Why We Are Waiting to Reopen
“When are we going to start having church again?” That is the number one question I hear these days. Many are ready to start immediately, regardless the Governor’s orders, while others feel strongly we must wait for the all-clear to be sounded. The Leadership Team (LT) met a week ago to discuss what God would have us do, and last Sunday I shared our conclusions.
We quickly discovered that the views of the LT are about as diverse as those of our people, and we agreed that it is quite possible to make a biblical case for both positions. The first decision we made was to temper our perspective with Romans 14:3. (Covid paraphrase) The one who [believes we should resume worship gatherings immediately] must not look down on the one who does not, and the one who [believes we should wait] must not condemn the one who [believes we should start], for God has accepted him. This is critical because it is very easy see those with an opposite view as unfaithful to God. We believe individual believers and churches can have God-glorifying convictions that differ.
However, the Leadership Team agreed we should continue to wait to resume our worship gatherings until the Governor’s orders allow it. There are three primary Scriptures behind our decision.
1. God’s command to obey our governing authorities. (Romans 13:1)
At this point, the Governor’s orders do not allow churches to resume meeting until Phase 3 or 4. We believe this is overly restrictive and have joined a petition to allow churches to join restaurants in reopening sooner at partial capacity. In the meantime, we believe we are called to obey the orders. If the order was to cease preaching the gospel or to not address certain doctrines, we clearly would have to obey God rather than man. (Acts 5:29) But we feel the order to refrain from gathering for a time is legitimate for the good of the community and is not unfaithful to the gospel.
2. God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:39)
Speaking personally, I am so eager to gather with everyone again that I sometimes forget that refraining is also an expression of love. Love works to protect and serve the needs, vulnerabilities and fears of others. Over actions that may be overly cautious can be expressions of love. The stay home orders may indeed be a violation of constitutional rights, as some have said. But the mark of a Christian is one who willingly yields his rights for the benefit of others. Our Savior is the ultimate example, yielding his rights as God and humbling himself to death on the cross.
3. God’s command to honor the name of Christ. (Titus 3:1–2)
This Scripture speaks powerfully to us in this season. We honor Christ as we seek to be ready to do whatever is good (like social distancing), to slander no one (like authorities and those with differing convictions), to be peaceable and considerate (especially on social media!), and to show true humility to all men.
We will continue to see God’s guidance in the days and weeks to come and we are genuinely as anxious as anyone to resume meeting again. In the meantime, we are not simply waiting. We are readying our plans for a safe reopening and we are preparing our hearts. This is a critical time to consecrate ourselves for God – to prepare our heart and mind for the new season of ministry that will hopefully start soon. I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44)
PS: You can listen to the audio or watch the visual here of Pastor Toby’s presentation this past Sunday about reopening.