Our governor just put us in another modified lockdown, effectively shutting many businesses, severely limiting church meetings, and forbidding Home Groups to meet if we follow his mandates.
Before I tell you how I feel, let’s review a few facts:
- Covid-19 is real. The virus is spreading. We do have an uptick in cases in Spokane County, where I live.
- As of today (November 15th), 1.8% of seven million in the state of Washington have tested positive, and .03% of seven million have died with Covid-19.
- Yes, the coronavirus can be severe for the elderly or those with pre-existing health issues. But the overwhelming majority of people with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms.
- Yes, over a million have died worldwide; every life matters and even one death from any disease is hard to accept.
So, what are we to do? If you are at risk, be wise; be careful. It’s absolutely okay if you want to wear a mask 24/7. You’ll get no shame from me. Of course, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands. And if you’re sick or have been directly exposed to someone with Covid-19, please stay home.
However, are lockdowns the best path?
According to the Wall Street Journal, over 100 million people are now in extreme poverty worldwide due to COVID-19 shutdowns. Extreme poverty kills too.
We are in a worldwide recession that may very well end up in another depression. I have far too many friends and parishioners who have lost their jobs or their businesses have shut down. Once unemployment benefits end or they run out of savings, they worry about losing everything.
Another reliable source reports, “Mental health issues are rising during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Journal of the American Medicine says we are experiencing “the highest age-adjusted suicide rate since 1941.”
The CDC says, “While safety measures like social distancing are proven to reduce the spread, the potential for adverse outcomes such as suicide is high.” Years from now, I predict the experts will tell us that what we did to prevent the spread of COVID-19 cost us far more than the disease itself.
As a pastor, I am even deeply concerned about the spiritual poverty of the 100s of millions worldwide who have fallen out of meaningful fellowship. (The keyword in that last sentence is meaningful.)
The argument, “I don’t need to gather with a church in some meeting to be spiritually healthy,” is a lie.
Yes, my friend, you do. Jesus started the Church—the fellowship of and the community of Christ—because He knew we are stronger together. Much stronger.
The facts are in, and online digital attendance is dropping. Fast. People need people. We need to worship together, and it isn’t easy to engage in worship in front of a flatscreen. In fact, it’s unbiblical not to gather. We need to lay hands on and pray for one another. (The value of physical contact is undisputed.) We need to look into the eyes of a brother or sister and see into their souls and ask, “Are you okay? How can I help you?” Furthermore, our children need to gather with other children. They need to interact with others in their age group, be taught, and have fun together. Children are at almost no risk regarding COVID-19. I suggest it’s time we put the next generation before our own.
Humans need to be human, and social distancing is damaging to our hearts and minds.
I agree with my friend, Pastor Brian Moss, who wrote, “The spiritual impact of church shutdowns (presents) REAL and PRESENT dangers that are not only harming our people today but will have long-range consequences.” If we meet, eat, and worship together, will the infection rates go up? Yes. I assume so. Will a small percentage of precious people die? Sadly, I think so.
By the way, the average age of death in the U.S. (80) closely matches the “normal” age-related deaths from Covid-19. As my eighty-four-year-old mother told me, “Honey, we all die from something at my age, and I’m not going to live in fear hibernating behind closed doors in my home alone.”
Forgive me for the sci-fi quote, but “Sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” The flu season is here. The common cold season is here.
COVID-19 is here and may not ever go away. And in my opinion, at some point, all of us may be exposed to someone with the coronavirus.
So, here’s the question: Are you going to put up with social distancing and relative isolation for months or years to come?
How is that okay or healthy for the whole person?
Again, I love this quote from Brian Moss, “The church needs to be open not when the crisis is over, but when the crisis is raging all around us. That’s what the church is for!” Yep. Now. Always. We love our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family best by doing what truly is best for their eternal souls. And you cannot love very well remotely.
Absence does not make the heart grow fonder; it makes the heart go wander.
I am very familiar with the argument made by some of my peers that the church is not just a service on Sunday, and that is true; the church is far more than a service. But we are an essential service to our members and the community we live in, and online church attendance doesn’t work well. The last shutdown proved that people need human contact, and they need to worship together.
So, how will I live?
Without fear. Without Zoom. (I now suffer from zoomaphobia.) In contact with real humans. Worshipping together. Praying together. Playing together.
And for the record, at sixty-three, and with mild asthma, I am at risk, but living without you, and without being loved and loving you in person, isn’t acceptable to me.
The risk is worth it.
Trust me, I know I am in a lose-lose scenario. No matter what I write, some will be upset. I feel like I’m out on a limb of a burning tree, but it’s time to take a stand for life, liberty, and the pursuit of GODLINESS (and we need each other to grow best).
So our church is not going to close our doors.
To accommodate those who are not sick and not at serious risk, but believe we should do more to protect people, we will make our first service a mask required service (for everyone except children in all areas of ministry unless they are on stage). For those who cannot or will not wear a mask, in our 2nd service, masks will be encouraged but not required.
We believe in adult-to-adult relationships. We trust people to make the right choice for them. They can stay home if they must, attend a “safer” service if they want or come to one where things are relatively normal. People decide what is best for them and their spiritual, relational, and physical health. (Not the government.) And they will not be shamed by me regardless of their choice.
Some have asked: “What about submitting to those in authority? Shouldn’t we do whatever the Governor asks?” Here’s my short answer: The Bible does not tell us to submit to mandates (or laws) that are unholy or unbiblical (e.g., abortion is wrong regardless of what the “law” says).
Some will say, “Abortion is not the same as closing a church service!” I will humbly reply, “How many life-giving, essential, and godly churches have died or will die due to an unbiblical mandate to close their doors? How many marriages have died because people are hurting and isolated? How many businesses and jobs have died?”
We must stay open. Humans need humans. Until a safe and effective vaccine is readily available, or this virus runs its course, and most of us have some measure of immunity, COVID-19 is here to stay.
In the meantime, shutdowns are not a viable or doable solution.
Of course, I weep over the loss of precious lives, but I fear far more is at risk if we continue to live bound by this virus. So, if you go to Eastpoint, I hope to see you at church, and yes, I’m still hugging if you want one.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Kurt Bubna