Should we, as the church, continue to meet for worship during the COVID-19 spread?

Dear all,

First of all, I apologize if this is the wrong place to put this message, but I am seriously looking for answers and your thoughts regarding this. Also, any input from your pastors or other church leaders would be highly appreciated.

At this moment in Kuwait, we have confirmed 18 cases of coronavirus. As a Deacon of my local church, we are having the discussion on should we continue to encourage public gatherings as this is now requested as requested by the government not to be done. As an emergency doctor, it is my recommendation to my patients when they ask me what can I do to prevent the spread and to prevent getting the disease is to stop going to public gatherings.

Other religious meetings, such as in mosques have not been discouraged as of yet, however, conferences and schools have been cancelled.

What do you think?

Should we, as the church, as the local body of Christ, continue to physically meet?

What are our other options than meeting in a physical church? We are considering in the event of closing down of the church, to have online services.

Has this happened before in the church’s history? I’m wondering about how churches used to meet during the times of the plague or during the time of other infection spread back in church history?

Please remember us all in your prayers and May God give us all wisdom and protection during this time.

Yours in Christ,
Jacob

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@Rom828 May Christ grant you and your Church leaders wisdom in this situation and watch over your flock :slight_smile: I think some of it depends on how serious the risk is in your area, but I know Churches in China have decided to meet digitally and I think that makes a lot of sense. If we go all the way back to the time of Moses, we see that those who had infectious diseases remained outside of the camp. It makes sense to me both Biblically and rationally to avoid spreading a contagious disease by not meeting for a while; especially since digital media can still provide a way to stay connected. There is also the issue of submitting to governing authorities, which could come into play in a situation like this one.

However, I would balance that out with the fact that in ancient times Christians often risked their lives to serve the hurting during plagues; even when everyone else fled. I do not think that means that Christians should behave unwisely, but there may be opportunities for sacrificial love in such times. For example, I saw that some Christians were handing out masks in China rather than hording them. Again, I think all things need to be done with wisdom, but certainly God may call us to self-sacrificial love that is truly for the good of the other.

Famine and war had recently afflicted the city of Caesarea, so when the plague hit in the early fourth-century, the populace was already weakened and unable to withstand this additional blow. The populace began fleeing the city, one of the larger ones of the Roman Empire, for safety in the countryside. However, in the midst of the fleeing inhabitants, at least one group was staying behind, the Christians.

“In view of the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 this past week, we have decided the best thing for our congregation is to bring service online. This means, we do NOT meet physically at Suntec for service, but stay home and worship online together through The CHC App or our website,” the church announced in a statement Thursday.

“This is not an easy decision for us to make—you know that we love coming together as the body of Christ to worship the Lord. But our congregation is not small, and we have members young and old. As leaders, we feel strongly we must do what we can to protect our flock, as the risk of infection is relatively high right now,” the leaders said.

Still, church leaders in China aren’t completely stopping their activities and services. Though their doors may be closed, many church communities are turning to online-based worship services, and the Christian Reformed Church in North America is helping to make that possible.

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Truly a tough, difficult choice to make a call on. I will be praying for Divine knowledge, and intervention to find a solution to your dilemma as well as for an answer to the coronavirus resolution.
Mike

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Thank you Brother for your reply. Some things for us to think over.
God bless

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Thank you Brother Mike. Your prayers are much needed.

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I pastor a church in northeast Georgia, USA - and I do encourage people who are sick to stay home until they are well to avoid infecting others. Our church has never faced an epidemic, and we’ve never had to close down the church. But our services are live streamed and archived so that people can watch them online. If you are in an area where an epidemic is causing other public venues to close, then holding services online until the crisis is passed would certainly be a valid option.

Even if you don’t have an online option, as reluctant as I would be to suspend services for a time, if the situation was severe enough, it might be the better part of wisdom. It would just be a judgment call on the part of the church leadership - as well as an individual call on the part of each participant about exposing himself or others to the risk.

I hope it helps!

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Lifting this up in prayer as well :pray:

Absolutely, with some simple caveats.
1- if you’re sick, stay home.
2- wash your hands.
3- it’s ok not to shake hands
4- if you just traveled, skip a week or two of church events.
5- keep your hands away from your face
6-100… Wash your hands.

This bug is no different than other recent bugs. If you act accordingly, the likelihood you catch it is very small in most countries. I’d you’re in China, Northern Italy, or Northeastern India, maybe hold church at home with family, lol.

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Thank you all for your prayers and advice.

In the space of fewer than 48 hours we went from 0 cases to 43 cases today. The government released six recommendations, one of which is to avoid public gatherings. In light of that and the safety of our parishioners, the role the church had in the spread in S. Korea and other factors, we took the decision to suspend services this Friday and Sunday (our main worship service day is on Friday as our weekends are Friday and Saturday).

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Thank you Pastor James. Appreciate the reply. God bless you.

Hi @Rom828 I am sorry to hear COVID-19 is hitting the Middle East. I am in a middle leadership position in a church in Shaanxi province. It is next to Hubei where the virus started. We have decided to follow the government’s recommendation and are not meeting during this period. Everything is closed at the moment here so there is not much of an option.

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Shutting down a church and doing Sunday services on-line seems to be something that the Chinese in our area (Toronto, Ontario) recommend and are very comfortable with.

In the early days of this COVID-19 outbreak in China, a large Chinese church in our area shut down right away and continued via on-line services.

Most other churches remained open. But we have a very large ESL ministry in one of the regular churches. And at the very onset of the virus in China, our Chinese students approached our ESL teachers about dropping physical classes and going on-line; they were too afraid to come anymore because of our high intake of new arrivals. So we decided to try going on-line with our classes until things settled out. We’ve been using a mix of Zoom video conferencing and Google Classroom for many weeks now and it’s working well. Our students access the meetings with computers, tablets, and smart phones. We can all see, hear, and talk with each other in real time. This is one way any church’s small group ministries could continue to meet.

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Sean’s reply makes much sense. By all means, pray! We never know what God is going to do in any given situation, but as he said, in the law, contagious people were put into isolation outside of the community to prevent mass illness. I believe it was Martin Luther among others who administered to those dying of the plague in Europe. This is incredible to watch! It will be here soon enough. It could be encouraging to have a massive online church service some time so we could wish you all well in “digital person”! <3

Having said that, I think that community is going to really miss the physical connection. Connection is so vital! Praying for you all so much!

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A very tough question especially if the church is in an area where the virus is taking hold. Honestly, if where you live is not a threat to people around you I see no reason not to meet. If you remember believers in the early church met when there was a lot of hostility and would suffer death if they were found meeting together. Right now in the present, there are believers who are beaten, tortured and killed for meeting in homes, restaurants, churches, stores, factories, etc. You need the mind of God in this situation. The real question is what price are you willing to pay when you meet together in a situation like this? I don’t know if this is the correct answer, but Proverbs 3: 5,6 comes to mind. Also Psalm 32:8. We can also fellowship together via skype or using social media in some way. The main things are for us to ask for wisdom and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in all things. I hope this gives you some comfort or at least some direction.

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Dear Brian,

Thank you for your message.
Know that our prayers are with you. May God and strengthen you and your flock in this time.

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Thank you Roslyn for your recommendation.

I have suggested Zoom and Google Classroom to our Elders, especially for our Lifegroups and Christian Education Classes.

We have a Youth Ministry that meets on Friday which I am strongly considering doing via Zoom, instead of just cancelling.

The ESL ministry sounds great and a wonderful witness. God bless.

Hi @Cindi1

Thanks for your reply.
A massive online church service would be something amazing to do.

@a1781
Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.
I can understand that.

But now going into the second week of this here in Kuwait the questions about whether to meet physically or not as the body seem to be as follows:

  1. If we meet, are we endangering the lives of the local community we are called to serve and love, by contributing to the spread?
  2. Are we endangering the lives of our congregation? (especially the elderly, the ill with multiple co-morbidities, and the immunocomprimised)?
  3. The recommendation from the government is to avoid mass gatherings (not just church). By meeting, will we disobey them, as an authority God has placed over us? (Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.)
  4. What are the consequences to the body (short-term and long-term), by stopping our physical meeting? How will this affect their spiritual walk with the Lord?
  5. What are the consequences for non-believers who walk into a church seeking God, to having a church shut down?
  6. Do online services/meetings sufficiently fulfill the idea behind the author of Hebrews when they write Heb 10:25 “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”?
  7. By not meeting, are we as the church, running away in fear or are we confronting a problem by making a hard but wise decision?

Here is a question that should be asked, what constitutes a “meeting”? This might be a good question to ask what is a meeting according to the Kuwaiti government. If two people meet together for coffee would that constitute a meeting? This question may have been asked already. In Matthew 18:20 all we need is just a couple of people. It could be a husband and wife, two friends, a sister, and brother, his promise is that He will be there with them. The main thing is to seek God’s face on this and you are correct in regards to Romans13. 1 Chronicles 12:33 having a clear understanding of the culture, religious views, political climate, and their general spiritual condition. Kuwait may be searching and we can be that bridge and we can that can help them move along. May God give you wisdom, discernment and a deep love for them and may that be manifested in the language of love.

Hi @Rom828,

These are great questions and I am grateful that you are carefully considering many angles in making a decision.

Personally, I believe that online services are an acceptable alternative to meeting in person, especially during an emergency situation.

In discussing generosity, and good stewardship of the gift, Paul writes:

we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man (2 Corinthians 8:21)

And the same principle is found in Romans 12:17,

give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all

While this command is contextualized by our primary and exclusive loyalty to Jesus, and what honors God, we nevertheless have this injunction given to us.

Consider the negative publicity received by Shincheonji church in Daegu, South Korea for their role in spreading the coronavirus in their country. From media reports, this church has aberrant or even heretical teachings compared to mainstream churches. Nevertheless, they have caused a national if not global crisis because of how their meetings helped spread the virus to thousands of people.

How would your church’s witness be affected if it became - inadvertently - responsible for the spread of coronavirus in Kuwait?

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