Should Christians meet together in church assembly during this CoVid-19 scare? Let me begin with this observation and thought: A multitude of Christians across America have been praying for years for revival in our nation. Yet, in seeking revival, how many have sincerely opened their spiritual eyes for seeing revival opportunity when it is at their doorstep?
Could these days—with the pandemic scare, partisan division, and civil unrest—be an instrument for revival to occur in our land? Widespread spiritual revival may be closer than we realize if we, as followers of Christ, open our eyes to today’s opportunities.
America, and the world in large, is in a cultural calamity that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes. People across the nation are suffering under a spectrum of fears. There are health scares, financials concerns, political uncertainties, and open lawlessness. We are seeing the darkness of human hearts exposed in full display in prejudices, hatred, and anarchy.
People have had their lifestyles thrown into disarray, with a majority now suffering some degree of depression and anxiety. Drug, alcohol, and pornography addictions are rampant. Petitions for divorce are on the rise. The number of suicides across America has increased multiple-times-over last year’s numbers. Adding to that, there is tremendous distrust in government officials and in the Media.
Many are wondering whether America is on the verge of collapse. Many have began to speculate that, perhaps, we are entering “the great tribulation.”
Yet, with all this occurring, numerous churches have opted to “temporarily” discontinue meeting together for their sanctuary services.
(There are some churches holding services outdoors. I applaud those who are doing this. It is absolutely biblical. If your church is able, this may be the wonderful compromise to the dilemma. But, for many this is impractical.)
As church leaders, in questioning whether to “open the church doors,” first realize that there are always “open doors” for the gospel message throughout your community—and even more so in these times. In today’s environment, some of those who, before, seemed steadfastly resistant to the gospel, may well be receptive to the gospel today.
People are looking for hope and light. They are looking for answers. As Christians, we have the answer to their hope. His name is Jesus!
It was in Samaria when Jesus said, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for the harvest” (John 4:35). Yet, Samaria was considered by the disciples to be a Pagan region. Spiritually, Samaria certainly wasn’t where the disciples wouldv’e expected to find fields ripe for harvest.
We each should ask ourselves, “Am I spiritually opening my eyes to look at the fields? Can the pain and uncertainites of today’s environment actually result in increased oppurtunites for sowing seeds of the gospel and cultivating “wheat” for the Lord’s harvest?”
The majority of Christians have presupposed ideas for what a revival opportunity should look like, and how it should manifest in our land. Yet, what we expect, and what God allows and orchestrates, is frequently different in appearance.
Without a doubt, there is opportunity for revival to break out in our nation. And, possibly, peoples’ fears of CoVid-19, together with the civil unrest, might serve as catalyst for revival. Furthermore, whether revival breaks out in America or not, in this time of nationwide fear and crisis, certainly there are fields ripe for the harvest.
So, whether or not a church chooses to hold service in their church sanctuary for the gathering of the congregation; it is imperative that forums for ministry and evangelization are both provided and emphasized by the churches! There needs to be ongoing ministry for the community and congregation. (And, frankly, it needs to be more than Facebook or YouTube. While it’s good to have sermons shown live on Facebook, most people won’t finish watching it. Too, even those who do watch a full church service on social media usually still feel distant.)
There is power, comfort, encouragement, and inspiration found in the presence of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that is scarcely experienced through the disconnect of social media!
There are differing thoughts about whether to have a church congregation gather during this CoVid-19 crisis. Pastors are taking positions on both sides of this discussion.
Truthfully, either position may be appropriate and God-driven for a specific congregation, in a specific community, for a specific time. At the same time, it also needs to be noted that either position may be improper and man-devised in origin for a specific congregation, in a specific community, at a specific time. In determining whether it is Bible-based and God-orchestrated, the decision must be made by rightly incorporating the authority of the Word of God.
Scripture holds guiding principles. In deciding whether to hold sanctuary service or not, church leaders need to assess, whether the decision being made is according to biblically-based principles, and are the elders correctly handling the Word of Truth (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15).
While your specific dilemma in regards to opening your church or closing temporarily might not be precisely addressed in the Bible, there are biblical principles to lead you. Further, believers have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who gives affirmation and correction.
Pastors must turn first to the Bible for guidance as to whether to have their congregation gather in these days. And, whatever decision is reached ought to affirmed through answered prayer.
In making an appropriate, God-directed decision as to whether to open your church doors and assemble the congregation, study and meditate on Scripture passages. Such as:
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Whether your church chooses to hold sanctuary services or provide other avenues for ministering to the people; as best as you are able, evaluate your decision on the merits of power, love, and self-decision. While the reasons you are weary about opening your sanctuary for services have valid concerns, do not make your decision based from fear, obstinacy, or defiance.
Fear is contrary to the Spirit of Christ. And, fear suppresses Christ’s power in us and barricades our love for people. In fear we are self-consumed. We look inward in pity of ourselves, rather than outward in compassion for others.
Fear is also an adversary of self-disciple. Yet, self-disciple (sound mind) is imperative in deciding whether to hold sanctuary services because there are so many outside voices speaking for meeting together or against meeting in assembly. These outside voices stir disunity and disagreement.
The most important voice, the One voice to heed, it that of the Spirit of Christ! It takes a sound, spiritual mind to discern the voice of the Lord. And, fear is an interference when listening for the Lord’s voice.
We hold incredible, unfathomable power in Christ! A believer’s power is in accordance to the Lord’s power. We are “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Still, with that, the actualization and demonstration of that power must be within the constraints of love.
I believe the fervent prayers of church leaders who hold deep conviction in God’s protection, have strong faith in His power, and faithfully intercede for their church congregations’ well-being, will be answered with the Lord’s provision of a protective shield over their congregation.
Those type of Christians who are strong in faith will typically display both boldness and meekness in character and action.
(Boldness and meekness are much different than arrogance and irresponsibility. And, there are pastors who seem to be acting presumptuously and irresponsibly. While we are to trust God for opening church doors; we are not to test God by doing so.)
Still, whereas those who are strong in their faith may attend a gathering of a church congregation and realize they are fully protected in Christ, those who are weaker in the faith, may well have great fear of becoming infected with CoVid-19 in an assembly. And, for those, their fear can be greater than their “faith.”
Paul emphasizes that the more spiritually mature should not become an obstacle to those who are less mature in their walk with Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 8). It is always the responsibility of a more mature person in Christ, to defer from anything that may be an obstacle to his brother who holds reservations about it!
As far as holding church services, there will be many who are fearful about returning to gather together in congregations. Encourage them. Take whatever securities and precautions are necessary to ease their fears. But don’t insistently manipulate their returning to a gathered assembly until they are comfortable. If not, it could have an adverse effect and cause them to fall away. Rather, lift them up lovingly.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
The Bible implores us to not give up meeting together. There is power, protection, and provision in the gathering of the church body. If at all possible, a church should open the doors to however many are able and willing to come—whether that be over 200 in attendance, or under 20.
The decision to hold service shouldn’t be made on how many will attend. While it’s gratifying to look at the auditorium and see a sanctuary full of souls, even if the number of people attending is sparse, it is a gathering of the church! And that is powerful and wondrous!
Unless the Lord is telling your church leadership, “No,” to holding church services, you should strive to meet together. Take precautions as fitting, but meet together. Preach the gospel and teach biblical truths—regardless as to whether it’s for a gathered few or for many.
But what if the governing authorities are preventing churches from gathering indoors, or they impose limits to the number of people allowed to gather inside—for the health and safety of the community? Should Christians abide with these instructions?
The biblical answer to that is, generally, “Yes. Follow the instructions of your governing authority.” We should abide by the governing authorities unless the order of the authority is explicitly against the Word of God, or if church gatherings are being specifically restricted while other businesses are not held to similar limitations.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended” (Romans 13:1-3).
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority; whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” (1 Peter 2:13)
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” (Titus 3:1-2)
We may not agree with our governing officers’ decisions, but the Bible teaches believers to submit to our authorities, even if that authority is unjust. For example, the Apostle Peter wrote, “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God . . . To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:18-21). If slaves who were believers, in a reverent fear of God, were called to submit to unjust and harsh masters; how much more should we, too, in reverent fear of God, submit to ungodly ruling authorities.
However, there are times when we should stand against the orders of man because of our reverence to the Lord. When Peter and John stood before the Jewish rulers, elders, and teachers; the authorities commanded Peter and John “not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes; to listen to you, or to Him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:18-19).
In deciding whether the government has usurped its authority, determine whether their orders are in explicit violation of biblical instructions given by God. If any authority orders us to act contrary to God’s Word, God’s Word always usurps all else.
This doesn’t mean that if a governor orders the temporary closure of similar gatherings, the church is exempt. We are called to abide then with the governing authorities’ orders in that case because the government is acting in the perceived interest of health for its citizens. It is God-ordained that government (rightly) care for its citizens. And, to that, we are subject to obedience whether we are agreeable with it or not.
Yet, there have been some cases where governing authorities have specifically imposed restriction on church gatherings and activities that are more excessive than businesses of similar size in the community. Those excessive restrictions should be construed as usurping God’s Word—for we are a people called to spread the gospel and love of Christ. And, if the government is intentionally “singling out” churches by holding them to a more restrictive standard, the governing authority is acting in a way that is, in essence, suppressing the message of the gospel to which we are called to proclaim.
We are called to be light to the world. And:
“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” (Luke 8:16)
If your church does close its doors temporarily for services, evaluate whether it is warranted in love for your congregation and community; or whether the closure stems from fear. Strive to open again as soon as possible—at a time that is respectful to authorities and to the church’s community.
People are hurting and need to gather in assembly to hear the Word of God preached. Any delay of weeks or months could well have eternal consequences for lost souls, or extended spiritual warfare for believers. Many who don’t know Christ are searching for hope. We have the good news of the One who is the Truth, Jesus. He is the only One who gives living water, everlasting life, and indescribable peace!
Read more in a related post at this link:
We need to be intentional in restoring our local church family members who’ve strayed.