We’re the oddballs… we know. No other church in our town decided to keep gathering during the governor’s imposed stay-at-home order.
After closing for two weeks, gathering data about the presence of COVID-19 cases in our county, and talking amongst our elders, we decided it seemed reasonable on the surface.
Then we went to the Word. It wasn’t hard to find Romans 13:1… everybody was quoting it online. Some pastor friends of mine from out of state, having decided that staying shutdown was the right thing for their church, became so vocal about their choice being the only possible right response that I started to wonder if they’d gotten Romans 13:1 tattooed on their wrist.
We weighed a few things beside that verse, like the verses where Jesus’s disciples were ordered to quit preaching Christ, and blatantly informed the leaders that they’d go ahead and keep preaching Christ. We looked at Daniel continuing to pray despite the king’s order, and Radshack, Meshach and Abednego refusing to bow in the face of a royal order as well.
We’d already looked at church history, and noted the Christians tending to lepers and victims of the Black Plague – many at the cost of their mortal life – and opened a crisis food bank serving hundreds of families who’d already gone belly up financially.
In opening the food bank, we were taken back to the numerous glorious scriptures telling us not to fear, to trust God, to walk by faith and not sight and we found both a bolstering of our hearts and a comfort in knowing that we’re already citizens of Heaven who’ve already begun our eternal life.
At the food bank each day we found that now, more than ever, folks wanted to hear about Jesus and salvation. Dozens and dozens of folks made professions of faith, and that made us think about how many divine encounters we’d not be having were we home isolating.
We also took a look at places that were allowed to open. Here in the western region, Walmarts were allowed to have 400 people inside the building… 220 employees and 180 customers. No masks were required during the weeks the virus was at its peak, yet there was no illness spike among Walmart workers, or grocery store employees, or the folks working in home improvement stores.
Ultimately, we opened. Two weeks before Easter, we gathered a few folks to go prayer walking (we invited six, 14 showed up). The next week we did the same, but didn’t start prayer walking until after allowing 30 minutes for folks to come receive the Lord’s Supper. At that point about 20 folks went prayer walking.
The following week, Resurrection Sunday, we did a couple of acoustic songs after the Lord’s Supper and read a gospel account of the resurrection before sending everyone home.
Since then, we’ve added a small devotional teaching to the scripture reading and powered up the microphones for the singers as the gathered have swelled in numbers and their voices, glad to be in fellowship, worshiping, started to drown out the singers leading the praise.
Some folks within our own congregation have complained that we’re wrong to be open and won’t come now. Some may not come back.
Many new believers, meeting Christ at the food bank, have been coming to worship. Some volunteers who didn’t have a church began coming for worship, which has been beautiful.
Folks who are members of sidelined or internet-video-only churches have started coming, too. We’ll gladly encourage them to head back to their churches when they open the doors again… but some have already said that’s not gonna happen now.
We don’t believe we’re wrong.
Nor do we believe that where we landed on this is right for any other church and their leadership. We all have to work this stuff out in this strange time, and what God has for one church may be the opposite of what He’s calling another church to do, so we’re not on our soapbox claiming everyone else has to follow our lead. No, no, no… follow Christ and be led by the Spirit!
Sometimes though, when some people are baffled by behaviors they see as oddball, it’s just easier to explain oneself.
May God bless you and your labors for His Kingdom, my friends.