Coronavirus and GBC
Dear Grace Bible Church Family,
You are probably aware that the COVID-19 case rate is high and on the rise in Arizona. Area hospitals are at or above capacity. Some in our church have quarantined for COVID-19 and for COVID-19 exposure.
We recognize that this virus is contagious and potentially dangerous.
We also recognize that our weekly gathering for corporate worship is essential.
Therefore, the elders have
- Provided space on our campus where distance is maintained and masks are required,
- Increased our technological ability to reliably stream our services for those who must remain apart from the gathered body,
- Allowed personal discretion for mask usage and spacing in the auditorium, and
- Given smallgroup leaders discretion to operate smallgroups according to the needs of each group.
It is critical for us to be anchored to the following two biblical principles simultaneously:
- The vitality of local church ministry as a personal priority. Christians must not lose sight of the importance of their ministry in and with the local church. Corporate worship and body-life require proximity and interpersonal communication (Ephesians 4:11-16). This ministry is hindered when we are not together and when there are barriers to communication and interaction. Being together and functioning as the church is critical for the spiritual well-being of each individual Christian, as well as for the church’s corporate health. Spiritual vitality is compromised when individual Christians’ growth is stunted, and when Christians are not together (Ephesians 4:16).
- Wisdom and love in a season of contagion. Christians must not lose sight of the importance of love for one another in the midst of a contagious and potentially dangerous virus. This means giving serious thought to how we might minimize unnecessary contamination of our campus and exposure of our people.
Application of these principles:
The application of these principles will look different person-to-person, according to their respective situations. You should do what is best for your situation, both for ministry and health.
We all must be thinking about one another with the two principles in view: ministry and love. And these two principles are not at odds with one another. You may need to grow in your intentional body-life ministry toward others. And you may need to grow in your loving consideration of those around you who are at greater risk during this period of contagion.
If you, or those close to you, are at risk for severe complications from COVID-19, you should consider live-streaming our service or utilizing our mask-and-distance rooms. Please stay home if you are sick, have recently tested positive for COVID-19, or have been recently exposed to someone who has. It is important to follow health guidelines for exposure. Masks are available at the information table in the entryway if you want one but do not have one. Hand-sanitizer stations are located throughout the building. Be thoughtful and considerate for those around you as we gather.
Avoidance of Wrong Thinking:
While every individual’s participation in church life may look a little different, it would be important for each of us to recognize and address patterns of wrong thinking that can produce and reinforce wrong behavior. Following are a few dangers to watch out for:
- Bad ecclesiological habits: Failure to prioritize local church ministry can result in utilizing for personal convenience a tool designed to help those who for health reasons cannot participate in person. The livestream is a good resource for people who cannot or should not be present. But one can easily get comfortable replacing interdependent, present, interpersonal ministry with the convenience of an online service.
- Selfishness: Self-focused thinking insists that others conform to my preferences. Selfishness may result in judgmentalism over mask-wearing or non-mask-wearing.
- Lack of love: Having no regard for the needs and preferences of others can result in inconsiderate and even reckless interactions that unnecessarily put people at risk; lack of love may also manifest in a failure to assume the best in others’ motivations.
- Fear: The world around us is rightly afraid of death. Christians have a fundamentally different view of life and death. The world thinks wrongly about health — unrealistic, even idolatrous, expectations about health, safety, and comfort. Christians have a fundamentally different set of priorities.
- Rebellion: Some simply want to contravene authority and would look for any opportunity to live contrary to the dictates of authorities. Christians gather together, not to buck the system, but to serve one another in keeping with New Testament instruction.
- Confusion: It is possible that some have elevated civil liberties above Christian obligation. Some, out of a desire to hold on to cherished American freedoms, have forgotten that a Christian is fundamentally driven by values like self-denial, preference for others, and sacrificial love.
We gather together on Sunday mornings at Grace Bible Church to be pleasing to the Lord, to benefit from His design for the local church, and to be a spiritual benefit to others, not so that we can finally have one place where we don’t have to wear a mask. That would be a motivation not grounded in biblical principles – ministry and love.
A reason to not join the gathering on Sunday morning would be to please the Lord in my love and care for others, not so that I can finally “do church” at my own convenience.
These are challenging times, and we trust the Lord’s good hand in all that we face. Let us labor to be the church, for God’s glory, and thereby do what only His church can do.