The interruption to worship services brought about by COVID-19 was something that just couldn’t be predicted. But, regardless of our lack of prognostications, here we are. In some areas, churches are still limited in the number of attendees they can have at any one time. In some states it is nearly impossible for churches to even gather for worship. Thankfully, I live in a state that honors the separation of church and state and, as a result, does not seek to legislate God’s church. Of course, even without legislation, it is still wise for us to take precautions, and we seek to do so.
But, we have all learned that the government does not have to restrict attendance in worship services. People in many areas are restricting themselves. As pastors, we discuss attendance numbers with a sort of asterisk, “the numbers are pretty good, all things considered.”
The concern over COVID among vulnerable populations makes sense. Even the concern among others who may not be vulnerable, but who do not want to be vectors for transmission is understandable. However, we cannot live this way forever.
As it relates to attending Bible study and public worship, even if you aren’t ready yet, you need to decide now what conditions will need to be met before you return to worship. Once you have decided what conditions need to be met, you need to share those conditions with someone. Tell your LifeGroup or your pastor or your accountability partner where your line is. Maybe you have a date in mind, “I’ll return in 2021.” Maybe you are hopeful for a vaccine, “When a vaccine is widely available, I will return.”
But, be careful if you do not have a line. If your rationale for staying away from your church family hasn’t been carefully defined, you run the risk of never returning to church. If you do not draw a line in the sand right now and determine when you will return to worship, you may never return. You will find other things to fill your Sunday mornings and commitment to your church will wax and wane.
Many of you have very good reasons for not venturing out into public spaces right now. Some of you find yourselves right in the middle of the risk categories and as a result, you are making the right choice by staying out of public spaces.
We used to say that you should be at church unless “providentially” hindered. In other words, unless something that is in the Lord’s control keeps you from being here. If you are in a high risk category today, you could definitely say that you have been providentially hindered from begin here.
But, unless you are providentially hindered, you should gather with your church family. Consider a few quotes:
- Church should be your excuse for missing everything else.
- John Stott once wrote, “I trust that none of my readers is that grotesque anomaly, an unchurched Christian. The New Testament knows nothing of such a person. For the church lies at the very centre of the eternal purpose of God.”
- Cyprian declared that “outside the church there is no salvation.
- D.L. Moody ons said, “Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.”