Greetings in Christ, beloved church family.
We do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in our prayers daily (Ephesians 1:16). We long to gather with you whom we miss and love for Christ’s glory and our joy together. We continue, day by day, resting and trusting in our sovereign King, who reigns in control over all and every detail.
Amid changing orders from both state and county authorities, we are daily praying and monitoring for when and how we might begin regathering. The state issued a set of new guidelines for places of worship Monday, July 6. The county issued a new mandatory directive for gatherings yesterday, July 8. The key statement in the county’s directive is: “indoor gatherings continue to be prohibited at this time.” We are saddened and burdened for Christ’s church under this exceedingly extensive time of separation.
Some are still very concerned about viral infection. Others are much less concerned. Not all are equally vulnerable. But all of us are tired. We increasingly feel the burden of separation. We are made for relationship, fellowship, togetherness, communion. The exhaustion and discouragement are real. But we must not lose sight of the goal. We must press on in stewarding this storm. Indeed, this is no more than a “light momentary affliction” that “is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Some may be revisiting the question of civil disobedience. While we may question the motives and worldview behind the decisions being made by state and local authorities, we may not equate their SIP orders as objectively evil. The government, in this instance, is not imposing unrighteous law. Therefore, civil disobedience is not justified. We must remember that we are under a normative principle of authority (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). This means that we are to obey our civil government unless it commands us to do something God forbids or forbids us to do something God commands. While we may question their appreciation for the unique and vital role that the church serves in society and the unique aspects of a religious assembly, they are not forbidding us to do what God commands in principle. Yes, the church is called by God to gather regularly (Hebrews 10:24-25). But just as personally missing church because of illness would not constitute disobedience, so a limited exception may also be applied here given the present circumstances. The governing authorities are not banning our gatherings indefinitely. They are not denying the church the right to assemble in principle. We may say that their orders show a legitimate interest in the wellbeing of the people.
Some have asked about outdoor services. We have discussed this option as well. While we deeply miss you all and long to gather, there are many factors to consider. For example, only a portion of the congregation would be allowed to gather with distancing, masks, etc. Sound quality would be impaired, so corporate singing, praying, and the preached Word will be adversely affected. Weather, potential discomfort, and outdoor distractions would contest attention. All these factors would impact our primary purpose of worship. Additionally, we do not have the equipment or resources to host outdoor services for a few and still minister with quality to the many. Livestreams and recordings would be interrupted. This means that our series in Matthew would be interrupted and the sermons would not be available on the church app or internet.
We are constantly reassessing our circumstances and weighing our options, seeking the Lord and His wisdom to shepherd the church through these challenges. Thank you for partnering with us in prayer, especially at this time and for the life of Christ’s church.
May God richly bless and keep you in Christ. Please do not hesitate to communicate with us any needs you may have. We love you all with the affection of Christ.
On behalf of all the Shepherds,