It’s time for us to reevaluate how we do church. Corporate worship has long been and soon shall continue to be the standard operating procedure for our gatherings of faith; however, these are unprecedented circumstances and we find ourselves confronted with difficult decisions that may have a lasting impact on our places of worship. This critical moment presents us with room to wrestle with what our response, as believers, should be.
COVID-19 has disrupted our normal. Across the globe, and even across our region, we have been waiting with bated breath to see the full impact of this outbreak. While this virus has the capacity to restrict us from our sanctuaries, it does not have the ability to fracture our faith. If anything, it has given us a unique opportunity to assess our ecclesiology and examine our understanding of the mission of the church.
Our goal is not to gather, but to gain; not to sit, but to serve. Being a believer ought to be bigger than the buildings we occupy. During this pandemic it is important that we not panic, but it is equally important that we exercise prudence and practicality. When our worship poses a threat to public health and safety there can only be one solution: we must shut the doors of the church.
While we may have to restructure how we gather to limit exposure to those most susceptible to this virus, we are not cancelling our commitment to The Great Commission. This is a time for us to put our faith into action. During this crisis we must begin to think critically about how we can still honor God, while simultaneously safeguarding our neighbor. The command to love our neighbor supersedes our congregating within the walls. What must be remembered is that even without the building, the Church still stands.
Our emphasis should not be on going to church, but it should be on being the church. Many children out of school will be in need of food; let us be the church. Many seniors will be in need of medicine, supplies, and toiletries; let us be the church. Many workers may lose wages due to shutdowns, layoffs, and other various cancellations; let us be the church.
To pastors and faith leaders, I say this: I know first hand the difficulty of having to suspend a Sunday morning service. I recognize that this is not an easy ask, but epidemiologists, healthcare professionals, and government officials have all asked that we exercise caution. Many of our churches, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship are primarily packed with seniors and those who comprise a vulnerable demographic, and we have an obligation to protect them at all costs. We are reminded in Acts 20:28 “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”
Throughout the centuries the church has continually evolved, and this is but yet another opportunity for us to meet the needs of this present age.