I. An Announcement of Reopening
The Session of Global Mission Church has approved the reopening of our building for corporate Sunday worship. After the precautionary two-week shutdown, the Session requested COVID19 testing for all of the full-time pastoral staff (i.e., the ones who come inside the church building every day). Everyone tested negative. Moreover, several other EM members have also reported test results of negative. We are confident that there was no spread to any other members or to any other part of the building. The Session, therefore, has determined that it is safe to reopen.
Corporate Worship will resume this coming Sunday, July 5,2020. Our service times will be at 9:00AM and 1:30PM.
II. A Call to Unite Under a Common Vision
As before, some of our members will choose to come, and some will choose not to come. Please let your own conscience guide your decision. However,after you make a decision, it is imperative that you respect the decision of others. Please understand that it is not wrong to come, nor is it wrong not to come. This is why it is important not to pass judgment on your brothers and sisters (see Romans 14:1-13). What I mean is this: attendees must not think that non-attendees have a low view of corporate worship, and non-attendees must not think that attendees have a low view of public safety. This is a time when“each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5), and none of us should despise or pass judgment on the other (Romans 14:3).
Nevertheless, we cannot simply “co-exist” passively with our different opinions. We must actively unite under a common vision. What is that vision?
Right now, some of us think it is time to reassemble for corporate worship. Others of us think it is too soon. However, I trust that all of us would love to see (someday) corporate worship safely restored.In other words, though we presently differ about when it is safe to assemble, I trust that we all desire the same final picture: a sanctuary refilled with worshipers who all feel safe worshiping with other believers.
That is our common vision. Our vision is not merely a reopened church. Our vision is a refilled church.
If that is the future vision, when then is the present task?
Task for those who are not yet ready to come: (a) Pray for yourself. Pray every week and ask the Lord to continue guiding your conscience.
Pray, “Father, at this time, I am still under the conviction that it is not Your will for me to reassemble with GMC. But if You desire that my conviction should be otherwise, then let your Spirit direct my thinking. Let your Spirit remind me of Scriptures that are tucked away in the basement of my mind. Let your Spirit sharpen my logical reasoning. Let your Spirit grant me holy and heavenly intuition. Let your Spirit help me to see what I must see and to reevaluate what I must reevaluate. Lord, until now, in good conscience and with faith, I have stayed home. Once more would you either confirm or redirect my conscience in accordance with your will. Amen.”
(b) Pray for the flourishing of the corporate worship that has reopened. Though you might have disagreed about the timing of our opening, it is important to be careful that you do not secretly wish the church to fail so that you would be proven right. Make sure that there is not a cell in your body that ever wants to say to the church, “See, I told you so.” Instead, remember that we all have the same vision. We all desire the same final picture:a sanctuary refilled with worshipers who all feel safe worshiping with other believers. Pray, therefore, that the Lord would preserve, protect,and prosper the congregation towards that end. Pray, “Lord, personally I am still unsure about how safe it is to return, but you know that I love the Bride of Christ. I want it to do well. Bless the ones who have gathered. Be glorified in the assembly of the saints you have called. Let GMC flourish. It can only do me good that GMC flourishes. Amen.”
Task for those who come: Since our vision is are filled church, our task must be to build the church as a safe and responsible gathering. There are two factors involved in this: (a) the church must implement every safety measure inside the building, and (b) church members should practice safe lifestyles outside the building.
With this in mind, we will implement one additional safety measure for Sunday: For the sake of ensuring zero contact between members, we will request all members to proceed immediately to their vehicles after the conclusion of the worship service (with the exception of any service teams). Please understand that our intention is not to deprive you of the joy of greetings and fellowship. Instead, we are doing this to prioritize our vision to refill corporate worship someday. By returning home immediately, you will be doing your part to help rebuild the confidence of others that corporate Sunday worship at GMC is safe to attend.
This also applies to your life outside of church. As you conduct your daily life, I want to encourage you to keep our vision always before you. Ask yourself regularly, “What can I forego to help my brothers and sisters feel safer about returning to corporate worship?” The following is a biblical train of thought: “Though I have the right to ______________, I will temporarily lay down that right for the sake of others.” In this case, “others”are your brothers and sisters who all desire corporate worship, but ares till waiting for that sense of peace in their heart that it is safe enough for them to return. Therefore, ask yourself this question regularly, “Is _______ a pleasure that I can give up temporarily, so that my brother or sister in Christ can have peace about coming back someday?”
Granted, there will be times when you determine that something is not a pleasure but a necessity (for example,to bear the burdens of another). In such cases, consider still (1) every possible safety measure you can exercise [e.g., masks, distancing, etc.]. But also consider (2) whether or not it is wise to publicize on social media,especially since others may not know the full context of your photo/video. As a general principle, it is always good to practice these words of Scripture: “aspire to live quietly” (1 Thessalonians 4:11). It means this: do what you have determined was necessary to do, and let that simply be between you and the Lord. In other words, even in your social media usage, keep in mind our vision to refill corporate worship.
Only the Lord knows when we will all reassemble. Perhaps it will still be a while. Moreover, our goal is certainly not to rush anyone else. But we want to aim for a life that helps others gain confidence about reassembling, rather than lose confidence.
III. A Final Word for All of Us
Please understand the current situation of the church. There are differences of opinion within our EM regarding what is safe, what is risky, what should resume, what should not resume, etc. These differences are highly sensitive. This means that there is a high potential for disunity. Permanent disunity. We may not come out of this pandemic as one church.
However, differences of opinion do not have to result in disunity. But it will, if we are not watchful. To maintain our unity, everyone must be watchful in two areas: (1) Our pride. Let these words from the Apostle Paul guide you: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). This verse speaks for itself. We must never look only to our own interests. We must also always look to the interests of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
(2) Our vision. We can hold hands even with differences of opinion, if our eyes are fixed on the same vision. This is why we held hands prior to the pandemic. All of us gathered every week to pursue Christ’s ultimate vision for the church: to mature into the image of Christ by hearing and obeying the Word of Christ (Ephesians 4:13-15). We all looked in unison at the same long-term vision.
But right now, our unity is being put to the test. Will we still be one church when this pandemic is over? I sure hope so. But to remain united, we must all respect each other’s opinions, and then look together at the same“short”-term vision: a sanctuary refilled with worshipers who all feel safe worshiping with other believers. That is our common vision. I hope and pray that we will all work as one towards this same goal.
By the grace of God, one day the pandemic will be over, and every last one of us will be gathered together again, and our beloved red chairs in Hope Chapel will be refilled at last.
Until then…Onward, GMC! Onward in unison. Onward in the same vision.
With love for you all,
Pastor Daniel Chin
Pastor Daniel Chin is the lead pastor of Global Mission Church English Ministry. You can contact him via email here.