Hello all - we are back with a pressing issue this Saturday night. Should your local church cancel their service(s) moving forward? This took some prayer and meditation to consider. My hope and prayer is this will bring truth into your current situation, wherever you may be.
It was Wednesday night, we were about to start a teaching on the grace of God, when I saw a notification. "The Utah Jazz game has been delayed due to one of the players..." and that is all I could see. Immediately, I assumed it may be related to COVID-19. After service was over, I saw the game was postponed due to Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID-19. It was crazy to me, because the next notification was the NBA was going to shut down. And then, everything else started to follow suit.
Where I live (state of Utah), the Governor requested for no gatherings of over 100 people. And if you are 60 or older, to avoid gatherings of more than 20. Around the same time the LDS Church announced General Conference was online only and asked all local churches to not meet during this time. Utah had already begun some sort of mass hysteria a week ago when a news source recommended having 1-month supply of foods incase of quarantine. But now, schools, colleges, event locations, and yes, even Christian Churches are closing their doors.
So, this begged the question - "Should Christian Churches cancel their services?"
My initial answers bouncing around were: Yes, for the safety of others. Then: No, because Christ equipped us with a spirit of faith and not fear - I am an elder in the church and the Bible writes for the sick to call upon the elders of the church for prayer (note James 5). But, I also believe God ordains leaders in our government and if our Governor is asking for no gatherings of 100 people, should we not listen to that? Quickly followed with: what about churches with less than 100? The ideas pinged back and forth in my mind, but one thing rang true to me God has a plan for His church in all of this, we cant miss it.
Before we move any further I want to solicit some details that I fear many people do not understand about COVID-19.
1. Yes, the flu does kill more people each year. And if it does, do we really want 2 of them? Is that not at least somewhat concerning to you? I will admit that was one of my first thoughts (before it even entered the states) the flu kills more people yet gets no attention. Just because nobody talks about it, doesn't mean it isn't a big deal. We've grown numb to the death count due to the flu, why numb ourselves to the death count by a new disease? Should not every single life matter? Because they'll end up in heaven or hell - do we not care about each person's soul? Here is the problem: if the flu kills 50 people and the COVID kills 1, that is before it has spread. They have proven the COVID-19 is more contagious and more deadly than the flu. So, if it becomes as wide-spread as the flu, we wont be talking flu 50 and COVID 1, we will likely be talking flu 50 and COVID 65. Instead of 51 deaths, you'll have 115 (This is merely an example of why this thinking is incorrect).
2. Yes, it is not going to kill you. But it could kill your grandparents. It could kill your neighbor's child who has weak lungs. Don't write off lives just because you may not be at risk. This is a new disease that none of us have encountered, so our immune system isn't sure how to fight it. That means, your healthy grandma's immune system may have no way to fight this. Ask yourself that question, if I helped spread COVID-19 and then my family passed away from it, how would you feel?
3. Also true, self-quarantine is not going to stop the spread. This thing may actually be too big to stop now, you're right. But why try? Because the Hospitals cannot handle this outbreak. That means more people will not get the help they need if we don't try to slow it down. AKA more people will die. Please see the graph below that my wife (who is a nurse) showed me from Vox.
I'm sorry, those three points may have come across harsh, but what if someone came up to you in a couple months and heard you (as a Christian) saying something like, "the flu killed more people this winter. Everyone blew COVID-19 way out of proportion with the self-quarantine nonsense. I went about my life as normal and was fine." For them to respond to you, "Because of people like you, my mom died. People like you are the reason the world is a terrible place."
We must always, ALWAYS be wise with our words and careful about our company. Do not ruin your witness with ignorance and insensitivity. One of my favorite passages is Col. 4:5-6, "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."
I digress. What then is the answer to the original title? Do we cancel church? Do we skip church? I come across so many varying opinions on social media and then it hit me. The Church is once again splitting on a topic.
You may have skimmed through these and agreed with some and disagreed with others. I see a lot of truth in KB's post. I see some truth in Pastor Locke's. So what is right?
I believe that the Lord will speak to His Pastors and Leaders. Each church may have a different answer. The church of 50 (would likely) hold to their service, and that is okay. The church in NYC with 750 (would likely) opt to do online service, and that too is okay. I agree meeting together as believers is a powerful thing, but God can also manifest his power in any way He pleases. I also believe Perry Stone is an incredible man and he believes this is a time to serve membership online. Could God heal someone with merely a phone call prayer? YES! Church is not about a meeting on Sunday. It is about a family who want to pursue God together. So, rather than be concerned about what other churches are doing be concerned about what God is doing through YOU. What is your call during this time? What is your purpose? What are you supposed to do? Surely it isn't to point out the speck in your brother's eye.
I also want to speak briefly to those who believe skipping church is a sign of a lack of faith. That is not true. No one needs to prove their level of faith by rebelling against their Pastor and attending a church service. Submit to your Pastor's wishes with a respectful and sincere heart (for they must give account for your souls and surely sought the Lord before taking action - note Heb. 13:17) As someone who is a Pastor, I 100% believe God will heal His people. But, it is NOT my faith that will restore someone. It is by THEIR faith. Luke 17:19 Jesus says, "Rise and go your way. Your faith has made you well." Even if I believe everyone in my congregation can be healed from COVID-19, does that mean I put everyone at risk? Even those with little faith? (note Matt. 17:20) I know God wants us to have faith in Him (Heb. 11:6) but I cannot force people to increase in their faith. So, does that mean someone staying home lacks faith? Certainly not! It means they either sought the Lord and felt compelled to stay home (which should be respected) or they just wanted to play hookie. Not much you can do either way. We need to focus on OUR faith and OUR responsibility to God.
Christians need not to fear, for they know that at a minimum, this is being allowed by God to occur. I do not need to defend it - but we know God is sovereign and in control. So, let us ask ourselves, "God, what are you trying to accomplish through me in this season?"
Here are some possible answers: serve the widow, give your excess TP to your neighbor, invite your friends over for house church, have a family Bible study, watch your church service online, get on your knees and pray for this nation and pray for the Presidential election, pray God manifests His power and majesty through healings across the globe, etc.
This pandemic is bigger than 'should church be cancelled?' This pandemic is our opportunity (as the ONE TRUE CHURCH) to unify (and not belittle others) and each operate under our purpose and guidance of the Holy Spirit. If I am being candid, I think God has specific purposes for each local church and even individual people during this time to manifest His power, love and majesty. I pray this leads to a global revival - and hey, even if it doesn't, it was nice to follow God's will during this season.
A close friend said he doesn't know everything but he feels like the church needs to bring hope and not fear. He then referenced Isaiah 61:1-3, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified."
What is your purpose during this time? What is God wanting to accomplish through you? Have you sought the Lord about His bigger plan in all of this?
Think on it.
Also, this is worth the read.