Update from the elders - 4/7/20
Dear Church Family,
In light of the updated declaration from Tarrant County (effective April 3), the elders have decided to cancel all in-person church activities through April 30, while continuing to stream Sunday school (9:00 a.m.) and worship service (10:15 a.m.) on Sunday mornings.
As this situation is continuing longer than any of us foresaw, we wanted to let you know some of the considerations with which the elders have wrestled in recent days and weeks. This is not a comprehensive explanation of our decisions, but we believe these are some important factors for us all to be aware of as we continue to not meet:
- It is the clear command of Hebrews 10:25 (and the clear assumption and teaching, generally, of the New Testament) that we should meet together regularly, in person, as a local church, for the preaching and teaching of God's Word and the practice of the ordinances. The biblical and enduring historical pattern for this matches our practice of meeting together on Sunday, the Lord's Day (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2; Rev 1:10).
- We understand that live-stream-only services and video-conference small groups--although beneficial--are not ways for us to submit to either the letter or the spirit of these biblical commands.
- We also recognize that there can be circumstances wherein Christians might providentially be hindered from gathering with other believers on the Lord's Day, yet are not disobeying Hebrews 10:25, as they desire to assemble but are unable to do so (for example, when a believer is sick or in prison).
- Based on the equally clear teaching of Scripture (Romans 13:1-7), we should be eager to submit to government authorities (even in some cases where we might disagree with a government's laws and/or decisions) as unto the Lord.
- There is biblical warrant to disobey the government if the government's law requires disobedience to God's law (Acts 5:27-32). A key difference between the situation the apostles faced in Acts 5:27-32 and the situation we face now, is that we are not being restricted as to the content of our gospel proclamation--only as to the mode and location of that proclamation.
- The church has not been singled out (other gatherings are prohibited also), although some governments have wrongly classified the church's gathered worship as "non-essential."
- The biblical summation of the practical outworking of the law is love for neighbor (Gal 5:14). Properly expressed love for neighbor can sometimes include suspending or altering our regular God-ordained practice (Matt 12:1-13).
- It can be faithful stewardship to avail oneself of known effective solutions to physiological/medical problems, when available (Luke 10:34-35; Prov 31:6-7; 1 Tim 5:23). Old Testament law even contains objective quarantine protocols for limiting the spread of contagion within the nation of Israel (Lev 13-14).
- It is possible to put too much faith and hope in the ability of government, physicians, scientists, and other experts, to protect us (or to tell us how we must protect ourselves) from something that in reality poses us no ultimate threat (Psa 146:3-5; 2 Chron 16:12; Matt 10:28; Rom 8:35-39). As good a gift as modern medical science may be, its wisdom is still infinitely lower than the wisdom of God (Job 28)--medicine's truth claims are frequently disproved or amended, its promises broken, and its practitioners' moral judgments too often anti-biblical.
- While we must not overly trust in science, we must also not be stubborn and independent, trusting in ourselves (Prov 3:7; 12:15; 14:12; Rom 12:16).
- We do not need to live enslaved to the fear of death like our unbelieving society (Heb 2).
- Some faithful Christians believe that the government's response to COVID-19 is a legitimate outflow of the government's biblical function, that it is a response commensurate with the threat this disease represents, or even that the government's response has not been sufficiently restrictive of people's movements and gatherings in order to protect us all from the spread of disease.
- Some faithful Christians believe that the government's response to COVID-19 is outside the bounds of its biblical function, too extreme or restrictive, or even such an illegitimate exercise of government authority as warrants civil disobedience (for example, to submit to the biblical commands to gather, rather than to the laws of men).
- It is important to take into account the consciences of those around us--both of unbelievers, and of fellow believers whose consciences could be harmed by an act that might otherwise be undertaken in faith (1 Cor 10:23-33).
- While the example of other believers is not authoritative like the Scriptures are, there is still safety and wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Prov 11:14; 15:22).
- We currently are not aware of any like-minded churches in America that have chosen to disobey the government's orders during this pandemic, believing that they are being asked to sin in temporarily moving to online services.
- We know that faithful churches in the past have seen fit to submit to similar governmental orders to suspend worship services temporarily during a pandemic (for example, during the Spanish flu of 1918).
- God is sovereign over all things--including this virus and the responses to it that have come from the world and the government (Isa 45:7; Prov 21:1).
- God is being good, loving, and kind in His sovereign providence over these things. We must remember that He is doing good to us, and not withholding any good thing from us (Psa 145:8-9, 13, 17; 84:11; Jas 1:17).
- We should all be humble and willing to submit to God's providence in all things, with joy and gratitude rather than grumbling and complaining (Jas 4:10; 1 Pet 5:6; 1 Thess 5:18; Eph 5:20; Phil 2:14).
Again, this is not an exhaustive list of our considerations, but we want you to know something of our ongoing efforts to be faithful to the full counsel of God's Word in our decision-making in behalf of Christ's church in these extraordinary times.
Although for now we continue gathering in our homes and--we pray--worshiping Christ our King with the same passion and joy we would have in Him if we were meeting together, our hearts long for that day when we will again see each other face-to-face. Until then, please join with us in seeking the Lord in His Word and in prayer, and please pray in particular for the elders as we continue to make hard decisions.
In Christ's love,
The CBC Elders