Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Although we are still living in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the curve has been flattened in many countries. After living with shelter at home orders for numerous weeks, with the incremental “Opening Up America Again” guidelines published by the White House and the CDC, pastors and leaders of churches are needing to consider when and how to regather.
As we consider a God-honoring and people-serving response to these important questions, it is critical to seek input, guidance and counsel from others. Certainly, each local church will have to make these decisions. But as they make these decisions, it is crucial pastors and leaders consider the broadest and most helpful information available. It is wise to seek input from others, those with an awareness and expertise in areas we may not be as knowledgeable.
In this COVID-19 crisis, I have found Daniel Chin to be one who has provided keen insights into some of the questions. Chin is a physician who trained in pulmonary and critical care medicine and epidemiology. Since his days of training, he has 25 years of global health experience. During the SARS epidemic in China, he led much of WHO’s support to China, and one of our ReachGlobal personnel consulted with Chin in SARS control work.
Early in March, Chin wrote a helpful article guiding pastors and leaders of churches to think about and process corporate gatherings as a church and the importance of responding sooner rather than later. In this follow up article, "When Your Church Reopens, Here’s How to Meet Safely," Chin now “suggests a phased plan for congregations gathering again amid this pandemic.”
Chin guides pastors and leaders as they pray, ponder, and plan for their regathering corporately again as the people of God, the church of Jesus Christ. Here is the essence of Chin’s article:
To discern God’s call for the churches I am advising in my city of Seattle, I have relied on two guideposts: biblical truths and scientific knowledge, both of which have been given by God.
The Great Commandment states, “You shall love the Lord your God … and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37–39, ESV). During this pandemic, love for ourselves is expressed in the ways we protect ourselves from getting infected. In the same way, love for our neighbor is expressed in the ways we protect them from getting infected.
Even as we focus on preventing COVID-19 infections, however, we should not neglect spiritual, emotional, and social needs—in ourselves and others. During this period of social distancing, it is perhaps even more important that churches meet these needs.
As Christ’s disciples, these needs are met as we live out our calling to worship, pray, encourage, witness, disciple, and serve. However, we now must do these in a way that minimizes the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Therefore, we need to use scientific knowledge about this virus to prevent its spread in our churches.
Chin follows this up by giving helpful and specific guidance for pastors and leaders of churches to think discerningly, wisely, and pastorally to their regathering.
As you ponder gathering again as a church, I suggest you read this article and prayerfully ponder the guidance Chin provides. It is worthwhile to consider. The ultimate reason: God, bibilcal truth, and the mission of the church, that of loving God and loving neighbors, are kept preeminent, while the present day context living with COVID-19 is seriously considered. This is also a reminder that all - including pastor/theologians and Christian scientists - humbly confess Jesus Christ is Lord (1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:9-11) and joyfully live under his absolute authority as Lord and Head in the church and over the world (Col. 1:15-20).