(This was originally posted on May 13, 2020)
Raise your hand if you are tired of not being able to meet as a church! My hand is up! It's getting long. I long to sing with my brothers and sisters, and I long to celebrate the Lord's Supper with my family. And I know I am not the only one who feels this way.
There is a growing restlessness with our current situation, not just among churches, but in society at large. Everyone wants to get back to normal as soon as possible. But, as you know, the debate is raging about what is responsible and what is wise concerning COVID-19.
I'm not going to get into the debate about what is right or wrong about our leaders' response to COVID-19. But I will give some advice regarding our plans to regather as churches. Before I share my opinion, I would like to submit four principles that must guide our thinking.
1. We must seek to honor our leaders as much as possible (I Peter 2:13-21; Romans 13: Matthew 22:21). Therefore, we should try to follow Governor Evers Badger Bounce Back Plan as much as possible. The biblical reality is that it doesn't matter if we like it or not; we need to submit to our leaders as much as possible. Yet…
2. We must remember the priority of God’s authority (Acts 5:29; Hebrews 10:25). Therefore, civil disobedience is always a potential when we recognize God's authority over man's authority. However, civil disobedience is not something to take lightly. If we are going to encourage rebellion against authority, we have to be well-informed and unambiguous in our leadership.
3. We must submit to a sovereign God knowing that his plan often unfolds much slower than we would like (e.g., Genesis 15:13-16; Exodus 23:29). God uses trials to shape us, and it almost always takes much longer than we would like (Romans 5:1-5; James 1:2-4).
4. We must hold our plans with open hands (James 4:13-17). Therefore, all plans are subject to change. The entrance into the situation we find ourselves was fluid. Likewise, the exit out of the situation and back to meeting together is likely to be fluid.
Advice on deciding to regather
With those four guiding principles in mind, I'd like to offer the following advice:
1. Each church leader and member should be very familiar with the Badger Bounce Back Plan before making decisions on regathering. The summary is that churches will not benefit much from Phase One of the plan. Groups under10 are currently allowed for religious entities in the Safer at Home Executive Order (pg. 14). Phase Two is when most WARBC Churches will be able to begin meeting together. If a church decides to meet before phase two, it will violate the Governor's Executive Order.
2. Every church leader and member should try to understand opposing viewpoints before making decisions on regathering. Proverbs 18:2 says, "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Have you honestly tried to understand the rationale for not meeting for a bit longer? Have you honestly tried to understand the reasoning for gathering as soon as possible?
3. Every church leader and member should utilize the means of change that are afforded to us before making decisions on regathering. What are those means? Two main ones come to mind:
· Prayer – are you praying for your leaders every day? Are you asking God to steer Governor Evers’ heart to allow churches to gather? The king's heart is moved by the Lord's hand, not your FB posts (Proverbs 21:1).
· Democratic communication – have you written a respectful, loving, appreciative letter to Governor Evers or your elected representatives asking them to allow your church to meet together soon?
4. Every church leader and member should have a comprehensive plan in place before making decisions on regathering. See below for links to helpful checklists/documents to help you formulate your plan.
Every church will need to decide for themselves as to when to begin regathering. My advice is to be patient and see what will happen on May 26th when Governor Evers’ Safer at Home order expires. How he responds to that deadline will give us more information about when to regather.
I also recommend giving a bit more time to the Badger Bounce Back Plan. As of today, five of the six metrics are met to "Turn the Dial" as our Governor likes to say. It looks like we are heading in the right direction. Let's see how he responds to the positive trajectory.
Having said that, I'm preparing our church for the potential of civil disobedience. I don't think we are there yet, but the day could be coming soon. I'm praying that God turns the Governor's heart to allow churches to regather. So, I'm giving it until the end of the month, and then we will make decisions based on the information we have available then.
· Vanderbloemen – (ReOpeningChurch.com)
· Brotherhood Mutual – Many helpful articles.
· Attorney David Gibbs – When Should our Church begin meeting in our building again?
· Reopening Checklist from Smart Church Solutions
· Post-COVID-19 Facility Utilization Guide from Smart Church Solutions
· The Senior Pastor’s Guide to Reopening by churchfuel.com
· Reopening Bundle by Malphurs Group
What would you add to this conversation? Do you have any helpful material that you are willing to share? What did I miss?