27 Jun Ready For Church Gathering?
Now I supposed we in Singapore are heartened to know that we are allowed to gather physically. We have after all cease physical worship for almost 3 months. However, as we would have expected, there are several restrictions. First of all, the physical gathering are restricted to a maximum of 50 pax. Live singing is not allowed. The pastors or presiders who represent the image of God, and in fact are people who are supposed to project worship to the congregation all have to be masked up, or at least wear a face shield while conducting services on the stage. And we don’t know how long this is going to be. It could be for a few weeks, or it could be permanent till a vaccine is found.
Now of course I believe the government is doing this in good faith, and the law is meant to protect the citizens. However, I presume these restrictions will pose a lot of conveniences and constraints for the churches at large. Say for instance believers may not feel like they are worshipping when singing are not allowed in a worship. Or Holy Communion will not be granted unless Churches submit a special application, subject to approval. I mean not to mention there may also be believers who are still afraid to gather, or whose non-believing family members may be very apprehensive about their family members going to church. There are so many constraints, so many considerations, so many passive factors, so to speak. And some believers may be reluctant to gather after all. Churches may be afraid to open their doors just in case they may not meet the requirements and run the risk of some legal consequences. “Oh, let’s stick to Zoom”, Or “let’s wait till we are given the green light to gather without constraint”, people may say. Now, I understand there are both discouraging and fear factors from everywhere even with the thought of gathering in church. So how do we make out of this situation?
Now, in all honesty, this is the best time for the church to be refined and strengthened. In my opinion, this is the best time to tread the narrow road, my brethren. Now, I understand the constraints and the fears, but as a church in this world, as people of God who lives set apart lives, we must learn to work within the constraints and inconveniences. Now, when you see the Apostles and the early church believers went through hardship for the gospel, for the gatherings, for the proclamation of their faith, now have you asked what kind of hardship did you went through for your faith in this first world country. Now this is the time our faith will be put to test, and this is the time where we seek the Holy Spirit to transcend our situation, and seek the best way forward. Now, I understand where practical constraints are present, we will tend to give in to what is easy and doable, but trust me, that’s not the way forward. You have to seek the Lord and believe that the Holy Spirit will lead you and your church in the best way.
But pastor, what about the practical considerations and dangers, you may ask. Now, there is no one size fits all solutions for you. Yours may be a small church faced with constraint of manpower. Or yours may be a big church, and you find difficulty selecting people for physical worship. Or yours may be a church with old people and you feel burden for their safety. My answer to you will be: “Hold on to certain biblical principles and let the Holy Spirit guide you”. Now, before you even consider what everyone around you say, ask yourself: “what is the truth guiding principle?” Now, I am going to give you 3 verses to help you seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in this case.
Can we first turn to <1 John 4:18> a very popular verse. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Now, the first guiding principle which I’m going to give you is: “Be guided by love, not by fear”. Now, if you fear, or if you are pressured to go to church at this juncture, it doesn’t do you any good. So I as a church leader, I have to ask myself: “Am I motivated by love?” Now when I open the doors of my church, I want to be sure that I am guided by love. I will want to do it to edify my brethren, and I want them to find encouragement through seeing each other physically, instead of through zoom meeting which is saturated. Now, it is very important that I do it out of love, not because I am pressured by my members who yearns to meet or by my church next door which just opened. So the onus is on the church leaders to love and not to fear. When you love, your conscience is clear in whatever you do. Love is not constrained by law. Now, let’s go on to the next principle.
Let’s turn to <Ro 14:23>. The later part. “Everything that does not come from faith is sin”. Now, it’s a simple principle right here. Yes, there may be many constraints and probable danger in meeting physically. But are you doing out of faith? Faith will protect you. Faith will strengthen you. And most important, faith finds favor with God. Faith shows that you are putting your trust in God, not in the safety measures that you have put up. Yet, if you’re not doing it out of faith, but because you are pressurized, or obligated, or to show that you are bolder than the common folks, God will not be pleased. In fact, the Bible says if you do not do it out of faith, that is sin. And sin doesn’t benefit you. So if you’re not given the faith to gather, stay home, lest you stumble more people with your faithless act.
And the last principle is found in <Acts 14:22>. If you read the background, you will know that the Apostle Paul just went through great persecution. He was stoned and drag outside the city. And people thought he was died. Yet, when he rose again, he encourages the disciples to remain true to their faith, and right here he said: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Now, the way to the kingdom of God is priceless. That way is opened by the blood of the Son of God. Now, you don’t earn your way to the Kingdom of God by your merits, YET those who are bound for the Kingdom of God knows that it is not an easy way. They willingly go through that hardship, difficulties, inconveniences and yet rejoice because they count themselves worthy to suffer for the kingdom of God. Now my brethren, if that little bit of inconvenience and constraint is enough to stop you from gathering physically, you may be far from the kingdom of God or you may not have tasted the goodness of it. You may not have tasted the righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit that is only found in the kingdom of God. Now, I’ve been in church for the past 30 years. In all honesty, I can tell you that some churchgoers shun the hardships of the cross throughout their Christian walk. Yet, some know how glorious the cross is and they embraced the hardships that come along with it. They will be refined, and they will be glorified. So with that, I leave all of you to pray through about gathering in church.