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California pastors petition to open May 31st. Is it right to open now?

Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial. Massive cross monument honoring American veterans, with plaques telling their stories.
Mt. Soledad War Memorial

I came across an article online about California pastors planning to open May 31st, despite the governor's orders that churches remain closed until phase 3 of reopening, which has yet to be determined. The link to the article is at bottom of the page.

Like most articles, I just read the headline and skipped to the comments section. One comment struck me hard:

Would someone please tell me why Christians feels it so important to gather in large groups to practice their faith? It seems that the lockdown would be a perfect opportunity to read the Bible cover to cover (something I bet a lot of Christians have never done). I'm atheist, but I've read the entire King James version of the Bible, the Jewish Tanakh, the Qur'an, the Book of Mormon, the Buddhist Dhammapada, the Hindu Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads, and more. I have a feeling a lot of Christians get more satisfaction and comfort from the social aspect of church than they do from the scriptures, and the pastors get their satisfaction from a full offering plate on Sunday morning.

Okay, he is an atheist and is cynical and doesn't understand the very communal and important part of worshipping with other believers and being in connection with the Body.....

......but.......he's also not wrong.....

The church is not a building. We are the church. We are the temples of the Holy Spirit. We don't need to have a church building to have church.

Matthew 18:20
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Too many Christians have built their faith on traditions and routine. Yes, we need the body to come together for the fellowship and community. There is power in unity and coming together to worship Jesus. But there are other ways to do that during this temporary health crisis. Let’s use our imaginations.

Find Ways to Serve

From food banks to checking in on your neighbors to donating blood, this is the time to be the church and not just go to church. I was able help assemble medical masks for first responders at my home church. Over all, our church helped and deliver over 350,000 medical masks. Check to see what your local church is doing. If they aren't doing anything, maybe you can be the one that starts something.

For more information on how to volunteer in California, check out this link:

At Home Bible Studies

Learning how to hear from God for yourself and not just relying on some pastor to do all your feeding. Many of us should be on meat but are still on milk. Let's take the time to learn how to praise and worship when there is no worship leader. Learn how to read the Bible without some pastor or author telling you which passages to turn to. We could be teaching our kids by example that time with God isn’t just at church on Sunday but everyday, everywhere. My mom would make me and my brother write our own Bible studies and we would have to teach them to the family. That is where I learned to love studying the Bible and discovered so much that honestly is rarely taught in the church.

New Ways to Connect

God has blessed this generation with technology that can connect us globally and instantly like never before. Streaming and video calls should be embraced. I have co-workers organizing game nights with families and virtual happy hours over video calls. My church's prayer teams have moved to praying for people over Zoom and has been effective. Here's a crazy idea, what if you picked up the art of letter writing and sent encouraging notes to loved ones. There is no limit to how God can connect His body to accomplish His purposes.

Get Alone with God

To be honest, church can be a distraction from God. We can get caught up in the routine and get so busy trying to be "a good Christian" we forget what it means to be a Christian, a relationship with God. Take this time to reconnect and elevate your relationship with Him.

Pray Against the Real Enemy – the government is not the enemy. Please read this scripture.

Ephesians 6:12
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Don't get distracted. Don't fear. But there is an enemy set on killing, stealing and destroying. We need to be engaged in serious spiritual warfare instead of rushing to get back to our comfortable routines. Let's pray for our leaders, our essential workers, nurses and doctors, the scientists working on the vaccines and treatments. Let's also not forget the gift of healing and the laying on of hands to heal the sick. If more of the church walked in the power and authority Jesus gave us, the pandemic might have been over already.

I don’t fear the coronavirus. I believe in the power of prayer and a God that protects and heals. I have seen Him come through too many times in my life and others to doubt Him.

I am in California, and I disagree with how the lockdown orders are being implemented and that we are reaching the point that the economic collapse and detriments of lockdown are worse than the virus. It's unfair that Walmart, where people are all over each other buying non-essential items, can stay open but small businesses don't have the chance to safely reopen.

But I’m not stupid either. Locking down is necessary, and it is working. The virus is highly contagious, and I believe the healthcare experts more than conspiracy theories. I would rather stay on lockdown a few more weeks than reopen, have a whole bunch people die then we shut down again and repeat over and over again. We can be inconvenienced for a little while for the benefit of other can’t we? I choose to be humble and not complain about small inconveniences that will save lives and get things back to normal sooner rather than later.

Wearing mask is not the big a deal. Staying 6 feet apart, no big deal. Stay clean and sanitize, no problem.

But remember, the church has not shut down and can’t because we the Christians still have our faith, our praise, our worship, our relationship with our Father and our gospel to spread. No one can take that away unless we are distracted by the strife the enemy is trying to stir up.

I choose to see the opportunity in all this.

An opportunity to pray like never before.

An opportunity to be more like the church and repenting for being lazy and relying on the church “organization” – the building – to do the work that I should have been doing all along.

Repenting for being a church consumer and not a contributor nearly enough.

Repent of being afraid of being the church outside of church, Monday-Saturday.

An opportunity to prepare myself for when the doors of the church do open, so I am renewed in Him so that I may pour myself out to Him with gratitude.

An opportunity to not take the house of the Lord for granted.

An opportunity to remind myself that nothing can separate me from the love of God, not the government or the locks on the doors of the church.

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