Shut the Doors Or Leave Them Open?
Shut the Doors Or Leave Them Open?
By Paul R. Blake
The following short article was posted on Facebook and reposted many times. It will serve to introduce the bulletin article for this week.
“Your elders have never led a church through a pandemic before. When they open the church, some people are going to say that they should have closed. When they close it, some people are going to say that they should have stayed open. When they shake hands, some people are going to say they have faith, and some people are going to say they are foolish. Your elders are going to make some difficult decisions to protect the flock, considering everything from your spiritual growth to legal liabilities that you aren’t even thinking about. Remember this: No one wants things to go well at church as much as your elders. Your elders need your prayers and support right now…” (Author Unknown)
I appreciate the insight of the author who wished to remain anonymous. It highlights the current issue of our time. We don’t get to choose the nature of the times given to us, but we can choose how we address and bear with the times we are given.
It was ironic almost to the point of amusement that only six days after the Trilacoochee church of Christ appointed elders to lead them, they gathered together in the church building last Saturday evening to discuss how we would respond to this threat as a congregation. Talk about being thrown into the deep end of the pool! However, this was the task we were given; and for my part, it was an honor and blessing to share in a peaceful, harmonious conversation about how to best serve the needs of the Lord and His saints in this place.
Permit me to say that not only was it uplifting to work with the other elders in this, but I am overwhelmed by the spirit of accord and good will that I saw in the responses of all of the disciples here. Some chose to stay at home to protect others, some stayed at home to protect their vulnerable health, some have offered to help supply those who are quarantined at home, and some came to worship and practiced “social distancing” with just a few hiccups. But even in view of the different responses of the members, what has not been present in our assemblies or in our homes are critical or judgmental words directed at others. May this spirit continue!
However, this is clearly not the case in social media among professed members of the Lord’s church. While a few spiritually minded brothers and sisters have posted caring, helpful messages, others have chosen to vent their unfiltered opinions. After reading numerous extreme posts by fellow disciples, I am tempted to practice social distancing in the social media. Have mercy!
Members who choose to stay at home to protect others or because of their own vulnerable health are being charged with having little or no faith, neither in God nor in His care. Members who choose to assemble in areas that are not under state ordered quarantine are being charged with threatening the lives of their fellow Christians and failing to show them love. Fortunately for the children of God who are not involved in these judgmental expressions, the truth is not found at the extremes of human opinions; it is found in the word of God where the Divine put it.
The fact is the disciples who are staying home to protect others or to protect their fragile health are conscientiously following their understanding of God’s will to the best of their heart and mind’s direction. And, the disciples who are helping to supply those at home or who are coming to worship services and carefully practicing social distancing are conscientiously following their understanding of God’s will to the best of their heart and mind’s direction.
The Almighty and Loving God Who made humankind knows our strengths and limitations. He knows our hearts and minds, perhaps better than we know ourselves. HE has commissioned the Worthy and Resurrected Christ to be the Judge of humankind (Acts 17:31). Herein lies a second irony: that those who are rebuking members who come to worship as unloving, and those who are rebuking Christians who stay home as unfaithful are actually the ones who will fall under the judgment of the Lord for attempting to usurp His judgment.
For peace of mind and for peaceful relationships with fellow saints, ignore the posts that rant about the “stay-at-homers” or criticize the “go-to-churchers.” They are risking the creation of two new factions in the church that may persist in some places long after the virus is gone. If they keep it up or post such messages on your wall or timeline, the Facebook app still has “remove,” “block,” and “unfriend” in the drop down menu. But in truth, the godly response to such things is to pray that the Lord will grant the self-appointed judges time to repent before they leave this world.
Here at Trilacoochee, I have every confidence that when this virus passes (and it will pass!) the disciples who were quarantined, self or mandated, will eagerly return to assembling at worship and Bible study once again; that the members who are practicing social distancing will once again shake hands and hug each other; and, that this virus will be just another matter, with the help of God, we will have overcome. We will come out of this stronger in the faith and in love for God and one another.
And, I have every confidence that this will be the case among disciples in the other congregations temporarily sundered by COVID 19. I put very little stock in the uninspired prophecies predicting that this is a slippery slope that will spell the end of public assemblies for worship and Bible study.
Meanwhile, patiently endure. “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord--that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). Pray fervently for yourself, your families, fellow Christians, and neighbors near or far.
A Moments Wisdom
- Don’t be afraid to ask dumb questions; they’re easier to handle than dumb mistakes.
- Most loudmouths have an echo chamber between their ears.
- It is amazing how generous some folks believe themselves to be because they give free advice.
- “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” (Arthur Ashe)
- Sandwich every slice of criticism between two slices of praise.
- Maturity begins on the day we accept responsibility for our own actions.
- “The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him that he finds difficult to answer.” (Alice Rollins)
- One of the great pleasures of this world is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing.
- Death is not a period but rather a comma in the story of our life.
- “Consider a day when you were supremely satisfied. It was not a day when you lounged around doing nothing; it was when you had everything to do, and you did it.” (Margaret Thatcher)
3/22/20 AM - A Godly Man’s Resolve
PM - Stand Still and Be Quiet
3/29/20 AM - The Bible’s Big Words
PM - Moment by Moment
4/5/20 AM - Fighting Fear and Failure Full Force
PM - God’s Purpose for Planet Earth
4/12/20 AM - Who Wants You to be Baptized?
PM - Encouragement: Manna & Medicine to the Weak and Weary #1
4/19/20 AM - The Apostles Ran -- Once
PM - Encouragement: Manna & Medicine to the Weak and Weary #2
4/26/20 AM - Children of Light
PM - Chasing Scapegoats