As we eagerly anticipate reopening, we realize this is a complicated situation. There are many reasons it is complicated. For one, there are a variety of opinions. Some feel that we should open immediately. Others, however, feel like we should remain outdoors until a vaccine is made. And there are many within these views.
It is further complicated by the variety of materials available to the public. Organizations such as the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Whitehouse, and even local governmental organizations (such as the Department of Health and Environmental Control for South Carolina) have kept information flowing. However, as everyone will readily admit, this information is conflicting at times. At one point, masks seemed to be the hero of this pandemic. While at other times, masks were seen as completely pointless.
A third complication we face is the issue of personal liberty. As citizens of the United States, we enjoy incredible freedoms. And, as followers of Christ, we enjoy liberties as well (see Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-9). We have freedoms in Christ, and these freedoms sometimes overlap others’ consciences.
As a pastor, I want to shepherd the flock of God as faithfully and lovingly as I can (1 Peter 5:1-3). I can tell you that the deacons want to do this as well. We have sought the Scriptures in prayer to do just that. I realize that our plan will not satisfy everyone. While I am saddened by this, I also know that our church is filled with believers who love the Lord and each other. As such, I am sure that your charity will make up for my own mistakes and shortcomings, that they will fill in the gaps of my plan, and that it will ultimately glorify our glorious Father.
I wanted to provide you with the guidelines that we used to determine our plan. I am providing this, first, so that you will have time to examine our hearts as based on God’s Word. I will comment on them briefly to elaborate on them to avoid any confusion.
Our plan to reopen has God’s glory for its ultimate aim (1 Cor. 10:31)
The very foundation of our plan, and our church, and of our lives individually, is to glorify God. We are put on this earth for that fact, and if any aspect of our lives is not lived with this purpose in mind, then we must immediately confess this as sin and seek restoration to our Father.
Our plan seeks to lead our congregation in the most helpful way, including spiritually, physically, and mentally (Heb. 13:8; Isa. 40:11; 42:3, cf. Matt. 12:20)
The second guiding principle is our desire to lead you in the most helpful way. I mention three parts of this: spiritual, physical, and mental. We want to lead you spiritually because as spiritual beings our souls are eternal. Jesus sees the importance of the spiritual when He tells Satan that man must not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from God (see Matthew 4:4). We also are concerned about your physical health. While the media has presented the facts of COVID-19 in an unfair light, people are indeed dying. We want our congregation to remain as healthy as possible. Further, the mental stress of COVID-19 and its byproducts are high. We want to alleviate these difficulties as much as humanly possible. Our plan seeks to balance these three aspects of our congregation while leading.
Our plan desires to observe, as much as possible without disobeying God, the recommendations and regulations as set forth by local and federal government (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-14; cf. Acts 5:29)
As Christians, we are given the command by God to submit to the government. Paul and Peter both place governmental authorities under the sovereignty of God. As Christians individually, and as a church corporately, we want to follow their lead as much as biblically possible. Thus, if the government requires us to follow an order, and if that order does not violate a clear command of Scripture, we are biblically obligated to follow that order. Our plan was developed with this in mind and will be updated as further aids are provided.
Our plan desires to display the preeminent characteristic of a disciple of Christ, charity, in all we do (1 Cor. 13:4-7, 13; John 13:35)
Love is the distinguishing mark of the believer (or, at least it should be!). As such, love has guided our reopening plan. We want to love our congregation the way that Christ loves His church. When you read a part of the plan or have a question about the validity of something, remember we are attempting to love you. We will also see your questions, concerns, and suggestions from a place of love.
Our plan desires to accommodate individuals with different liberties, always seeking “for peace and the building up of one another.” (Romans 14:1-23, cf. 19)
This one is perhaps the most difficult guidelines through which to navigate. We understand the liberties we have, both as citizens of the US and as Christians. Our reopening plan seeks to work through these nuances of liberty. One example would be facemasks. As of the time of this publication, there are no requirements in the State of South Carolina requiring the wearing of masks. There are several ramifications of this that I think will prove helpful to discuss.
There are those in our congregation who are completely against wearing masks. How should those who desire to wear masks navigate this? They should love their brothers and sisters in Christ. In loving humility, they should not mock them nor should they speak about them behind their backs. Likewise, these individuals who are against wearing masks should not look down upon those who chose to wear them.
There are those in our congregation who never leave their homes without their masks. How should those who do not wear masks navigate this? They should love their brothers and sisters in Christ. In loving humility, they should not mock them nor should they speak about them behind their backs. Likewise, these individuals who wear masks should not look down upon those who chose not to wear them.
Regardless of your preference, you should always, always seek to build each other up in love. Do you see the wonders of following Jesus Christ? It shows us that, even amid significant disagreements, we can show deference and love, and even build each other up.
These are our guiding principles for reopening our church. Would you prayerfully read through these? Would you consider praying for each other with these in mind? Would you seek to incorporate these into your daily life?
May God enable us to grow closer to Him and one another through this pandemic,