By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
What’s more, Kentucky State Police officers patrolled the church parking lot, handing out citations. The church sued the state but a judge tossed it out of court.
On one side, people are screaming that the government is violating the freedom of religion clause in the United States Constitution.
On the other side, people are claiming that the church is ignoring public safety and failing to adhere to a stay at home order that applies to any group of 10 or more people.
If I were an attorney, I could easily defend both claims.
There are people protesting the stay at home orders all across this nation. I understand where they are coming from. I am ready to leave the confines of my home and get back to another routine. I try not to use the word “normal” anymore. I’m not really sure what normal is now.
At the same time, I know in my heart that if people continue to leave their homes, they could either contract the coronavirus or pass it on to someone else if they don’t know they have it.
It’s not black and white. There is a lot of gray. I have talked to a couple of churches that are still meeting. They are small congregations and they are able to spread out in the sanctuary.
Last week, Governor Lee announced the stay at home order will end on April 30 and that businesses will begin to reopen. Full plans have yet to be announced, but on April 21, Gov. Lee said public meetings of 10 people or less will continue to be observed as social distancing remains a priority. Keep in mind that COVID-19 is not over, so safety needs to be a prime concern, along with economic reality. People have to work.
The Bible has a lot to say about work. In fact, there are at least 100 verses that reference work. One of the best known is II Thessalonians 3:10, “… if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (NKJV).
But the Bible also says a lot about gathering together to worship. God intends for His followers to fellowship with one another and to worship and praise Him.
The reality of today is that we need both work and worship. It’s not either/or, and it’s not black or white. But God also wants us to be wise in our decision making. When we return to work (if working from home is not an option), we need to do our best to observe social distancing and hygiene. None of us want to get the virus and none of us want to be an unknown carrier of the disease either. Be wise in what you do.
I would say churches also need to be wise about when they decide to return to public worship. One of the responsibilities of churches and leaders is to make sure their members have a safe place to worship. The temptation to get back together as soon as possible will be great. Everyone wants to be back in church, myself included. But don’t forget that responsibility we have to our members, especially the most vulnerable health wise.
The government is not trying to keep us from worship. They want to keep us safe. As to worship, most churches are actually reaching more people via live streaming and video than they did with live services. God is still at work.
Churches are autonomous. My prayer is every church will prayerfully consider when to resume live services. It’s not a black and white answer. It depends on where the church is located, the impact of the virus in that area, the makeup of your congregation, etc.
Continue to pray and ask for God’s wisdom in all that we do. A non-believing world is watching.