Friday, April 24, 2020

We're Going Back to Church

Last night, the elders of our church announced that we are going to open our doors again for in-building fellowship. We did not arrive at this commitment without much consternation, as there are a variety of factors that go into such a decision. Our society has not yet reached even the fringes of normalcy, but I hope that as more organizations find resolve in getting back to what we were doing before this mess that we can, at least, start to feel normal again.

A central aspect to what "normal" is for the Christian is participating in the fellowship of the Christian family. In fact, this participation is more than something "normal," it's a way of life. It's like regular exercise -- without it we're unhealthy and find ourselves on a destructive path. Yet in the past few weeks, Christians (by and large) have been without the fellowship of God's people and have suffered for it. Sure, our phones, laptops, and smart TVs have pumped in video messages and given us some spiritual fodder to chew on for a bit, but that's not fellowship. That's not corporate worship.

It's time for us to start up real church services again.

There are a variety reasons a church would seek to gather in their own buildings again at the present moment (including, but not limited to: faithful obedience to the New Testament imperative to gather, desire to see and hear the closest of friends, setting aside fear for the sake of love, exercise of our rights as outlined in the Constitution, uncertainty of statistics related to Covid-19 as seen in a variety of discrepancies, precedent set by organizations and businesses that have remained open and have been just fine, and benefits of herd immunity). Yet, we recognize there's also a list of thoughtful reasons why some churches aren't gathering yet. But we're not one of those churches.

The heart behind our decision at Payson Bible Church is providing for the needs of God's people. The Lord has richly blessed our local church ministry with a building and such buildings are far and away net-positive. Though they come with maintenance and a variety of distractions, they serve a great purpose in the life of local Christians. Our building is our main gathering place for hearing the word of God, speaking the word of God, and singing the word of God. This is the place where we receive edification.

And that's the word: edification. The word means "to build up," as seen in the passage from Ephesians 4 below (with emphasis added).
11 And He (God) gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Our church building is the central hub for our weekly building up of one another in love. Sure, there are other ways that our church is edified, but we have to recognize that in this culture, our brick-and-mortar is the hub. The building God has gifted us with is our home base for regular gatherings and, for some, it's the only place where regular, face-to-face biblical encouragement can be found. Withholding such a vital element of a person's life can only go on so long.

Therefore, we're going back to church. Although society is not back to normal, we're taking a step toward normal on our property.

Again, this is not an objectively correct decision. There will be those who do not feel comfortable returning to our building and that's absolutely fine. We are not seeking to bring people back under compulsion. We are, however, seeking to make space for those who desire to get back to the regular Sunday morning edification while maintaining love, support, and attention toward those who aren't ready to darken the door.

May we honor the Lord every step of the way.


  1. Isn't it possible to edify ourselves online, in a Zoom gathering, or in another way that doesn't risk our health? The Church is the people, not the building. Is this really wise?

  2. To be fair to my article, please recognize how I stated that the building is the "main hub" of edification and how I also stated, "Sure, there are other ways that our church is edified..."

    I even said, "We recognize there's also a list of thoughtful reasons why some churches aren't gathering yet."

    If you're convicted about not being in a church building, please work that out with God and not with me. If you're not convicted about avoiding a church building at the moment, then serve your Master in whatever you're doing in the meantime. I'm not your judge.

    This article only exists to explain our reasoning for opening our doors. In no way did I express all Christians should gather in buildings right now.

    A final note... If you read the announcement I linked in the first sentence, we state to our church and to all who read the announcement that not everyone is comfortable gathering at this time and that is absolutely fine. Our goal is to show grace to one another in love with humility.