on assembling | in dialogue with “Jerome”

on assembling | in dialogue with “Jerome” July 25, 2020

Wearing the mask does not interfere with my walk with Jesus, but being barred from assembling does. – “Jerome”

One of the key themes in this piece is assembling, not in the Constitutional sense as much as in the Biblical sense.  Assembling is clearly is a thread woven throughout our dialogue.

It has been awhile since I’ve posted a piece in a category I call “In Dialogue.”  To see more from this category of articles CLICK HERE

These are typically informal conversations with various people who definitely have something to bring to the conversation.  Jerome is one of those people, although we’ve decided to change his name to respect his anonymity.[1]

Jerome and I have an ongoing thread from which this snippet of dialogue is taken.  To set this up, he had read my writing from last week.

on masks, power plays, and the virtue of prudence

Jerome

I personally believe in the mask, but more importantly in washing my hands often.[2]

Wearing the mask does not interfere with my walk with Jesus, but being barred from assembling does.

And, prudence is a good thing.

Group
Nicolas Lobos | Group | 01.20.20 | unsplash

You are probably aware of the state’s crackdown and orders against indoor worship and singing during gatherings here in California.

What are your thoughts in regard to the Scripture that says that the worshippers of God are not to forsake assembling together? (Hebrews 10.25)

Jared

That’s an easy question to ask, but a difficult one to answer.

1st) I think it’s against the Constitution at this point. Declarative law does not override Constitutional law.

2nd) It’s bad science to say you can’t sing.  It was proven to be wrong awhile ago by studies of singing in Europe.

3rd) It’s tough to know if you’re protecting your flock as their shepherd, or just making them feel comfortable because they’re afraid of the state.

4th) The martyrs had it a lot worse and they still gathered.  I believe they understood the Biblical mandate to gather as the Body of Christ was more important than what their magistrates were demanding.

That being said, as a pastor in my church I don’t make the final call, my elders do.  So we were closed and cautiously reopened on May 31st.  I’m okay with taking little steps.

If people see we’re being cautious, they’ll return to church.  If they think we’re just being careless, they’ll stay home.  Some of the PCG churches in California are open, worshipping, and exercising due diligence.

This is a brief article from one of the top columnists on Patheos, where I write too.  He shared some information from studies in Europe on singing.

Singing Is Unlikely to Spread COVID-19 by Gene Veith [3]

Jerome

I agree with most of what you said.  The mandate from God does not allow for exceptions.

Jared

I agree Theologically.  In practice I have been taking extra steps to help my parishioners come back and be comfortable when they do.  I don’t want to condemn them for not being here.

Theologically we know the truth.  Realistically communicating it and helping people walk it out is a little difficult for us.

What is your church doing?

Jerome

Our church is closed down per the governor’s orders.

How far do you go with submission before it becomes a denial of the faith?

Jared

Aren’t people having outdoor services?  Didn’t Bethel Redding have a service on the Golden Gate?

What about home churches?  This may force us to quit being tied to our buildings that are worth millions of dollars.  We might even end up operating more like the NT Church, thriving as an underground movement.

It also may make churches that are behind the times start to consider reaching people on the web, because people want to check us out online before they visit anyway.  Our church is an aging congregation, but they like what I’m doing for them online, so they’re buying a camera this week so we can livestream as a form of evangelism.

Jerome

No at the moment we don’t have outdoor services, only online.  I don’t feel that online meets the mandate that we are given as believers.  I understand there is fear, but fear is our enemy.

As you said earlier, the early church had more of a threat.  They were willing to pay the consequence.  The way to get people over their fear is by the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, right?  It’s no different than in early times.  The threat is still here today and will only get worse.

I asked my pastor whether he had considered outdoor services.  The older men and women should be all they can, but minister with the young people.

I place my allegiance with God and not man.  I respect both, but sometimes we need to help our brothers along even if they are pastors.  So, I figured a non-threatening way to ask about outdoor services in the parking lot was to ask by text.

You are right we need to get out of our buildings and do more open air, old school tent meetings.  I heard back from my pastor.  The message was online, but the service quality would be diminished outdoors.

We don’t need beautiful buildings.  We need a combination of home churches and a place where a general assembly can be held, because I’m less comfortable with our worship centers . . . my opinion.

Jared

I agree.  Online services are good for our older members who are now homebound.  They have no other way to attend.  Online is also a real way to help evangelize.  However, nothing beats fellowshipping together in person.  There really is no way around it Biblically.

Some of our churches have even done drive-in church.  People sit in their cars and watch the service on an outdoor stage.

One pastor I know 1) has his pew chairs arranged in small clusters for families, but the clusters of chairs are spaced apart to provide for social distancing.  2) When he preaches he opens his laptop and starts a Facebook Live.  3) Someone also shares his sermon through an FM transmitter.

Jerome

I like reading commentary notes by Dr. Constable.  You can find them at SonicLight

Take a look at his notes for the command telling the church not to forsake assembling and let me know what you think.[4]

I’m pretty simple when it comes to following orders.  I learned that in the military.  I either do or I don’t follow them.

This is a strange time for us but it’s not new to the church.  The Preacher man said there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1.9).

You are correct.  I believe we need to focus on home churches and maybe even prepare to have prepared places to meet as an underground church.  It sounds crazy but the church is going to see that again.

I was thinking this morning about my grandchildren.  They live in a house with parents that don’t practice faith in our God.  With Grandad they love to go to church and believe, but for over four months now they’ve been out of community.

You see, these lockdowns are doing great damage to the Body of Christ, 1 Peter 5.8.  There are many in the faith that are weak and isolated.

The internet at this point is a double-edged sword, used by seniors perhaps if they are bedridden and can’t get to church.  I don’t mean if it’s difficult for them, but if they really can’t get to church, then perhaps people should do what they used to do in the old days and take the church to them.

We can have service in their home with a handful of people, form a small group in their home if possible.  What if each child could stop what they’re doing to complete something like Sunday school handouts?

We need to do whatever it takes, refusing to take the easy way out like the woman with the blood issue who had to touch His hem, or the paralytic lowered through the roof (Mark 5.25-34; Luke 5.17-26).

You know the Kingdom is taken with violence, or desperation (Matthew 11.11-19).  That is the attitude that will bring revival.

Anyway brother thanks for chatting.

I miss you guys and wish you were still here, but God had other plans for you.


Meet Jared

Pastor, Long Lake Friends Church
Supervised Therapist, JC Ingle, Inc.
Traverse City, MI

notes:

[1] The name Jerome

I chose the name Jerome because of how intrigued I am with the Church Father who bears that name.  He’s most known for his Latin translation of the Bible.  What may be lost to popular church history is that Jerome not only corresponded with Augustine, they also often teamed up together to fight heresy or formulate doctrine.

Augustine was the silver-tongued, chief orator of the Roman Empire when it was stationed in Milan.  After he was saved and became a bishop, he used his voice to diplomatically fight corruption and assist in the formation of key doctrines.

Jerome corresponded with him during that time, but Jerome had a way of saying what everybody really wanted to say.  He did not often mince words.  He seemed to operate very poignantly in his correspondence.  His passion and straightforward approach was seldom if ever off target, and neither was his command of Scripture.

[2] Jerome’s ability to speak about masks

Jerome also owns a business that requires a very high degree of sanitation, because of the nature of the work and the products.

[3] on singing in church

Gene Veith reports on current research about the question that is being posed in California right now about those who are assembling: Does singing in church risk spreading the coronavirus by projecting respiratory particles in the air?  Two German scientists have found that singing only sets air in motion for half a meter, making it highly unlikely that it could infect people practicing social distancing.

Singing Is Unlikely to Spread COVID-19 by Gene Veith

[4] Dr. Constable on assembling

We were messaging back and forth over the course of a few days, so I did not see Jerome’s particular note about Dr. Constable until later, and his thoughts on assembling.  It turns out that Pastor Tom Constable is a retired professor from Dallas Theological Seminary and the founding Pastor of a congregation in Plano, Texas where he is still an elder.  Indeed, Dr. Constable’s opinion is serious about Hebrews 10.25 and the Biblical mandate for assembling, so our refusal to gather with a local body of believers is inexcusable.

Dr. Constable’s notes on assembling in Hebrews 10.25


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