Like most churches (but, unfortunately, not all), we have decided to close our doors through at least April 30 or until the stay-at-home order by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey expires. We are not holding any classes or services and none of our groups are meeting—except for various online settings. Our office is closed, and our staff is working out of their homes.
We were not required to do so! The letter of the executive order allows an exemption for churches, and we could have insisted on staying open. We chose instead to follow the spirit of the order, so it is appropriate for us to share our thinking. There are two primary reasons why we chose to close:
- We did so as an act of love. Loving people is one of our core values. To show love to all our members and guests we chose to close up to remove the chance of anyone getting the coronavirus from us. This virus is far too easy to pass on inadvertently. We don’t want our staff, our members, our attenders, or those in any of our ministries to get the virus. It’s love in action.
- We did so as an example to others. We understand we are called to be “salt” and “light” to our community. In addition to sharing the gospel, this includes setting the right kind of example to our members and those around us. We wanted to set an example of both love for others and obedience to the government.
I have talked to some pastors who feel that government has no right to ask a church to close their doors. (If the government singled out churches, I would agree—but that’s not what’s happening.) I’ve talked to some pastors who feel that the need for public worship and spiritual growth and health overrides the need for physical health. (I think that is reckless and maybe even arrogant on the part of the pastor.) I’ve talked to pastors who believe that God will protect their members if they choose to gather and worship. (I think that is a gross misinterpretation of the Bible. We are called to live with wisdom.)
We know that not everyone agrees with us—every church had to make this decision on their own—but we honestly believe that we have made the right choice. We believe that our members will stay with us and look forward to returning as soon as we are able. We believe that our members will continue to give generously as they always have so we can continue our ministries and come back strong when we do re-open. We believe that our members are strongly enough committed to Christ that they won’t suffer spiritually in the meantime.
I actually believe that this time of trial (and the extra prayer that results) will lead our members to an even deeper level of spiritual commitment. That, I believe, is part of what James 1 teaches us!
That doesn’t mean this is easy. I’m tired already of preaching to a camera. Our worship team misses meeting and working together. We all miss the sense of fellowship and teamwork that meeting together gives us. We love serving our community, and most of that ministry has been temporarily curtailed.
But I trust God for all things. He will bring us through this temporary trial, and we will be stronger for it!