Today, the question is: Is church an essential or an accessory in society? What President Trump was recently addressing when he called for the reopening of churches across the nation are the governors who want to shut churches down permanently and lock up pastors as we’ve seen with Virginia and New York. In Virginia, pastors who decide to hold meetings are threatened with arrest. In New York, churches that meet are threatened with permanent shutdown by the state. The problem, as has been noted in each of these cases, is certain establishments have been allowed to continue despite having large crowds of people at one time, so as long as they practice certain guidelines laid out by the CDC to prevent the spread of the virus. For example, states will allow Planned Parenthood abortion clinics to operate at full capacity, but won’t allow normal hospitals to operate and perform critical, life-saving surgeries that are needed. They’ll allow cannabis shops to remain open and serve large crowds, as well as liquor stores and the likes, and even gyms, but will target houses of worship to make sure not more than two souls enter through their doors. This is the Administration’s pushback against what has become known as the quiet war on Christianity in this nation, a movement secretly being taken advantage of during this crisis by those who want to push the church out of society completely. You know it and I know it. This is the unseen war that’s been raging for decades in America.
What if President Trump would have issued an executive order calling for the shutdown of all churches across America? The parks, grocery stores, cannabis stores, liquor stores, malls, and more are all open, but the churches are shutdown. What do you think church-folks will say then? “Oh, I knew it! He’s the antichrist! See, he’s attacking churches now!” Liberal church-goers would say, “See, all you Christians who voted for Trump, what do you have to say now that he’s attacking the church? I told ya’ll!” Some people will never be pleased because they have something in their heads that makes it impossible for them to see things with a clear vision. Whether you meet or not is your prerogative—as it should be. It shouldn’t be determined—and dictated—by the state, and that’s the point. The state shouldn’t have the right to render the church a nonessential while designating true nonessentials as essential, and that’s the point. If your church isn’t Covid-19 compatible (set up to accommodate a crowd of worshipers), then that’s your personal issue. However, for the ones that have taken the steps to become Covid-19 compatible, that’s their decision—they simply prepared themselves during this hour.
The absence of the church’s physical presence is significant—this can be the starting point to the church being forced more and more out of the mainstream presence in America and being seen as only a gathering of like-minded people…like an online Meet-Up group. Prayer is also minimized as opposed to being seen as an actual method of healing, a real substantive source of power. Sure, we can pray online, but do doctors perform surgery online? Do liquor stores pass out online bottles of wine and hard liquor? Do restaurants serve online meals? Well, the “touch-and-agree” culture that exist inside of the church body must also operate in physical form.
What about pastors infecting members? you ask. Well, to that I also ask, What about doctors, cashiers, clerks, bank tellers, store/shop owners, restauranteurs, park employees, and the likes infecting people? Anyone who doesn’t practice safe measures will infect others. And yet, society hasn’t allowed this fear to continue to shut it down. This is what society does for things it considers important: society finds a work-a-round for everything that’s considered an “essential”. Everything except the church.
As Christians, we need to practice faith now. We need to practice the power of prayer more than ever. Our preaching will be useless and seen as powerless if we only kick into gear after the storm has passed. By then, it will be too late to claim a spot of relevance in society. People will say, You guys were hiding just like us; your prayers useless when it mattered the most. And now, you want to pray and suggest prayer as an answer to sickness? Where were you when it mattered?
There’s a way for the church to function while adhering to safety guidelines put out by the CDC. This is what our churches need to focus on, rather than sitting on the sideline, waiting for the last vestiges of society to be opened up—of which they’ve resigned to being a part of. The church wants to be the last waive, when it should be seen as equally essential as the hospitals, grocery stores, liquor stores, and gas stations. Of course, there’s a threat, but isn’t there always? Furthermore, don’t we profess to have the answer, the solution to every threat?
The church must incrementally phase back in worship, focusing on becoming Covid-19 compliant according to safety guidelines. What must not be said is that the church is the last place to reopen amid the Coronavirus pandemic, or any other crisis. We don’t want to be the first to leave and the last to return.
Yes, there have been pastors who’ve been inconsiderate and have behaved foolishly during this crisis. That’s no surprise. Some have subjected their members to more danger by not practicing safety measures. These individuals aren’t operating in faith. In the Bible, those infected with leprosy were required to be quarantined to prevent the spread of the disease. That is is a biblical measure. Likewise, we should adhere to the biblical measure of quarantining, as well as the biblical measure of avoiding germs and microorganisms (the reason why God prohibited touching dead things in Leviticus). God doesn’t suspend commonsense; He created it. But, while practicing safe measures, I believe churches should provide a physical presence complete with prayer warriors and assistance programs designed to minister to people in this hour. We need a physical presence. Thankfully, we have churches that have drive-in prayer lines. We can do more. We can have open sanctuaries complete with prayer services. Yes, rope off certain sections in the sanctuary so that you can control the flow of traffic. Yes, limit the amount of people that can enter at a time. Yes, create social distancing seating sections. Yes, pass out face masks at the entrance of the sanctuary. And yes, sterilize and wipe down the building after services. But begin to phase back in a physical presence and remind people of the “power” of prayer to heal not only the individual, but the nation.
Either that or slip further into the obscurity of irrelevancy.