Dr. Barry C. Johnson
Due to the novel Coronavirus, this is a response to members that are attempting to pressure pastors to reopen the church.
Many churches have reopened since the day we were instructed to close our doors to in-person services. You may recall the obedience of some, however, there was stiff resistance, if not outright rebellion, from other churches to remain open. This defiance appeared in the form of many pastors who joined the anti-government conspiracy theory, which ignored orders from the CDC and Gov. Andy Beshear because they were considered an assault on both their constitutional and religious rights. Of course, many of these forces had to retreat from their positions because of the widespread series of virus outbreaks in churches throughout America. Moreover, as the death rate increased, sadly, several of these unrepentant pastors succumbed to deadly disease. All churches have been warned about flirting with the dangers of assembling in our sanctuaries without following health department guidelines, such as social distancing, limiting of attendees, wearing of masks, and proper cleaning. We are in the midst of a serious pandemic that we have never before witnessed in our lifetime; hence, pastors and leaders of the church must remain responsible for our members because the Lord placed us in these positions.
Unfortunately, there is a movement in many of the churches that have not yet opened their doors (out of concern and caution) to open immediately. The forces that are driving these members and their obsession to reopen the church seem dubious; however, several pastors and church leaders have expressed frustration in having to address this issue. All church leaders long to return to what was considered normal (which seems now to be a bygone era), during which we worshipped in our sanctuaries. Several pastors that are under pressure to reopen have noted that many of the members who are clamoring to reopen were not always consistent in their attendance or their giving prior to COVID-19 restrictions. Then, what is the real issue?
Many churches are streaming their limited services, using Facebook Live, Zoom, Free Conference Call, and other media applications. Ironically, it seems that the majority of those that are complaining are not participating in the media streams that are being used. Therefore, what is driving the need to return to the building? Does the building ensure that we have had a successful worship experience? Is it possible that these members feel that worship through social media platforms is not genuine? If anything, this pandemic has exposed those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. Additionally, we have learned that “church” has to occur wherever we are, at home, at work, or at school.
Again, I wish to urge that we use caution and restraint. Many churches continue to push the envelope and are rushing to get back into the sanctuaries (if they ever left); however, all news is not pleasant for those that have resumed too quickly. Unfortunately, many churches that are open are meeting in-person because of finances. These churches desperately need to ensure that they meet budget; and their mechanisms lead them to believe that if the people are in the church building, they will give. This definitely does not work and is actually the wrong approach to church finances. This option displays a lack of faith in both the membership and in God! This pandemic is for real, and God is not a figment of our imaginations. Do you really believe that God brought us this far, simply to leave us? The blessings of God are provided to those who are faithful and believe in His promise to take care of His churches, especially during these troubled times.
Pastors, if you are against reopening your church and do not feel that the time is right, follow the spirit that is coming from the Lord. Remember, do not be a number 45, (the current occupant of the Oval Office), who laughed at the virus before getting it. You are responsible for your congregation. You do not have to prove anything to the city or to the other churches in your district. Make the best decisions for your church, especially if you serve a senior membership; and do not try to keep up with what is going on in another congregation. How would you feel if someone died because of your negligence and irresponsibility? Fairweather members can complain and gripe, but they will abandon you if you have to face a legal and moral responsibility for unwise decisions. God called you to serve as the angel of the church; therefore, serve your people because you serve Him!
Next month, we will examine Going Forward, after the virus. We will return to Choir Festivals, Special Concerts, and the need for special collaborations at a later date.