When this Corona pandemic began, I was in complete favor of shutting down worship services at the church I pastor, The Road @ Chapel Hills, in Colorado Springs. I was as shocked and concerned about the emergency and deadly nature of the virus as anyone. The reason given for curtailing our services was the large number of persons in one place. The reasoning seemed prudent and necessary at the time.
Certain stores “deemed essential” were allowed to stay open. Many of these essential enterprises involved large crowds of people in one place—grocery stores, Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Lowe’s and Home Depot. Some of these stores have incurred larger crowds than most churches. This past weekend, Lowe’s was jammed.
But the Church remained closed. Deemed “nonessential” by our government leaders.
Now, some eight weeks later, the “Safer at Home Order” in Colorado, still prohibits all religious worship services exceeding 10 people. I believe this mandate from our governor is a gross overreach and is unconstitutional as applied to churches because its inflexibility fails to consider whether any religious worship service exceeding 10 persons could be held safely. I believe religious worship services can be held safely, following the CDC guidelines, just as safely as any of the stores which are open.
As we observe on the news the rising number of domestic abuse cases, depression, anxiety and hopelessness due to unemployment, I believe the most essential service needed in our community is spiritual guidance. The local Church provides counseling, training, prayer, worship and teaching to those in need. Not only spiritual, but churches all over America are feeding the poor and making face coverings and gowns for doctors. Churches are offering counseling to the many who have been deeply wounded by this pandemic. Even more than marijuana, liquor and abortion services (deemed essential) is our need for a relationship with God. This is why Americans have always believed that religious freedom of all faiths is to be protected (not granted) by the government (Amendment 1).
America needs the local Church and other faith-based communities to be open. It was the Founder of our Nation, George Washington who said, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”
I hold to these convictions:
- The mission of Jesus, as found in Luke 4:18-19, is the mission of the local Church: to heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to those in captivity, bring sight to the blind and set free those who are oppressed.
- The creation of the local Church family was God’s idea after the Resurrection of Christ and even under pressure and persecution from Roman and Jewish authorities, the early Church chose to meet together weekly. (Book of Acts).
- The local Church is a family and we need to be together to encourage, strengthen and build up the faith of each member. (Acts, Ephesians, 1 & 2 Timothy, 1 & 2 Corinthians, etc.).
- We are exhorted to encourage each other in person as a church body: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:19-25).
- I believe that God is currently “shaking the nations [that they] shall come to the Desire of the Nations” and that a great harvest of souls is coming to the Church. (Haggai 2:6-9).
- We are a people who walk by faith and don’t shrink back under pressure. (Hebrews 10:35-39).
- We are a people who face fears and challenges by being “strong and courageous!” (Joshua 1:6-9).
- We realize that life always has risks and there are no guarantees. It’s those very times that we prove our faith in God. (Acts 20:17-38).
- We are growing in our love for God and each other and perfect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18).
- We believe that it is essential to Christian growth that we worship together through song, the teaching of God’s Word and Communion. (Book of Acts and all the Epistles).
The local Church is essential and it’s time for pastors and leaders to stand up, even stand against, any government order that deems them nonessential. It’s time for churches to be bold and reopen. It’s time for an epidemic of courage in the face of a pandemic of fear. The Road @ Chapel Hills will reopen this Sunday, May 24th!
Be strong and courageous!
Steve Holt M.A., D.D.