The church is it essential or non-essential?
To be essential a thing is absolutely necessary. Non-essential is simply that it is not absolutely necessary. So is the church essential, or optional?
Yesterday I visited four essential businesses that were open. I took a load of trash to the transfer station, made a deposit for Longview Deaf Church at the credit union drive through, pick up my thyroid meds at Walmart drive through pharmacy, and dropped off mail at the post office. Earlier in the week I took a chainsaw to the saw shop for repair and a friend of mine bought paint at the hardware store. Essential businesses are defined nationally by the Department of Homeland Security1 and each state has designated, with more or less detail, which businesses are essential and which are non-essential.
So is the church essential or non-essential? A review of the current restrictions nationally, and state by state, reveals that with the exception of a few states, governments in the U.S. considers the church to be non-essential, on par with going to the movies or attending a sporting event as a spectator.
Tomorrow will mark the third week in a row, with perhaps many to follow, in which we have canceled church services in submission to the government and to do our part to help limit the spread of COVID-19. A few churches are defying the government out of rebellion. Some churches are continuing to meet because they think the church is essential. Others, like Canaan, are conflicted and burdened because although we would say the church is essential, we also want to comply with the authorities and are concerned about people. After all, we might ask, if someone can buy paint or go to Walmart, should not the church be allowed to meet if they follow the same precautions? We will save this discussion for another time.
Today, we want to ask if the church, and church services, are essential to us personally.
Two perspectives have been offered to me regarding this time of church services being canceled. Some have expressed concern that people who are loosely connected to the church, or struggling, will get out of the habit of coming to church and we will lose them. Others have suggested this will be a time of testing to see if we are serious about our faith or not. Perhaps both suggestions are valid in some ways.
I think if we were asked if the church is essential or not most of us would say it is. The question is whether our actions match this assertion. Here are some things to consider and think about whether we really consider church essential:
- Each week Canaan Church has pre-Sunday School prayer time, Sunday School, Worship service and Wednesday Bible Study. Understand personal limitations such as not driving at night or in bad weather,
- How many of these do I consider essential to attend each week?
- Of the services I participate in, what percentage of the time do I attend?
- Given that the command in Hebrews 10;24-25 about assembling together is to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds . . .” of the services we do attend, how, and how often do we obey this command?
- Or do we just show up at the last minute, or late, without having given any thought to other people and how we might spur them on to loving God and others and encourage them to do good deeds in the service of the Lord?
- During this time of canceled church services, what specifically are you doing to accomplish the function of stimulating others to love and good deeds?
Some may complain that the government wrongly considers the church non-essential. Others may complain about how church functions like an entertainment business leading to its non-essential designation. However, regardless of how others may see the church, the real question for us is whether or not the church is essential from God's perspective and whether or not it is essential in our personal lives.
So tomorrow is Sunday. Services at Canaan are canceled because the government sees our meetings as non-essential. However, if church is essential to us, we will take time to pray, sing, maybe listen to uplifting music, tune in live stream services, listen to an audio sermon, call some other folks in the church to encourage them, write a short letter or send a card, meet with those in your household . . . you get the idea - “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds . . .” and then do it.
After all, the CHURCH IS ESSENTIAL to us, even if it is not to others.
Serving with joy – and considering how to stimulate you to love and good deeds – during this time when we cannot meet face to face.