As the lead Pastor of Westside Church, along with our leadership team, I would like to respond to some of the frequently asked questions regarding the current restrictions on large gatherings which directly affect churches across our state and the nation.
Q. Why are we allowing the government to dictate how we worship?
Simple answer: we are not. Our primary concern is the health of every individual in our congregation and in our community. As a large church, we have almost 2,000 people in our building every Sunday. To ensure we keep our congregation safe, we have chosen to not gather on Sundays.
Q. I’m not worried about the virus. Can’t you leave it up to individuals if they want to attend or not?
Eventually, that will be exactly what happens. Once we decide to begin gathering in our Sunday space, people will have the choice to continue meeting online or in person.
Q. Why are we shutting down the church building now, and not every year during flu season?
Until there is a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus, as there is for influenza, it doesn’t make sense to put our people at any more risk than necessary.
Q. I can go to the grocery store, why can’t I go to church?
Soon we will be able to gather in homes and coffee shops as the church. Most Christians think of “going to church” as Sunday mornings in a designated “sacred” space. We know the church is anywhere two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus. It’s time for the church to return to her roots of meeting both in the temple and in homes. We’ve met for far too long just in the temple and very little in homes. This will be an opportunity for the church to reframe what it means by “going to church.”
Q. Isn’t this a form of government persecuting the church?
Studying the persecution of the church throughout history there is one primary common denominator: Jesus. Whenever governments tried to stop people from worshiping Jesus, being baptized, making a confession of faith and so forth it was always about denying Christ. Right now, this is only about gathering together. It is not about denying our faith. If that ever happens we will be the first to non-violently oppose that type of persecution.
Q. When will we be able to have church in-person again?
We are evaluating this question every week. When we do gather again it will be in small groups first, probably for several weeks, before we gather on Sunday.
For further reading, we recommend this article from Ed Stetzer. Stetzer is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and serves as a dean at Wheaton College