Where We Stand on Safety, Singing, and Scripture as our Authority for Worship1
Where does GCBC stand in terms of safety, singing, and Scripture as our authority for worship?
Here is the short version followed by the expanded explanation from last Sunday (7/26):
1. GCBC is committed to continue gathering, in safety and unity
2. GCBC is discussing when to move our primary services inside in keeping with #1 (for more on this see notes on #2 farther down below).
3. GCBC is committed to continue singing, whether outside or inside, and we believe worship decisions fall under Scripture and a Church's jurisdiction rather than the State's
See more below under #3 notes on the line crossed with singing bans intruding on biblical worship. After we meet as elders and deacons Monday 8/3 to discuss plans for August and beyond (including resuming indoor and other ministries at dates TBD) we will plan a time to share more in a Q&A. Feel free to let any elders know any questions to include in that time. Or send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
To review or read the longer initial answers from last Sunday's message, what follows represents the elder discussions for the above 3 points. Below are quotes from last Sunday's message with notes in brackets for further clarification and explanation and supporting scriptures [Click here for the full message audio and video]
1. GCBC is committed to continue gathering, in unity and safety
Romans 13:9-10 “…love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to your neighbor…” (NKJV)
- "us making sure that we’re minimizing any potential harm to them is an important way for us to love"
- [One factor your shepherds shared early on is we have over 100 in our flock who are seniors. We want to honor and include them with all the gathered flock as much as possible while exercising special care for them and giving attention to what makes them comfortable and able to attend, see Acts 20:28, Leviticus 19:32, Ps 148:11-12, etc. Click here for more on what we're doing for safety]
- "We’ve been talking about safety and unity for God’s glory."
Romans 15:5-6 NIV “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- "That’s talking about united corporate praise. There’s something about gathering together with many and uniting as one voice [at one time in one body if able. Our pursuit of unity and safety includes sensitivity to those with health concerns, spacing, adapting precautions with care, etc.).
2. GCBC is discussing when to move our primary services inside in keeping with #1 (including unity, safety, considering multiple services vs. one service)
- "pray for us in our plans for the fall
- we want to make plans in a way to be able to help the most of our people be with us
- for many, being able to spread out and have different options while others can be inside watching on the screen has been helpful for our people. Many are uncomfortable with gathering with hundreds inside – I would even include myself [Phil] in that to some degree.
- pray for us in our plans for the fall
- [will be talking with deacons 8/3 PM on indoor and outdoor options or maybe some combination - we recognize heat is a factor for safety for some as well. Note: for sanctuary seating, what other churches have done is seat every other row and keep two empty seats between families. We had more attending outside recently than one of our last indoor services in March, and with distanced seating not all can be in the sanctuary at the same time]
3. GCBC is committed to keep singing whether outside or inside and we believe worship decisions fall under Scripture and Church jurisdiction rather than the State's
- "Our ultimate authority isn’t what a respected church leader says or government leaders… honoring their authority, we also recognize Scripture gives commands for the governing of the church and its worship [see Hebrews 10:25, 1 Timothy 3:15, 5:17 (elders are to govern church), 1 Peter 5:2, etc.]. Scripture alone is what our forefathers in the Reformation stood on – this principle that Scripture alone governs our worship, the regulating principle of scripture
- As we’ve worked through that as elders, we’ve shared what our government has asked [CA Guidance from May-June] during the service here. We’re not policing or enforcing before or after the service, there’s the lines between the church and state, and we’ve said before how you interact, how you fellowship after or at home – those are questions for your own conscience. We’ve done our best to abide by all authorities as best we can in our conscience in these time recognizing the Lord as our highest authority
- [For more on the Lord Jesus as the ultimate authority and head over the church and its worship rather than the government, see Ephesians 1:21-23, Colossians 1:18, 1 Timothy 6:15, Mark 12:17, etc.]
- Singing is in a different category than how many can meet, where [indoors or outdoors], how far apart … those aren’t clear commands of God like singing is [with one another, Colossians 3:16-17, Psalm 100, 149:1, 150:1, 66:1-2, etc.] … we say as Christians, 'we must obey God rather than man' (Acts 5:29, 4:17-20). So I mentioned this month has been a turning point. It started July 1st CA Guidance … 'Places of worship must discontinue singing…'
- We strongly disagreed … us being outside is less restrictive but we need to not miss the point: that crosses over into another area. Many of us bent over backwards before that point in other mandates or ‘must’ statements, but at this point we’re not bowing forward. We need to be careful and understand the line is not just things that we don’t like or disagree with or are inconvenient, or we think are foolish or overblown. The line that’s being crossed – and we need to watch for this – is the how of worship, what we can or can’t do or say or sing in praise to our God.
- And so we’re not telling anyone that they can’t sing, whether inside or outside. We are singing … you can spread out more if you would like to, but we are going to sing! ... [a pastor friend of mine in another CA county was told] they can only have 25 outside, when thousands of other people can gather outside and sing and chant and sing and scream for other purposes … [political protests, but we say] with Acts 5:29 we must obey God rather than men.
- even if they were to ban all outside singing … even if they make all protestors stop chanting or singing, even if our Constitution didn’t say ‘government shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise of religion’ — we have a higher authority. Praising God may spread particles, I can tell you preaching spreads more… we're being safe, but I cannot and we cannot stop speaking about our Lord or singing about our Lord. They told Peter to stop preaching … ‘stop praising Jesus in church’ [is] in the same category. Or when [our same government may soon say] stop preaching on LGBT sins… we must obey God rather than men..."
Conclusion and call to stand with us from Sunday's message [not a protest in rebellion but a plea in faithfulness and obedience to Jesus Christ and His gospel]
Against "any ban on worship with the gathered church ... I stand with my brothers [pastor-elders here and in other churches] indoors or outdoors in solidarity ... Psalm 30 'I will sing your praise and not be silent, O Lord my God I will give thanks to you forever!' … We need to pray for churches. We need to stand with them. We have it better in our county but we can’t just think about that, we need to be praying about the church in our State and our nation… Standing like those in Bible times if this pattern continues and there’s other mandates – think of Daniel 3. They took heat in the literal … fiery furnace to not bow.
Or Daniel 6 when the king issued restrictions banning prayer to God … for 30 days, Daniel did not stop. The text says he kept on praying and praising God 3x a day like he did before that decree and was willing to pay the price. We have a far less oppressive government. Now it’s more a den of media lions that would eat us alive … Will we dare to stand alone? ... We need great wisdom as we do that but we need to stand up for Jesus … stand in His strength alone.
Jews in Babylon didn’t unwisely do huge gatherings but they were committed to worship. Whatever that looked like, we don’t even know, but the hill to die on literally for them was being told what they must or how they must worship or what they must not do in worship. And the Romans that Paul is writing to, these very Romans would later have to scatter to Roman catacombs. The privilege of meeting in buildings didn’t happen in the Roman empire till the 4th century, but they didn’t let Rome stop worship. Steve Lawson gave a lot of perspective in my class on the Reformation times and the Puritans [in the Great Ejection of 1600s]… they were no longer able to meet in their buildings but they gathered in the fields and kept on worshipping and preaching…
[Click here to listen in to a Romans 13 and worship discussion with Steve Lawson that I was a part of down at my seminary classes earlier in July - start at 15 minute mark]
Pray for your elders as we pray through plans for the rest of summer … strive to stay connected and unified in these times. I’ll tell you that takes great prayer, wisdom, support, love, and we need that. Romans 13 calls us to wake up and take up the armor of our Lord Jesus Christ …
O church, arise and put your armor on;
Hear the call of Christ our captain…
Our call to war, to love the captive soul,
But to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight with faith and valor…
So Spirit, come, put strength in ev'ry stride,
Give grace for ev'ry hurdle,
That we may run with faith to win the prize
Of a servant good and faithful." [Getty Music]