There is a lot going on in the world right now. There are many people right now concerned about catching and dying from COVID. There are even more others who are worried about passing it on. For the sake of argument let’s grant all of their premises. For the sake of argument let’s grant
- A 2% fatality rate
- A very high transmission rate
- Transmission by non-symptomatic persons
- A high transmission rate among both adults and children
- A high transmission rate both indoors and outdoors
- High complication rates even among those who are non-symptomatic
- Social distancing reduces infections
- Mask wearing reduces infections
Now, I am not agreeing with all or any of those above. For the sake of argument let’s grant every one of the points. Now let’s ask what the response of the church seems to have been and what it has been historically.
Governors have closed gatherings and placed restrictions on churches. Besides a few highly publicized cases the church has largely acquiesced. Doors closed, sermons, classes, and music were all moved online. The justifications jumped between a)we are supposed to respect authorities that govern us b) we have a lot of members that could be affected by COVID c) there are a lot of worried people and we need to be sensitive to their concerns. Now I have noticed that even churches that are meeting again seem to be skipping things like classes because social distancing doesn’t seem to be feasible.
Let’s note the reality: We have a choice as a body between instilling Christian values in our children or not. Our churches have as a whole decided that the concerns listed above are more important than training the next generation of believers.
Historically this has not been the response of the church. Historically when there have been plagues it has been the church that went into the infected areas and took care of the sick. Historically it has been the church that offered consolation to lepers. Historically it was the church that founded hospitals so that even the poor could receive medical care. Historically the church has faced down sickness, epidemics, and even plagues in order to advance the gospel and care for those made in God’s image.
One day Peter and John were pulled in front of the Sanhedrin and asked where they got the authority to preach their message. Interesting question, it was the same question the Sanhedrin had asked Jesus before his crucifixion. It had been Peter and John who were in the courtyard within earshot of the trial. So Peter and John are in front of the people who had recently executed Jesus and are being asked the questions that led to his death. Peter and John respectfully replied that it was entirely up to the Sanhedrin to decide whether they were obliged to serve man rather than God, but they could not help but to teach about what they had seen and heard. They respected the governing authority even submitting to a probable death sentence, but refused to stop teaching Christ or serving the church.
What happened? The US government will not punish Christians in the same way that Muslims, Communists, Pagans, Hindus, or Romans have. We will not watch our families or loved ones be tortured and murdered for us meeting. Even if you grant all the points above COVID still pales in comparison to Spanish Flu, Smallpox, or the Plague. Something has happened that when we are now told “stop meeting, and if you do meet wear a mask and don’t sing” we graciously bow, scrape, and agree. We change the act of worship into an episode of worship we can download at our convenience. We think of worship as something that is done for us to feel good rather than gathering together to encourage others. Frankly I am embarrassed by how much the church has conceded to those who do not want the church to meet.
When our children grow up and believe that going to church is unimportant and that they can worship just as well by downloading the service we will have nobody to blame except ourselves.