim 2:1-3) and give them grace when they make mistakes. We must continue to honor those in authority (1 Peter 2:17) in every way we can while being faithful to God. As always, I am happy to discuss any of this with you. The Lord has taught me so much through you, and I desire to grow in wisdom as I learn from each of you. May God bless you richly.