“When should I come back to church?”
Like many churches during the COVID pandemic, ACC has taken a hybrid approach to worship. We meet in-person following strict health protocols but also provide on-line access to our worship services so that people can participate remotely. We plan to continue with this approach for the foreseeable future, looking forward to the day when these measures will no longer be necessary.
Since everyone’s situation is different, we leave it up to individual church members to decide when the right time has come for them to return to in-person worship. Gathering with other believers to worship God is a vitally important part of the Christian life. We should all approach our decision about when to come back to church with thoughtfulness and prayer.
Here are some questions you might want to explore as you pray about returning to in-person worship:
- Am I (and the others in my household) fully vaccinated?
- Do I (and the others in my household) have COVID anti-bodies?
- Do I frequently place myself in situations where I am around others (ex. flying on a plane, riding the subway, eating in a restaurant, playing team sports, going to the gym, etc.)?
- Do I attend church services occasionally?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you may want to consider coming back to church on a regular basis. Of course, there might be other factors involved in your situation, so we will respect the decision you make. These are tough times for all of us, and the last thing we want to do is judge each other for the difficult decisions we need to make.
My pastoral counsel as you consider this matter is to urge you to guard your heart against two spiritual dangers: complacency and fear.
First, guard your heart against complacency.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Notice that we are warned against falling into “the habit” of not meeting with other believers. We can easily grow comfortable staying home and watching a live-streamed service in our pajamas or tuning in later for a recorded service at our convenience. We need to be careful that we do not form a habit that will lead to our drifting from the Lord. Someone has said, “When you start missing church, you stop missing church.” In other words when you begin to neglect gathering with other believers you eventually stop feeling the need to gather with other believers. This could lead to a spiritual downfall for you.
“But”, someone will say, “I get just as much out of watching church from home as when I go there physically.” This may be true (though I doubt it) but notice that these verses in Hebrews urge us to gather with other Christians, not merely for our own sake, but also for theirs. We go to church not only for what we get out of it but also so that we can “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” and for the purpose of “encouraging one another.”
Second, guard your heart against fear.
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Of course, we all need to take precautions against COVID and the other thousands of dangers that exist in our world. It is wrong to put ourselves or others at unnecessary risk. But there is a difference between being appropriately cautious and being excessively fearful. The verse above reminds us that “God has not given us a spirit of fear.” We are God’s beloved children, and he does not want to see us enslaved to needless anxiety.
If you think this might be happening to you, ask the Lord to reveal to you the ways that “a spirit of fear” might be taking control of your heart. Ask him to strengthen your faith, conquer your fears, and set you free. God loves you, and delights to deliver you from worry.
If you are a member of ACC and you have still not returned to in-person worship, please know that I am not judging you to be either spiritually complacent or overly fearful. You probably have good reasons for staying home. I only write this pastoral counsel to warn us all against spiritual dangers that might assault our souls.
If you would like to talk and pray with me about your decision about when to return to Sunday worship, feel free to contact me at David@astoriachurch.org.