Church Attendance, the Coronavirus, and Guilt

This weekend, a number of churches all over the country have modified or even canceled church services due to the threat (real or exaggerated) the coronavirus poses to our nation. Some congregations have canceled their Sunday morning and Wednesday night Bible classes while maintaining the Sunday morning and evening worship services. Others have canceled all assemblies until further notice.

Due to these changes, I have witnessed what I believe to be some rather “loose” accusations made of unfaithfulness to the Lord, and a lack of faith in God against brethren and entire churches, because of their decisions to alter their weekly assemblies.

More than likely, we’re familiar with the passage which exhorts us to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some…” (Hebrews 10:25). However, I think it is a serious mistake to attempt to apply this exhortation to brethren who are looking out for the health of vulnerable Christians among them. There is a vast difference in “forsaking” the assembling of the saints, which this passage forbids, and “missing” the assembling of the saints which is what is currently taking place due to the virus. The word translated, “forsaking” means “to abandon, leave behind, or desert.”

For instance, would we charge the sick and shut-in with sin, because they are missing the worship assemblies? Of course not. The reason is because the command is discussing “forsaking,” not “missing” the assembly. The sick have not “abandoned, left behind, or deserted” the assembling of the saints, but they do miss the assembling of the saints. What if you were getting in your car to come to worship service when you noticed your neighbor, who also was going to church, stagger, grab his chest, and fall in his driveway? Would you leave him there so you could get to church because, after all, there’s that command to not forsake the assembly, or would you call 9-1-1 and stay with him until help arrived? Surely, you would do the later, which would be the right thing to do. Would it cause you to miss the assembling of the saints? Yes, more than likely, but in missing, you had not abandoned, left behind, or deserted” the practice of assembling.

In both cases above, a Christian missed the worship assembly, but they did not at all sin by “forsaking” the assembling of the saints. Brethren, the actions that some congregations are taking to protect their most vulnerable members, does not demonstrate a lack of faith in God, but rather a deep love and deference toward their more vulnerable brothers and sisters in Christ. Furthermore, many Christians work throughout the week in populations that are very vulnerable and at risk. Taking temporary precautions that can save their lives might require that some “miss” out on our usual practices, but it doesn’t mean they have “forsaken” the assembly and the Lord. Give it some thought.

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Comments 12

  • thank you for this article, made me feel better as I missed worship today due to im over 60 and have diabetes and only miss when im sick. I never looked at it that way. i am not forsaking. thank you

  • There are so many churches that “live stream” that we listened to an excellent sermon in Columbia SC this morning and Mt Juliet TN tonight..We certainly didn’t feel like we were forsaking the assembly and your excellent article exemplified that! Thank you!

  • Excellent article. Our congregation streamed two services on Sunday, after canceling both services. Good eldership in a crisis.

  • Thank you for this article. Having to miss some evening services due to vision problems and so thankful to watch Mike Baker at Concord Church of Christ , Orlando Fla. We know that God understands , but still feel less guilty getting to see the lessons!!

  • Logic and common sense should prevail… always. During flu seasons, people that are high risk should be cautious and take precautions. No one who is sick – fever, etc should attend worship and out others at risk.
    However I disagree on the congregation closing the doors for those not sick and not at risk.
    If I have to explain that, then we need to discuss the fundamentals of why we assemble in the first place.

  • Hello Jim,
    Thanks for taking time to reply. I must say that I agree with your initial statement…”Logic and common sense should prevail.” But I disagree with your application of that principle. You permit those at “high risk” should be “cautious and take precautions.” I would assume that you would not therefore, condemn them if they decided to stay home due to a high-risk period. So my question is…who gets to decide what is “high risk?” Is it 75% of a class are vulnerable to a certain situation? If so, what about 74%? When does it stop being “high risk” and receiving your approval? You see, the fact is, this is a matter of judgment that must be governed with patience and kindness, not accusations of being unfaithful to God as some have asserted.

  • Those decisions are to be made by our leaders for our total well being both spiritually and physically. We can carry germs, but not be affected, thus contaminating others .

  • Why not keep the doors open and let each person decide for themselves?

  • Bill, because the poor judgment of some can mean the life of others. I think most would acknowledge that if the doors remain open, our most vulnerable, high-risk population will be present because of their sense of responsibility and duty.

    But this is an autonomy issue. Each congregation can choose for themselves how they want to handle this crisis. Therefore, God’s people need to refrain from passing judgment on each other.

  • There remain churches holding services regardless of state mandates of no more than a few people gathered. The issue with churches remaining in open door service mode (even classes) is some members have the mentality that if the doors are open they absolutely must be there or else.

  • I have always attended worship more than once on Sunday, Wednesday Night, Ladies Evening Bible Class and only if I was very sick did I stay home. However, where we live in North Georgia the virus is now a killer. Where did most of the victims get exposed-at a place of worship? Now the manager at Walmart is sick, 6 employees there are ill, and many, many of Liberty Square Church (6 miles from my house) are sick. The elders of each congregation will be our guide, but I do ask the elderly to be careful about leaving the house. The last count of those infected here was 19 yesterday and I do not have the count today. God wants us to care for our elderly parents and to take care of our bodies.

  • Thank you Steve.

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