Well, I am now fully vaccinated and past my 14 day waiting period.
Last week was my first week back in a live church service since the pandemic began. I was asked to preach at a church in a different city on the subject of work, which I was happy to do. But before I agreed, I asked if they were following best practices regarding the pandemic; I didn’t want to be part of encouraging a super-spreader event. Fortunately, they were doing it right, requiring masks, social distancing, and operating at a reduced attendance capacity.
Today, I return to a live church service at my church for the first time since the pandemic began. I am proud to say my church has done it right, conducting services solely on line for months and then starting back with live services at a reduced capacity, with temperature checks, social distancing, and masking requirements, while still maintaining the service online for those not vaccinated or comfortable yet to return.
What my church has done during the pandemic has been governed by consultation with a medical advisory team made up of physicians and medical professionals, application of CDC guidelines and best practices, and prayer. I believe it has been a Spirit-empowered approach. Here’s what I mean.
When the Apostle Paul was describing for Timothy what the Holy Spirit looked like when it manifested in one’s life, he said it did not encourage fear, but demonstrated power, love, and a sound mind (or sound judgment). 2 Tim. 1:7. To describe the Holy Spirit as having one but not the other two characteristics would be to describe a different spirit. Power without love and intelligence makes for a bully, love without power and intelligence a sissy, and intelligence without power and love makes one snooty.
Unfortunately, many churches across the country have continued to meet at full capacity or without requiring masking or social distancing, and making attendance under such conditions solely a test of faith or the Spirit’s power. In doing so though, they have ignored sound judgment. Would these same churches encourage their people to cross a street without looking both ways because they were “walking in faith” or trusting in the power of God to protect them? If they did, we would say they weren’t exercising sound judgment; actually we would say things much harsher than that.
Nor are those who are making their services a litmus test for their members’ faith acting out of love when people remain unvaccinated and some at higher risk of suffering a COVID fatality. What about the non-Christians we are supposed be reaching? Are you going to make them pass a faith-test before coming to your service?
It will indeed be a sad footnote to the COVID pandemic that to many non-Christians the Church, in insisting on its rights to the detriment of the health of others and society in general, has come across as a bully.
A Spirit-empowered response does not act out of fear, for sure, but it embraces the power of God, combined with intelligence and sound judgment, and tempered with love for others. GS