Churches should not be holding physical gatherings at this moment in history. By gathering we would be putting the most vulnerable in our communities at greater risk to the spread of the Coronavirus. Inasmuch as our Christian faith and conscience are not violated, we should honor the requests of our governmental leaders, and their requests to not gather are wise and appropriate expressions of loving our neighbors well. Thankfully in this season we have technological tools that can be leveraged to help serve and connect people digitally. But a time is coming when churches will gather again.
Some believe that time is coming soon. Others believe we may be in this season longer than many realize. Most agree that our church gatherings will initially have some levels of restrictions and measures will be taken to ensure the gatherings are as safe a possible. When I have been asked if “churches will gather again the same way,” I have responded – “Yes, absolutely. I don’t know when but we will.”
I agree with leaders who believe we are learning lessons and approaches in this season that will stay with us beyond this season, but I also believe we will be physically gathering again. In fact, I am bullish about it. I don’t believe physical gatherings will be less important to the church in the future. By God’s grace, I believe my kids will gather for worship and my grandkids will gather for worship. Here are 4 reasons why:
History is a strong predictor we have for how we will behave in the future. While we are in an extremely rare moment in history, we are not the only people who have lived through a pandemic or a plague. And on the other side of those horrible historical moments, God’s people gathered.
There is a longing in humanity to gather, a God-given longing. Sporting events, concerts, and festivals have all been built on this reality. I remember living through September 11, 2001 as a ministry leader, and hearing conversations about fear of large gatherings. I remember watching President Bush throw the opening pitch of Game Three in the World Series that fall. People got back together. Yes, this is different because that gathering did not endanger those outside of the gathering and gatherings now can endanger others. And yes, coming out of a pandemic before there is a vaccine, it will take longer for people to desire large gatherings. But the desire will still be there and perhaps will even grow, as people will miss those moments.
The Christian faith is a gathering faith. The writer of Hebrews declared: “And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) While the size of those gatherings has varied from context to context, we have always gathered. And we will gather again. Our gatherings remind us that Christ, by giving Himself for us, has put us in the same community.
I want to gather again. And it is not because I am a pastor. I feel like something is missing. Something is missing! My kids want to gather. My wife misses church gatherings something fierce. My small group misses meeting so much. The high school freshmen guys I lead are asking when gatherings will happen again. Our staff has cried with longing to gather again. My friends and neighbors are coming outside more. There is a stirring to gather, and that stirring will only grow.
On the other side of this pandemic life will likely be different in many ways. But Christians gathering, even humanity gathering, will continue.