By Thom S. Rainer
It has become a common theme at Church Answers. We are hearing from pastors and other church leaders about members who have divergent opinions on the timing for regathering the in-person services.
No surprise here.
It might be helpful, however, to understand the reasons behind the disagreements. We see five major themes.
- Strong extroverts and strong introverts will have major disagreements on timing. The reason is obvious. The extrovert is dying to resume interaction with fellow church members. He or she thrives on in-person gatherings and conversations. The strong introvert, however, has done well seeing few people and interacting with few people during the quarantine. I fit the latter category.
- Different church members have different sources of authority on the coronavirus. Some of it could be related to political leanings. For others, it could be connected to the type of news that comes through social media. For some, they listen to certain friends and family members. In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of different opinions out there.
- Age and health can be factors of divergent opinions. Two of the common themes about COVID-19 have been the vulnerability of the older population and those with underlying conditions. It would not be unexpected for those two groups to be more likely to prefer a later opening than an earlier opening. One of my sons has chronic asthma. I worry about him returning to in-person services too soon.
- Parents with children may decide to wait. Most churches will not segregate the children from the adult worship services at the onset of the regathering. Some parents will be hesitant to bring the kids to the worship services for health reasons and for fear of disruption.
- Attitudes toward change affect opinions about regathering. For example, if a change resistant church member learns that the church must have additional services for social distancing, he or she may prefer to wait until the church can return to “normal.” Change-receptive church members, however, are often eager to try new services and new ideas. They will be ready to return and experiment with the new approaches.
It’s cliché for you pastors and church leaders to hear, but you can’t please everyone all the time. Take the path you deem is best for the church and for the health of those who will attend. Listen to voices of wisdom. And pray that God will honor your decision and protect everyone involved.
Posted on May 25, 2020
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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It’s Better to Go to My Jesus: He will accept me no Matter My Earthly Conditionality. Full of Love. Amen, Amen..,
Glory be to God this will help me to get 50% in membership
These reasons are somewhat valid by all sides. I guess we will really see after the 14 days of this Memorial Day weekend what we should do or not with gathering.
This post is helpful. The road to regathering is going to be a difficult road to navigate for any pastor. There will always be doubts: did I open too soon, did I wait to long to regather, and never a sure answer to either. There will be pressure if the church down the road regathers while we choose to remain closed, often with the extrovert accusing us of being beset by fear. Even canvassing opinions from membership may not suffice. It will indeed require sincere searching prayers to discern the way forward. Thank you for this word of wisdom.
Thanks so much, Keith!
We cancelled Sunday and Wednesday evening services for six weeks but continued to meet for Sunday School and Morning Worship. We have since resumed the evening services. Our attendance dropped significantly, however. Being a very small church we are never anywhere near 50% capacity even on a good Lord’s Day. There were only 50 coronavirus cases in our county of over 150,000 with two deaths. During the last two months there were more people murdered and more highway fatalities than that. Should we therefore stop driving a car or carry a loaded gun everywhere we go in view of those risks? If God wants to remove us from the world, He can do it anytime, anywhere, and in anyway. Besides, if you fear God, you don’t have to fear anything else. And yes, I do wash my hands frequently and to a large degree follow the SAFE rule: Stay Away From Everybody!
Thanks for your perspective. I believe you are “Spot On” correct. I pray the pandemic will ease soon and God’s family will return to His house in some “normalcy.” I fear, however, some have become too comfortable viewing services in their PJs and be tempted to stay at home.
Our church was reaching many in the community with our music ministry. It was a way for members to serve and bring blessings to others. I hate to see this social distancing ruin a phenomenal ministry!
If the first issue mentioned is genuine, which I have no doubt it is, it gives light to a bigger issue that is a greater pandemic in American congregations which is a vacuum of understand what the church is and how it functions. Corporate worship of God and service to God is not a suggestion but a commandment and anyone who does not have a hunger to honor that has bigger issues. Both the extrovert and the introvert as described has a huge hole in their theology and understanding of the church body. There are many who are eager to be with other believers for biblical reasons who for various reason dont feel comfortable returning and they deserve grace and understanding, with a little encouragement to faith that the Lord cares for His own. There are however others who are excuse ridden of why it is not time to go back to church yet have spent much of their time shopping for many things from milk to flowers in big box stores. Our question to those folks should be “if you felt safe doing those things why do you think it unwise to go to church where more care to protect people will be and far less people you will be exposed too?” A pastor friend of mine said some of his deacons who believe it’s not the right time yet to resume are the same ones he cannot get in contact with during the week because they are out and about in the stores. May my fellow pastors be cautious yet courageous at the same time. Much of the information about covid 19 is contradictory, even from the same expert, so maybe we put a bit more ear to the Spirit’s guidance through the Scriptures then to men who are to proud or too scared to give their opinions with the added statement of “I dont know for sure.”
Could you give the citation for “Corporate worship of God and service to God is not a suggestion but a commandment and anyone who does not have a hunger to honor that has bigger issues.” Hebrews 10 talks about not giving up meeting together. While it is essential to meet together does “meeting together” preclude meeting via a technology that was unimagined in biblical times?
If the body of Christ gathers via Zoom for education, edification, and prayer is that less effective than meeting in person?
Really only two reasons when you break it down, fear and ignorance!
This may be off the wall, but if there is merit in the argument that the government’s concern, feigned or not, for our welfare and political posturing are inseparably fused, then the question on reopening might be framed in the context of what the likely defensive actions of the church would have taken had the government sanctions not been imposed. If the answer to that is none or very little, other than ramping up care for the sick and dying, then could the church’s hesitancy to reopen be similar to Stockholm Syndrome; the government being in the role of captor? Frankly, I don’t think any major denomination would have voluntarily put out the call to close their churches, so why the timidity now? If church leaders are waiting until COVID19 no longer appears in the newspapers to reopen then the church is really non-essential.
Why should we gather? I’m one word: obedience. We are to remain obedient no matter the circumstances.
Yes, as Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). And don’t forget Hebrews 10:25. In some countries, believers are threatened every week with death because they gather in Jesus’ name. If they were completely law-abiding citizens they would cease to meet altogether. Being that there has been no uniform, consistent message from federal, state, and local governments, nor are the scientists and physicians in agreement concerning Covid-19, I feel it best to trust God and go about my business.
Spot on. #2 has been the biggest problem for me. On the one end are people who insist that the Coronavirus is no big deal, and on the other end are the ones who think we can’t gather safely unless we’re all wearing hazmat suits. Personally, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, but it’s a big middle.