Updated: Mar 17, 2020
All weekend long I watched as numerous people and congregations made announcements of what they would do during the Covid-19 outbreak. I saw some congregations take a firm stand on not making a change, some changed times, and some cancelled services altogether. Along with this, there have been individuals who have ridiculed any changes to services, and there are those who have mocked people who aren’t making any changes.
I am not worried about convincing a congregation on what to do one way or the other. Those are hard decisions that really should be made on a regional basis. The purpose of this in not to argue the right or wrongness what a congregation does with their meeting times. This is to address something that has accompanied many of the announcements to change or cancel services.
Along with the various announcements from leaders, I have seen posts that share this message, "Don’t feel guilty about missing church". I know that for many leaders, they think it’s important that people don’t feel bad for missing church, but it is not a productive message. It is always good to feel something when it comes to spiritual matters (Rev 3:5). It’s a sad day in Zion when people can miss church and not be upset about it. Do we forget that Jesus is waiting for us on Sunday? I hope we all feel something any time we are not with the saints whether we are sick or not.
I also think it’s a bad message because we don’t get to decide a person’s guilt. There may be individuals that are actually guilty of real sin surrounding attendance. There are those who already miss Sunday nights and Wednesdays and were just hoping for the grand slam. A number of people have been keeping their fingers crossed hoping that all services will be cancelled. That person should feel guilty. Hopefully that Godly sorrow would lead them to repentance (2 Cor 7:10), but that will never happen if they read that they shouldn’t feel guilty.
I know that some preachers view preaching like it’s just another job. Since it is like any other job, they are happy when an opportunity comes to get out of work. I am certain that there are some preachers out there that may have influenced elders based on the opportunity to have a little break. They should feel guilty for that deception.
It has been noted that Hebrews 10:25 tells us that we are not to forsake the assembly, and many people have pointed out that what we are dealing with is not forsaking because "forsaking" implies a willful neglect. Is that true? Is it impossible for a church to say, “we are not having worship at the building but we EXPECT you to meet for worship with your family. Reach out to the eldership if you are single and we will work with you”? If we can do that, why would we tell people not to feel bad about missing Church? Why would we tell them they are not forsaking the assembly? They drive across town to the building, can't we expect them to drive to a members home if necessary?
If we are not going to enjoy the benefits of the large assemblies we are used to for a while, let’s still encourage each other to be faithful to worshiping God. Let’s encourage each other to find a way. Plan family worship. Organize a small group at your home. If anything, this is a time where we should seek to worship Him more not less.