When should churches open their doors?

The country looks like it is about to open up. What does this mean for churches? 

Here are some of my questions.

Are we clear about what “church” is? (Hint: It’s not a Christian concert plus a TED talk.)

If we were starting from scratch, what would we do? What is essential? What is fluff? What is biblical? What is just tradition? What is obsolete? Have we been honest about the discipleship return-on-investment with our activities? Is our mission (or vision, values, strategy) pandemic-proof? Persecution-proof? How long should a sermon be? How do we get families to disciple their children without rolling their eyes? How much of our music is really just entertainment, and how much is actually worship in spirit and truth?

Are we being salt? Light? Are we a family? Are all the parts of the body engaged? Are we a prophetic voice to the culture or a watered down echo of the culture?

Are we too busy? What idols has this pandemic revealed?

Have we remembered the poor? Sought justice? Defended the oppressed? Taken up the cause of the fatherless? Pled the case of the widow?  Looked out for the interest of the vulnerable?

And this last set of questions is my primary concern as I ponder the implications of churches “opening their doors.”

The poor and vulnerable are always hit the hardest. It has been pointed out that when the economy opens up, many people will have the liberty of minimizing unnecessary travel, proceeding with caution, and working remotely if necessary. But if working from home is not an option, or if you do not have a private office, or if you depend on public transportation, then your risk levels are significantly higher. This is why you’ll notice that the poor are being devastated across the globe. From the indigenous tribes of the Amazon basin to the inner cities of the US, the poor are more prone to contract the virus, slower to identify it, and then provided much inferior health care to fight it. Risk levels slide in the wrong direction for the poorest among us.

Back to the church.

An interesting critique comes from unbelievers. You Christians claim to be pro-life, they say. And yet when the rubber meets the road and people’s actual lives are in danger, you are pushing to gather and put people in harm’s way. Sounds like your pro-life position was more political than practical all along. Or perhaps you pastors are just afraid of losing more offerings. Or maybe you young Christians are just like the throngs of indifferent spring breakers, who don’t concern themselves with the risks of others.

Jesus teaches us that the day of judgment is going to major on the way we treated the “least of these.” Hungry. Naked. Sick. Needy. Afflicted. Part of my prayer coming out of this pandemic is this: Lord Jesus, help us to major on what you are majoring on and minor on what you are minoring on. We will not walk in fear. We are not afraid of death. We know we have a good Shepherd. We know that God is with us. We stand on his promises. But we will embrace our responsibility to care for his flock.

I assume this will mean a gradual re-opening of in-person church gatherings. There will probably be limits to the numbers of people who can gather at one time, at least initially. There may be masks. There will certainly be a lot of sanitizing taking place. There might not be offering plates. But if the church is to be God’s church, we will run all decisions through the lens of how to protect those most vulnerable.

If there is any human on planet earth that is chomping at the bits to meet in person, it’s me. I’m so tired of preaching to an empty room. I’m so ready to sing with God’s people. I can’t wait to watch people get healed. And inspired. And equipped. I long to be with the people of God.

And perhaps that is one of the breakthroughs of this season. A reminder that one of our very greatest gifts is presence.

These zoom calls are better than nothing. Hearing a song on my phone is fine. Joining a crowd online is fun. But I long for presence. I deeply desire to be with my people. His people. It’s a sign of a problem that started with the first humans. When they sinned they lost more than a garden; they lost presence. And everything lost by that first man Adam is being restored by the God-man Jesus. Believe that.

I don’t have a date yet, but the next time we gather, let’s gather in his name – and go wild.


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Thoughts on When should churches open their doors?

5 Responses

  1. Pastor Mike, This is exactly why I love and miss you and your leadership. You have such a heart for GOD and His people. Also you deeply care for all those who dont know Him. I often share testimonies of our time in Gainesville at First Assembly of GOD and many of your sermons with those whom GOD gives me. One of my favorites is when Samaria wanted to go to the park but it looked like rain. It spoke to me of the faith of a child of GOD.

    All of this being said, I wanted to say your “lifeline” (as I still see your posts) is absolutely in line with the will and heart of Yahweh. He has spoken through me and through His servants the prophets precisely what you said. He has declared for this time of shaking I have brought you into your homes. I have made your homes as Goshen for you. I am shaking away all of your idols that I may consecrate you to Me. I have drawn you away from all of your distractions and your own agendas that I may speak with you. My people have had a deaf ear to My apostles and My prophets whom I gave to them to lead them and guide them in My ways. Much of my children neither know nor believe even in My prophets I have raised up to bless them. So now I will speak to them and teach them all of My counsel. This shall be a season of cleansing and preparation of the hearts and minds of My people. I shall prepare them for the coming season of the evangelist as they shall go forth in My power. For I will pour out of My Spirit that My Presence and My power may rest upon My servants.

    There is so much our Father wants to do during this season. He called it an uncomfortable revival and uncomfortable shaking loose of we have held too tightly. He said I will shake the corruption loose. I shall breath mercy and righteousness in the land again. I shall uncover the nakedness and expose those who operate in the darkness.

    Ahh….. so much of His goodness and His glory is going to overflow through His people during the next 10 years.

    Blessings to you and your family and the Church under your covering, brother.

    Always mindful of His glorious reappearance, Your brother in Christ Jesus, Robert Jones

  2. Safety and the protection of those most vulnerable comes first. We must be patient and know that we know that we know when it is really safe for almost everyone to gather in person vs online. Let’s heed the guidance of Dr. Fauci and the Department of Public Health. And keep praying. Our Lord Jesus’ guidance will certainly not include opening our Greenhouse brick and mortar church doors until the likelihood of COVID-19 infection of many more of His lambs is all but behind us. We must remain patient, caring, prayerful and vigilant. When we do open our doors, we must stay fluid, and ever ready and understanding that we may have to return to “just virtual” later this year when COVID-19 infections may again surge. We can do this, Church.

  3. I say amen and amen. That was written with the heart of God. I think churches as a whole are becoming too much like an entertainment center. I feel they are losing focus of how Jesus taught in many ways. He taught with simplicity of surroundings and with humbleness of heart. It is hard to imagine that our present world could ever give up that entertainment high that people need to stay awake in church. Oh that God would stand in our midst with awe and power in every service. I pray for you Pastor MIke- that God will preserve your humble heart in the midst of our material world. I remember being so impressed years ago when the church was much smaller: you would take all the widows out to eat and honor them; you would love on the young downs syndrome man that came to church and even honored him when he spoke out in church. You demonstrated for us how not to forget the least and hurting among us. I needed that and I always admired you for that. Please keep showing us visibly how to love the least among us.

  4. I just keep picturing Jesus touching the unclean leper who wa required by law to cry out and warn people away. Satan will always accuse us…He is the accuser of the brethren…The first beast power is rising….they hate the church and will never be satisfied. If we are seeking to please them we are not God. God.who is love. Is soon to bring his wrath on this world. Judgement and love go hand in hand.

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