May 3, 2020
Dear Grace Family,
Once we made the decision to minimize activities at the church, I began writing a weekly letter to the congregation. It has been good for me to develop the skill of letter-writing. But, as you might be aware, I have not sent a letter the past three weeks, but it was not because I have not been writing. I wanted to address the topic of the conscience. And so, I have written and re-written that letter. However, I don’t feel like I have done justice to the topic in a way that will be beneficial to our entire congregation. Therefore, I am setting that topic on the shelf for a week.
This week I want to address the question of why Grace Community Church did not shut down when most of the other churches did. While there are multiple reasons, I want to share two of them with you. They are listed in order of priority.
First and absolutely foremost, we did not stop corporate worship because this is the most important part of our lives. I believe our purpose as human beings is to worship the triune God. A preacher once said, “Missions happens, where worship doesn’t.” He was building upon the idea that God designed us to be a part of corporate worship, to long for it and to seek it out. The need for public worship is part of our spiritual DNA. When people are converted, they join/start a local church or else they fall away. Where public, corporate worship is not a priority, the church is on the verge of becoming irrelevant. This is no less true in times of chaos than it is in times of peace and order. God made this very clear in Psalm 27:8. In the midst of turmoil and chaos God says to King David, “Seek my face,” and David responds, “Your face, Lord do I seek.”
The second reason we did not shut our doors is because that is a decision that the government is not qualified to make. There are two reasons for this.
a. First, the Church is a spiritual organization. It is the gathering of the saints for a spiritual purpose. Thinking of Hebrews 11:10, (For he [Abraham] was looking forward to the city that has foundations) Christians are to have an eye on eternity. This is not to say we don’t care about this world. Quite the opposite. History has repeatedly demonstrated that the best Christians are the world’s best humanitarians. But, because our MASTER is the God of the universe, unless He permits a hindrance, the church gathers.
When Israel was destroyed in AD 70, a significant transition came to an end. Prior to the coming of Christ, God’s Covenant people were under both a spiritual covenant and national covenant. During the years before Israel’s destruction, there was an expansion of the spiritual covenant beyond the borders of Israel. When Israel was destroyed, so too did the national covenant.
As a result, the Church must be separate and distinct from political power. Where the church has assumed political power, or allowed itself to become a tool of political power, the church separated itself from the gospel, it’s calling, and its protection. The Westminster Divines were very clear when they wrote the greatest summary statement on Biblical Truth that Jesus Christ ALONE is head of the church.
The essence of the first amendment is that the government’s authority is different from the church’s authority. While it is right for governments to ask the church for help in moral decisions, it is not right for the government to make spiritual decisions because it does not have the authority to do so. Governor DeSantis agreed, “I don’t think the government has the authority to close a church. I’m certainly not going to do that.”
b. The second reason the government is not qualified to make this decision is because the government cannot know the conditions of every particular situation. This is a very practical reason why limited government always functions better than bigger government. The bigger the government, the more unable they are to deal with the particulars of different situations. What might need to happen in one place, might not need to happen in another place. Big government does not have the ability to deal with small people.
The conditions of GCC are such that we have one or two people in the highest-risk category, a couple of people in the high-risk category, many people at a general risk, and some at virtually no risk. One-size-fits-all type policies do not fit us. Those that are in the highest-risk and the high-risk categories should be extremely careful about their exposure. Those at general risk should use their best judgment. Those with virtually no risk should be in attendance. Because we are a small church, we do not face some of the difficulties that out other congregations must deal with. Social distancing is not an issue for us because we have sufficient space to spread out.
What should we be doing during this time? I believe we should be making the most of it, and one way we can do that is to use this time for self-reflection.
In situations like this, doomsayers can’t be wrong – at least in their own eyes. If the worst happens, they claim the high ground and say “we told you so.” If the worst does not come about, they claim credit again, and say it was their warnings that were taken seriously and thus avoided the disaster.
Contrary to this, scripture tells that decisions made from fear are not God-honoring and will not be wise decisions, even if the outcome doesn’t appear to be bad. At the very least, decisions made from fear begin to establish a pattern of fearful thinking and reasoning and then false premises become the foundation of future decisions and responses. 2Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
We find an example of what a sound mind looks like in 2 Chronicles chapter 20. Hezekiah was surrounded by enemies who were intent on destroying him. His response was to go to the house of God and pray. And the promises he prayed were those listed by Solomon at the dedication of the temple.
2Chronicles 6:28-31 says, “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemies besiege them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own sorrow and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind, that they may fear you and walk in your ways all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.”
We believe GCC took appropriate actions by minimizing the activity at the church. We reduced our meetings and the few meetings that have continued have been held in the sanctuary where there is sufficient room to spread out. But to give up worshipping together was something we were not prepared to do with so many unknowns and so much misinformation floating about.
We face a variety of dangers in life. Some dangers we know about. Some dangers we don’t. Some dangers are greater, some are lesser. It is appropriate to take precaution against the dangers we know. And the greater the danger the more precaution we must take. However, to go beyond appropriate precautions because of the unknown is living in fear. This is not what Christians are called to do. We serve a God who is in control of everything, without exception. Psalm 139:16 even tells us that God has written down the days of our lives in a book, BEFORE we were even born. Let us live our lives by faith not by sight. Let us live our lives trusting in God’s perfect Word in which He has given us EVERYTHING necessary for life and godliness.
As the safer-at-home order is coming to an end in Florida, it is important that we don’t throw caution to the wind. Therefore, we are going to continue through May with four limited gatherings: Sunday Morning worship, Tuesday morning Men’s group, Wednesday evening prayer, and Friday morning Women’s group. We are planning to resume our Sunday Evening Fellowship on June 7 with a study of Paul Tripp’s book Awe. Our Sunday School classes will resume on June 14th with Ron Brightwell leading us in a study of Colossians. And with the return of the fall school year, we anticipate everything being back to normal.
2Corinthians 4:17-18 reminds us of the proper perspective. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
This pestilence is one of many ways that God is preparing his children for glory. Don’t lose heart or become weary in well-doing. God is on His throne, and He is Good.
In the Love of our Savior,