If you aren’t aware, there is a pandemic sweeping the globe right now called COVID19 (otherwise known as the coronavirus or Wuhan Virus). As it stands right now, according to the worldometers.info site, the number of confirmed cases stands at around 174,000 with deaths (wordlwide) standing at 6,684. These numbers are growing literally by the minute.
To say it has the entire globe and economy in an uproar, would be a massive understatement.
People are rushing to the stores to snatch up toilet paper (prompting COUNTLESS memes and jokes), food, and other items before their respective governments, states, or cities declare an area wide quarantine. It’s not so much a matter of “if” that might happen, but when, as we are watching all around the world in countries like China and Italy (and now Spain) enacting countrywide quarantines.
We are being introduced to new terms like “social distancing” and being given instructions on how to properly wash our hands. It feels like we’re in the beginning stages of seeing “The Walking Dead” come to life.
One of the biggest things that’s started happening as of the writing of this is schools closing, bars and restaurants closing, and events and concerts canceling as the CDC has put out recommendations of avoiding groups of 50 or more.
Last week, the CDC recommended that gatherings of 250 or more not happen, which began a stir among local churches who gather weekly in various sizes. Conversations began early last week in many churches (if not all churches) for how they were going to approach this past weekend and coming weekends as they consider their local church bodies demographics.
- Some churches chose to close for the weekend altogether.
- Some churches chose to close for the weekend, but offered virtual services.
- Some churches remained open for the weekend.
- Some churches remained open for the weekend, but offered virtual services as well.
Most churches did and are continuing to do the best they can with their local church body in mind. This is very commendable, and really what we want to see take place. However, the issue that I’ve started seeing is that several people took to social media to express their outrage with other churches who chose to close or remain open (depending on their personal stance on the matter).
- Some claimed that a church was in sin if they closed or remained open (depending on their angle).
- Some claimed that we ought not to forsake the gathering of the people.
- Some pastors got up in front of their congregation and told people to hug and shake hands in defiance of the government.
- Some even claimed that the CDC’s recommendation was an affront to religious liberties and an attempt at our government to shut down churches.
I totally wish I was making this stuff up. Unfortunately, this was happening all over the social media sphere for the last several days, and even continuing today.
People in the church need to consider some things outside of themselves for just a moment before they take to social media and make fools out of themselves. Churches are in a precarious place right now with all of this COVID19 stuff, and the last thing they need are church people going online and making matters worse.
First of all, the coronavirus largely impacts individuals over the age of 50. According to Pew Research, about 15-20% of Christians in America are under the age of 30 leaving the mass majority of individuals identifying as Christian in America over the age of 30, with about 45-50% being over the age of 50.
Churches aren’t just willy nilly choosing to close their doors or to remain open. If the numbers from the Pew Research article are to be believed, then at least half of all congregations (or more in many churches) are at risk with COVID19.
This is just one example of the many things that church leaders are being faced with considering as they approach their weekend gatherings right now. To close or not to close is a very real question for churches. And instead of mocking, kicking, biting, or lashing out against churches who are struggling to make the right and best choice for their local gathering, consider praying for, reaching out to, supporting, and encouraging church bodies as they do what’s best for their people.
The Angry Christian Podcast will be addressing this topic in our next episode, “To Close or Not To Close – That is the Question”. So be on the look out as we continue the discussion about how COVID19 is impacting the local church.
Lastly, let me leave you with the words of Paul:
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.Philippians 2:3-4 NLT
My church has 49% of the members being over 50 years old. So this whole coronavirus is a real concern for us. We cancelled service Sunday, Pastor recorded the sermon and published it on a podcast service. Feels way different.
Absolutely! It does feel different, but desperate times call for desperate measures and thinking outside of the box. Good on your church for considering the 49%!
Unprecedented is the word that comes to mind. God is faithful through it all.
He indeed is! It’s going to be a real struggle for many churches to think outside of their comfort zone for trying to address this in a biblical and God-honoring way. It will be a real test of the Church to see how we respond over the long haul.