via BMA of America Missions
Wouldn’t it be great if we could always have a long time and a lot of applicable resources in order to make important decisions? Moments like we are living now with this pandemic do make us thankful for the times that we have time and resources in our decision making processes. Unfortunately, we are not always afforded those privileges.
When we find ourselves having to make important decisions in a high-pressure, short-time context, what do we do? We pray and ask God’s guidance, we listen to those who have any experience, we weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each possible decision, we consider the consequences of each decision, then we do what leaders do and we make a decision.
One current issue that has emerged with the rapid spread of this pandemic is the question of whether local churches should have normal face-to-face church services or transition to some type of worship that does not include crowds. One applicable precedent in the Bible is when the Apostles and others faced persecution. There are biblical examples of when the followers of Christ remained and faced persecution and other times when they fled.
In cases where the apostles fled, they seem to have been well informed as to the situation around them. The key was, and is for us today, to make the best possible risk assessment in order to inform our pastors and churches of their circumstances. The presence of risk did not determine the response of the apostles, but it did give them a foundation upon which to make a decision of faith.
As the leaders of BMAA Global Missions, we believe the due diligence in assessing current risks clearly indicates that the churches of our association (and others) should stop having face-to-face services for now. Here are some of the specific reasons for this statement:
- In non-spiritual issues, we are commanded and expected to honor and follow the leadership of our governmental leaders. If this were the government telling us not to worship at all or attempting to take our Bibles, we would respond with “We will obey God rather than men.” But that is not the case here. Our leaders, as informed by those who specialize in medicine, infectious diseases, and disease control have a unified voice in telling us that the risks we face by gathering in crowds are real and possibly grave.
- This is a great opportunity to see the distorted way that we treat church as a location instead of a lifestyle. Church is not about going to a place and putting an imaginary check mark next to “church attendance” for the week. The church is a body of regenerate, baptized followers of Christ who meet to worship God, obey the commands of Christ, and scatter to make his name known. We can worship, obey, and scatter without being confined to a building.
My prayer is that this situation will serve as a corrective in our churches in getting us outside our four walls and into our communities again with the gospel and compassionate servanthood. How many people in your community need you today, and how can you serve them without compromising their health or yours? My prayer also is that we will have a renewed sense of the value of fellowship and leaning on other believers in our local church once this is over.
- Even if you consider yourself outside the dangerous age demographic for the virus, the Christian thing to do is to consider others as more important than yourself. There are many in the “danger zone” that could be affected by our actions. We do not want this.
- If the virus takes the same trajectory that it has taken in China and Italy, we are in for some very threatening conditions in the coming weeks, and we need to take precautions. We are not motivated by fear. We are motivated by a sound risk assessment, obedience to our leaders, and consideration for others.
- The Bible has much to say about those who were warned and heeded that warning. It also has much to say about those who were warned and did not heed those warnings. What a joy it will be to look back in a few months and say, “Well, we overreacted to nothing.” How sad it would be to look back and say, “Well, we should have acted and we didn’t.”
We stand ready to help you in these difficult days on how you may proceed while you are not meeting as a congregation. We pray that . . .
God will be exalted,
we will see our human limitations in new and clear ways,
we will see the unlimited nature of our God,
we will deepen our walk with God,
our churches will act like churches,
many will come to Christ, and
God will protect everyone, especially those who are the most vulnerable among us.
We believe that we should act in response to sound risk assessment, exhibit biblical obedience to our elected leaders, and seek to unselfishly serve others.
Dr. John David Smith