The church is essential and that’s why we’re not opening right now
Let me start by saying I love the local church. I love seeing people of all ages and ethnicities come together to worship, pray, laugh and learn more about what it would look like to follow God more authentically. It’s a beautiful thing. For many people like me it’s a regular part of your weekly routine for as long as you can remember. It’s like the rising and setting of the sun. On sunday mornings you just go to church.
This season has obviously impacted that. It’s impacted all of us. Every single person on the planet in both big and small ways. Church meetings have been cancelled for months and whether you attend a church of 25 or 25,000, I know it’s about more than just participating in a church service. It’s far more than that. The service is a source of hope, community, giving back, relationships, and a spiritual anchor among many other things. And when those gatherings stopped there was a deep sense of loss. I totally understand and resonate.
As a pastor, this has been my normal since the mid 90’s. I love the local church despite it’s imperfections which we have many. Like every person I love, the church isn’t perfect but so many times it’s where my heart find rest. It’s the calm in the middle of the storm.
Typically in difficult times whether it’s a funeral, a vigil, a 12 step program or even after natural disasters or even a terrorist attack, the church has been a place where people can go find peace. To put an arm around someone. To join hands in prayer. To find strength in relationships.
What’s so unique about this pandemic is that the times we most need community is the time that it’s most difficult to connect with one another. Digital is great and I’m so thankful for it, but it’s just not the same as meeting together physically.
Why do I bring this up?
Because church leaders and members have been pushing to meet despite the guidance of medical experts and public officials. At the beginning of the stay at home orders, churches were defying even to the point of arrest. During the pandemic, some churches have broadcast services with people obviously defying the health guidelines.
Now as the country is cautiously reopening, a new wave of churches are fighting to reopen under the idea that churches are essential.
I’ve received many texts and calls from Pastor friends as well as members of our church asking what we’re going to do.
First, let me say that I believe the church is absolutely essential. We are essential in good times and even more so in difficult ones.
But what is not essential is meeting in person. The church is not a service. The church is not a public gathering. The church is a people that are doing their best to live out the priorities of Heaven here on Earth. To do what Jesus would do if Jesus were living in their shoes.
So we continue to be the church in this season, serving the vulnerable, looking for opportunities to bring hope, prioritizing prayer over worry, prioritizing people over stuff and prioritizing God above all. None of that changes. The church is now more essential than ever.
But out of wisdom and love, we as Voice Church are going to prolong our re-opening of public services for as long as necessary to show our community that we love them, care for their well being and are considering them.
I do see a season coming when we encourage small groups to gather on sunday mornings to watch the services together. That’ll be a great time to see people in small settings to eat, pray and worship with one another. And eventually we’ll all get to be in one room together again. It’ll happen. Maybe not for a while but it’ll happen.
Paul says that “I have been crucified with Christ. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
In other words, I no longer fight for my rights or my desires. I’m a dead man walking. That old Paul was crucified with Christ. Just as Christ pushed past his temporal desires and gave his life for me, I’m called to do the same. That’s what love does, doesn’t it? Love doesn’t demand it’s way. Love gives. Love asks what the other person needs. Love puts others ahead of themselves. Love says what is needed from me in order to best show care and concern for the people in my life.
So that’s what we’re going to try our best to do.
Look, no hate at what other churches are doing. That’s not the point of this. I have no idea what they feel in their heart is necessary. And I will only be held accountable for what I do. This is what I feel we are supposed to do in order to practically live out our values of love and concern for the community God has us in.
As much as I want to see all of you in person again, on the other side of this pandemic I really want God to tell us as a Voice Church family “Well done. You were faithful. You loved your community well.”
Natalie and I love you deeply. We, as well as the elders and other leaders, are always here to pray and support you in any way we can.
God will get us through this. Let’s lean into Him and love well.