Like everyone else in our city, the staff and elders of Restoration City Church have been paying a lot of attention to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and thinking very carefully about how we should respond as a church. As the week has unfolded and new information has become available, my thinking on this subject has shifted dramatically.
After consulting with our staff and elders, we have made the decision NOT to gather as a church this Sunday, March 15th. We are also asking all Community Groups to either not meet or experiment with an online option like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts for the week of March 15th. As of right now, this decision is only for the week of Sunday, March 15th. We will be paying very careful attention to this rapidly developing situation, sending regular updates, and looking to resume meeting as soon as possible.
I know this will be a surprising and maybe even disappointing decision for many of us. Believe me, I understand. I love gathering with our church and I care deeply about the people in my Community Group. The Scriptures are clear about the importance of gathering together for corporate worship and the preaching of God’s Word (Hebrews 10:23-25). We take that seriously as a church and I take it seriously as your pastor. I also think it is incredibly important for us as Christ’s ambassadors to be a source of life, hope, and stability for our communities in troubled times. After all, I just preached a message called “Untroubled Hearts in a Troubled World.” The last thing we want to do is give in to fear or feed into sensationalism. That’s not what the people of God do.
We are making this decision for one very simple reason. Jesus calls His followers to sacrifice out of love for those around us. Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) and to pay particularly careful attention to “the least of these.” (Matthew 25:40). I believe Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right when he wrote, “The Church is the Church only when it exists for others…not dominating, but helping and serving.” That almost always means gathering. But, in this case, the best information we have available from public health officials tells us that means staying home as a form of social distancing. There is something beautiful about the church of Jesus gathering in the face of danger and persecution, when the risk is on us. I believe there is something equally beautiful about the church of Jesus choosing not to gather when doing so puts others, especially the most vulnerable in our communities, at risk. This is a moment for the church to lead the way in sacrificing for the common good. Even if you disagree with this decision, please trust that’s the heart behind it.
I will be speaking more about this in a special video message for our church on Sunday morning. Between now and then, I would ask you to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), to pray for the well-being of our city (Jeremiah 29:7), and to pray for the churches of our city.