Why Are We Cancelling Church?March 21, 2020 Articles
Sovereign Grace Family,
We’re heading into the second weekend of “social distancing,” a term that meant almost nothing to us just a week ago. In fact, one week ago I still assumed we would be gathering for church on Sunday.
We have received some inquiries asking for clarification regarding cancelled church activities. I apologize for any confusion. To be clear, the following activities are pausing for the time being, until government and healthcare guidelines are lifted:
- Sunday morning Sunday school
- Sunday morning corporate worship
- Wednesday Night Studies
- Small Group Meetings
You might be asking: “Why are we pausing all gatherings?”
First, it is with great lament and sorrow that we are not meeting together. God warns us of the danger of neglecting to meet together (Heb.10:24-25). The word we translate “church” in the New Testament literally means “assembly.” Jesus’ people are, quite literally, an “assembled” people. This is why Christians have always prioritized gathering, particularly for corporate worship.
Furthermore, as we’re already discovering, gathering together as Christians is one of the greatest blessings on earth. The local church and corporate worship are not merely religious obligations but heavenly gifts. It’s no surprise that one of the things that encourages the suffering Psalmist is remembering “how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise" (Psa. 42:4, ESV). Paul writes to the Philippians, “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:8, ESV). To neglect meeting togther, except under extreme circumstances, is foolish at best and dangerously disobedient at worst. And yet, here we are, pausing our regular assembling.
We do not make these decisions lightly, but only due to very unique circumstances. The last time something like this happened on such a large scale was 100 years ago during the Spanish Flu pandemic.
The short answer to “Why aren’t we meeting?” is simply this: our governing authorities have asked us to cease gathering temporarily. According to The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America, we have been asked to avoid social gatherings of 10 or more and avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits. God has been very clear in this matter: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God (Rom. 13:1, ESV). In other words, you can’t rebel against the governing authorities, and not rebel against God.
Of course, there are exceptional times to practice deliberate disobedience. If the government requests we cease gathering because of our Christians beliefs, it is a very different matter. However, the government is not singling out Christians (we think of schools, concerts, and sports which have also suspended gathering under this directive). In fact, the government is fulfilling the exact purpose for which God has appointed it according to Romans 13, seeking to protect the lives of innocent people - in this case, in the face of a dangerous virus.
And yet, the temporary pausing of our assembling is a sacrifice Christians should be able to make happily. Bravely being willing to risk our own health in order to be with God’s people would be one thing. But, in this case, gathering together would not only risk (inadvertently) spreading the virus amongst our congregation, but further throughout our community as a secondary result. Doing our best to avoid spreading this virus right now is a way we can love both our believing and unbelieving neighbors, especially those who are most at risk.
In short, we are pausing our gatherings because we believe God, through the the authorities he has instituted, has directed us to do so. Furthermore, we are not meeting as an expression of love toward our neighbors.
This is not easy. And yet, this unique challenge presents us with the opportunity to both grow and demonstrate the love of Christ to our society in ways that we couldn’t have imagined two weeks ago. By God’s grace, who knows what kind of effect this difficult time will have on our personal spiritual lives, our families, our church, and on our society as a whole.
As we head into our second weekend of social distancing, let’s pray that God would work mightily in us and in our society, even while we long to be together.
In the coming days, we’ll be suggesting some ways to be in each other’s lives. But, over the weekend, be encouraged to connect with 1-2 others from Sovereign Grace. One thing that doesn’t change in the midst of a pandemic is our love for one another, and our need to encourage one another.
A verse that means more and more to me with each passing day is 3 John 14: “I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face” (ESV).