Why We're Cancelling Services
Last week the decision was made to cancel Sunday worship services, Sunday School classes, and all official CGF public gatherings until further notice. This decision was made in response to federal, state, and local governments declaring states of emergency in order to combat and curtail the rapid spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
You may be wondering why we came to that decision.
From your perspective, perhaps you acknowledge the fact that COVID-19 is, indeed, a serious situation, a situation that has caused not only the cancellation of public church gatherings, but also the shutdown of schools, workplaces, and even the suspension of some of our beloved pastimes.
You also acknowledge that this is an unprecedented situation, both in terms of COVID-19's impact on a global scale and the extent to which government has reacted in order to slow its spread.
You acknowledge these things... yet, it still doesn't sit right with you that we, as a church, would cancel everything much like what the rest of the world is doing. After all, you reason to yourself, we are a people who love and serve the God of the universe, and so what do we have to fear? In addition, we are a people who are promised that this God will carry us through our trials and that he will never leave nor forsake us. Therefore, our decision to cancel services and all fellowships strikes you as strange, if not somewhat faithless. Maybe you know of other churches that still physically meet at their normal worship spaces, at their normal times, and so you don't understand why we do not.
First of all, I get it your concerns. I really do. As someone whose job and ministry it is to teach people the Bible and who looks forward to every Sunday, these last few days have felt really odd, especially this most recent Sunday morning. To deliver a sermon via livestream was already a new experience. However, more than delivering a sermon on YouTube, what really made the experience personally jarring was knowing that our church was scattered across New York and New Jersey for the first Sunday in a long time. Things simply didn't feel the same; it felt weird. I don't think I'm the only one that felt that way. Second, to the belief that our God is a big God who is sovereign over all things~ including viruses~ I give a hearty amen to that. There is nothing to which God is powerless in comparison, and nothing that God is unable to bring about for the glory of his name and good of his people.
Yet, I do not believe that cancelling our gatherings equates to a lack of belief in the sovereignty and power of God. Though we are a people marked by supernatural faith in a supernatural God, God also calls us to walk in wisdom (Proverbs 19:3), as well as in submission to our earthly authorities (Romans 13:1). Therefore, it is by faith in God that we carry ourselves wisely and peaceably as citizens of heaven.
To Love Our God and Our Neighbor
As this COVID-19 crisis has escalated in alarming fashion, the decision to cancel our gatherings boiled down to one thing: a love for neighbor. In Matthew 22, a scribe asks Jesus what he believes to be the most important commandment in the Law, and Jesus' answer informs our reasoning behind these cancellations:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)