It is now nearly a year into this pandemic and many churches are still closed. My question is why? Is it because, we the body of the church is “afraid” or want to be “cautious”, because of the COVID-19 Virus. I think about Paul, who in Philippians 1:21, wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. Paul understood his worth to God, as it related to the work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul had a love to see Jesus Christ, a desire to see Jesus Christ and he was ready to die in order to see Jesus Christ. As Christians, we believe that eternal life is through belief and receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ as our savior (John 3:16). Paul wrote, “To die is gain”, death was his eternal reward. In looking at this virus the worst thing that could happen is death. However, is death not essentially the best thing for a Christian – Paul seemed to think it was.
A notable pastor once said: “ Never let a tragedy go to waste”. We as believers should use this as an opportunity to share the gospel. We have no reason to fear and as a result we should be showing the world that our hope is in The Lord (Psalms 33:20) and not some vaccine, mask, social distancing or shutdown.
Why the Church Should Meet in Some Form
The Bible is clear that salvation is free to anyone who is willing to say: “I believe, help me with my unbelief”. However, being a Christian is much more than that. Being a Christian, is practicing what is in Holy Scripture and doing what Jesus taught. With this Christianity is more than going to worship one or two times a week, it is being an active and growing member of the Body of Christ, which is the Church.
Support for a Christian’s mandate to attend church can be found by looking at several passages in scripture. In Matthew 28: 16-20 , they worshiped Him – then in verse 19, God says. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”. This passage is the Great Commission, often times, it is considered the mandate for evangelism but it goes past that to focus on the teaching and study of scripture. In Mathew 28, Jesus did not say “go and get people saved,” he said “go and make disciples” or “Go and teach others, studying my word”. Acts 11:26, paints a clear picture of this “or a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch”. This shows church attendance is mandated by Jesus Christ. With the ideology: Christianity is being a disciple [done through church and worship] and salvation is the beginning of discipleship.
Without church one can not grow and is open to sin. There are dangers in taking the narrow path of faith, constant temptations from the Devil. Granted in Psalms 23, David describes Jesus as the “Good Shepherd” providing for and protecting His sheep [His followers – Christians]. While God loves all his children and will be that good shepherd, not based on church attendance. However, church attendance does strengthen one’s faith. As Christians, the road will get dark at times and throughout history this road of faith has lead to death. All these things are caused by Satan and Satan’s grand plan is to make believers fall to temptation. This is seen all throughout scripture especially in Genesis 2, where the serpent [Satan] temps Adam and Eve in the Garden, ultimately resulting in disobedience to God by the eating of the fruit. Notice how Jesus never sent the disciples out to preach alone. Luke 10:1 and Mark 6:7, it is seen where Jesus has sent his disciples out in pairs of two. Christ being all knowing, knew the challenges they would face. In Exodus 3, Moses had a fear of going to Egypt “Who am I that I should go”. However, God equipped him for this task. Sending out the disciples in pairs was one of the ways God equipped them to fight of Satan. That is also the purpose of the Church and it is also why Christians throughout the ages people have gathered for worship. It is why Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20). Believers do not understand all things as it relates to the gospel and with this there must be a form of support, encouragement, direction, and challenge.
Churches come in different shapes, sizes and in different forms but one thing is in common it is a group of two or more people devoted to evangelism, discipleship, missions and to worship. Notice the passage in Hebrews 10: 24-25, “…and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near”. All churches are different and all pastors are different. Some churches preach a message of hope, some pastors could preach the demons out of hell, while others preach an evangelical message. Whatever the message, whatever the church – the goal is the same. That is come together as one body and praise the lord and to build each other up.
Why Churches Should Have Face to Face Worship
One word, I think we really must understand is the word, “Church”. In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul compares the union of husband and wife to that of Christ and the Church. However, we also need to look at the literal meaning of the word “Church”. According to the Greek translation of “church”, we get the word “assembly”. This same word is also seen in Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three gather together in My name, there am I with them”. The phrase, “gather together” in Greek is translated almost exactly, “to draw together”. Scripture calls for Christians to assemble. But can Christians actually assemble I’m accordance to scripture unless the Church is open? The answer is, No.
When Christians come together or assemble, there are a few ideas scripture addresses. In Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling o ourselves together as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much more, and ye see the day is approaching”. The word to focus on is: “exhorting”. The word, “exhort” in Greek is “parakaleo”, meaning – to console, to encourage, to strengthen, to comfort and to teach. However, this word is also used as a reciprocal – exhorting is to also receive these things. This can only be done in the face to face assembling of the Church.
Scripture also calls for fellowship, with each other. In Acts, Luke wrote; “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship; and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). In this verse the key word is: fellowship. The Greek translation means, “to share which one has in anything”. It as an intimacy between a believer and Christ, however it is an intimacy between fellow believers. This intimacy requires the face to face assembling of the Church. “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26), is an example of that intimacy. On top of the direct correlation to discipleship, that requires a face to face assembling of people.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:26, describes gifts that were to be exercised for the building up of the Church. Paul describes a scene where the church comes together in worship and among them people who in an organized fashion utilized gifts from the father. Some, were people who had a gift of composing or singing, without preparation. Others were able to to teach and instruct Biblical Doctrines to fellow believers. Some had a gift of revelation, where they had a clear view of Biblical Prophecy and other “mysteries” of the Gospel given by the Spirit. However, Paul also addresses unknown tongues – some had the gift to speak in unknown tongues. I believe this to be more of the gift to speak, read, pray and preach a sermon in Hebrew – the original translation of scripture. Then finally others had the gift of interpretation, to interpret other languages or provide clarity – especially Hebrew. Christ wants us to make use of our gifts in a manner that helps grow each other. Paul goes on in the concluding verses of chapter fourteen to explain how the gifts should be used, but never the less Paul is describing a scene where there is a face to face assembly of the Saints.
Setting aside the Biblical call for in person worship, is also the example set by Jesus. Jesus was in the company of sick throughout scripture. In fact he laid His hands on them and healed them (Luke 4:40). However, there is also an earthly consideration. Many people need to be engaged and that lacks when there is no face to face worship.
When the virus first started in America, we feared millions of deaths. We were told that we do not have enough ventilators and enough hospital beds. As a result; our schools, businesses, churches and other events were closed and canceled. To date, America has just over 400,000 deaths – a 3% death rate, where a person died with the COVID-19 virus. This number also includes people who had the virus but overdosed, had a terminal disease, suicide and other circumstances where death would be eminent.
However, we take such a hard stance on a virus that has a 97% survival rate but what are we doing as believers to combat the death of the most innocent. In the United States there is an abortion every 96 seconds. That is 98 abortions an hour, 2362 abortions a day for a total of 862,320 a year. In the past 20 years the CDC reports over 61 million abortions.
The CDC reports that more than 655,000 Americans die each year from heart disease. Each year, 795,000 Americans will suffer a stroke. More than 140,000 will die – a 17.6% mortality rate. The American Journal of Public Health, shows that 1/5 of all deaths is a result of obesity – an 18.2% mortality rate. With these stats, church doors should be open and fast food closed. The National Cancer Institute says that 1.8 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Of which 606,520 will die based on statistics – meaning over 18% of all cancer diagnoses will be fatal.
In America we have shut down for 3%, the statistics do not support this. When it first started when millions were projected to die; the responsible thing was to close down. However, after a year with no end in sight – people are suffering with churches remaining closed or services not being held in person. We need the Church and in a world faced with what we face today – we need a fellowship of the saints.