Should the Church have Closed and Is It Time to Reopen?

My friends daughter said “dad why are they closing churches, no one gets sick in church” a simple child’s faith but it gave me pause so I can’t judge a pastor that has decided to keep their Church’s doors open during the Covid-19 Wuhan Flu outbreak in opposition to state orders.  I don’t know if the Spirit called him to stay open or not. God will judge and we may be able to infer something from the results.  If a word is from God one should expect the results to bare fruit.

I believe that the church is a miraculous place that God made for us. Yes God is everywhere and you can meet Him at home but the church is set apart and sometimes home for many can seem much less so, hence God created houses of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7, Matthew 21:13, Psalm 122:1, John 4:21, 1 Tim 2:8).

In the beginning while the world was getting a handle on this outbreak of the Wuhan Flu suspending some ministries and moving to online services makes sense. However I don’t know if the church should have completely shut its doors with the staff doing web streams from home. Jesus said “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations” This is a command which seems hard to fulfill if the doors are locked to everyone no matter the circumstance.   Scripture also command in Hebrews 10:25, “Do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.”  As part of our Christian witness and neighborly duty we need to be flexible to meet requests of those in authority to fulfill Roman’s 13. But at some point and some degree we also have to follow what Peter said “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide”.  There is a tension between Romans 13 and Acts 4.  Now after the recovery rate has been determined to be 99.6% and the at risk groups are more clear there should be ways the church could open up a bit more with safety measures while at risk groups watch from home or from cars in parking lot services.

The words in Hebrews 10:25 are the clear command from God to meet corporately.  The bible does say in Matthew 18:20 that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them”.  This is a wonderful promise but the word gather here is different from Hebrews 10:25.  In Hebrews 10 the word is episunagōgē which means the complete gathering where as the word in Matthew 18; sunagō  just means to gather.  Hebrews 10:25 clearly commands the regular gathering of the local church at its regularly designated location, not a subset but the complete assembly.  This also establishes places where Christian’s can still say with Psalm 122 “I was glad with those who said to me let us go to the house of the Lord”.  If there was no such place nor assembly apart from the temple in Jerusalem such passages would become devoid of meaning when Jesus prophecy about the diaspora in John 4:21 was fulfilled but the passage implies that worship and intersession would continue elsewhere.  At some point in the tension between Romans 13 and Acts 4 the church would find itself breaking this command if they continue under the authority of man.

With this in mind it has been utterly reprehensible that abortion clinics and liquor stores have been deemed essential while the church has not.  We can even see a targeting of Churches and Synagogues in New York by Mayor de Blasio while others have not been.  In John 4 Jesus is compared to bread and water and therefore just as important as these therefore the church is just as essential as food and water.  Below is a link to an article and two videos which I believe may be helpful to pastors and churches as they navigate the questions to reopen along with legal considerations that may need to be addressed.

Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You