Here we go again! COVID-19 is skyrocketing. Churches are again deciding whether they will go fully virtual rather than risk the health of their communities. Most likely this challenge will continue for the next several months. There are a number of factors that renewal congregations should consider when discussing their best path forward. One factor that should be rejected, however, is located in the slogan “Faith Over Fear.” That statement could suggest that faith is more important than science. During the decision-making process faith and science should not be pitted against each other. Both are gifts from our very good Creator.
Here are 7 considerations related to in-person worship:
Consideration 1: What is Lawful?
Our desire is to be good citizens. This lawful question should include a discussion about the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law. Not everything that is permissible, Paul points out, is beneficial (I Cor. 10:23). Our concern should be for doing what is right, not just avoiding what is wrong.
Consideration 2: What is Loving?
How does the law of love for God and neighbor clarify the right thing to do? For Spirit-directed believers, love is our law (Galatians 5:14). The conversation about love shouldn’t be oversimplified. It demands conversations about physical health, mental health, spiritual health, communal health, etc.
Consideration 3: What Promotes Witness?
Jesus highlighted that we are a city on a hill that people notice (Matt. 5:14). How do our actions promote witness? If we are open when schools and businesses are shuttered, how will this be perceived? Would others say we are arrogant, callous, defiant, disinterested? How does this advance our testimony?
Consideration 4: What Advances Faith Formation?
This question demands clear thinking. Our goal is that “Christ is formed in us” (Gal. 4:19). The formation of Christ in us happens when our faith maturity mirrors Christ’s maturity. What helps our faith community become more mature, more selfless, more trusting, more connected? What would Jesus do?
Consideration 5: What Leads to Unity?
These are polarized times. Divisions in our society are also found in the church. Decision making about in-person worship provides an opportunity to address disunity. Churches can grow in unity through praying, listening, conversing, discerning, and reflecting on the Spirit’s fruit (Gal. 5:22-23).
Consideration 6: What Advances Solidarity?
Other congregations in our community are also wrestling with the decision about in-person worship. Creating solidarity with fellow believers helps testify to the unity we have in Christ and keeps one church from judging another related to this difficult decision. If possible, make this decision together.
Consideration 7: What is Wise?
Our prayer should be Solomon’s prayer. We should pray for great wisdom. Wisdom comes from prayer and from level-headed thinking about the facts on the ground. What may be wise for a small congregation located in a large building is different than for a large congregation located in a small building.