COVID-19 IS SERIOUS, CHURCH IS ESSENTIAL
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith Chapter 24 ‘Of the Civil Magistrate’ states,
2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate when called thereunto; in the management whereof, as they ought especially to maintain justice and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each kingdom and commonwealth, so for that end they may lawfully now, under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions.
As a church, our members recognise the God-given authority given to our governing rulers (Romans 13). We must also acknowledge that our submission to the governing authorities goes as far as we are not being commanded to sin. We must also recognise that the order and structure of the ekklesia is given to the pastors/elders of that local church.
The challenges that have faced the leaderships of local churches have therefore been significant. Grace Baptist Church Aberdeen has sought to take government advice and edicts very seriously because of the threat of Covid-19. This is evidenced by the fact that we adhered to the government and neglected to physically meet for 16 Sundays in line with the government guidelines. In addition to this, we have followed the government guidelines very rigidly since gathering by ensuring that everything used is cleaned thoroughly before and after our service, that people social distance and wash their hands as well as only using pre-packaged refreshments (without kitchen use) as well as altering the way our communion has been prepared. On this note, I am very thankful for a committed membership ready to sacrificially serve.
However, we have not followed the health guideline about not singing when we gather as this is something that we are commanded to do (Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 13:15 & Ephesians 5:19) and is something that is evidenced throughout Scripture (for example Psalm 95:1-2, 98:4, 100:2, 147, 150 & Jeremiah 20:13,) and we see that is something that the early church did.
We have now been given the mandatory requirement of face coverings in places of worship. This has been stipulated on the grounds of protecting health. However, we recognise that there will be exemptions (as stated here) for people to whom it may cause great anxiety/stress, or have other health conditions or where they deem its restrictions to worshipping God as ‘reasonable excuse’.
The practical reality is that gathering to worship God has become fraught with added complications, pressure and stress. However, what must be stressed all the more fervently as a time such as that we are not consumers looking for a good experience, we are born again Christians gathering together to worship God. This is why the reason for not physically gathering for a period of time was arguably justifiable, but we lament the fact we could not gather. Hebrews 10:24-25,
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
There is a spiritual blessing and impact for the believer to gather together in Christian fellowship under the preaching of God’s Word to the Glory of God. This is something we are commanded to do and it is why there is no ‘I love Jesus but not the church’ endorsed in Scripture, and why online church (though it has been the ‘best case scenario’ for a season) is absolutely no fitting substitute or replacement. Therefore, our church seeks to do all that we can to gather together, despite the added discomforts, because church is essential and Christ is the head of the church. It is also because it is our delight, our desire, our desperation to worship our Lord. It is my prayer also that even where some may disagree or take issue with certain decisions of our church that such people will recognise this is a difficult time for any church (and her leaders) and that the decisions we make are with a view to honour Christ and live in obedience and submission to His Word.
Pastor at Grace Baptist Church Aberdeen