Editor’s Introductory Note: Here at SurvivalBlog, over the years, we’ve talked a lot about the importance of good doctrine, when finding a church home. We’ve also delved into discussing the role of local churches in dispensing charity. And we’ve discussed home-churching. And more recently, we’ve discussed the need for organizing and training armed security for churches. But today, we present a new wrinkle: How to keep a church group meeting regularly in times of pandemic, while at teh same time minimizing the risk of communicating diseases. Please prayerfully consider what ShepherdFarmerGeek has to say. If you then feel convicted to do so, please bring up this topic with your church elders, and take some substantive steps.
Pray the 91st Psalm, often. We are surely now living in the day of “…the noisome pestilence.” – JWR
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.” – Psalm 91 (KJV)
“Faced with these crises in nature individually, it could be possible to fix the problems causing them. But confronted with multiple interlinked emergencies that in combination amplify one another’s impacts, people are facing unprecedented dangers and many communities cannot cope.” – Fiona Harvey 
Ah, yes, this global pandemic is coming into focus. Our country will be affected. The virus is worse than the media (and government) wanted us to believe. And so here we are. And we need to give attention to our churches so that their ministry and the Good News (actually Great! News) continues to get out.
We need to break the inertia and normalcy bias and denial and outright un-Biblical theology (God will do it all for us and we “only need to pray”). The time is now.
IDEAS TO CONSIDER
1. Tell people to stay home if they don’t feel well.
2. Have more worship services so that there will be fewer people per service and there can be more space between people. (Space them out!)
3. Live-stream the worship service as well. E-mail (or make available for download) songsheets for that Sunday’s worship songs. The worship team could even send links to YouTube worship sing-along videos if it turns out that worshiping with the live-streamed worship team isn’t working well. Will require an email sign-up.
4. Encourage everyone who can to view worship and preaching online. Offer to send someone if families need technical support for this.
5. Families with young children who cannot maintain masks and goggles and hand hygiene must be encouraged to not come to the building for services.
6. Strongly discourage anyone from attending the worship service without a mask and goggles. If we had a huge supply we could provide them to people who show up without them, but currently the good masks cost about $5 each…
7. Hand out basic hygiene information to everyone who doesn’t already have a copy.
8. Pastor and leaders set a good example for PPE and hygiene. Elbow bumps instead of handshakes and hugs?
9. Pastor must teach about the difference between faith and presumption. Must teach about the role of personal responsibility and preparedness versus trusting God to provide everything. (Seatbelts, fire extinguishers, life insurance, employment…)
10. In a national crisis people will want to turn to God, and might be more interested in attending church than ever once they see that they and their families could be permanently injured or killed by this pandemic. We need to help them understand why we’re doing what we’re doing. This would be a great time to have Bibles (actually New Testaments are more helpful for seekers) and tracts and information about our church to hand out.
11. We need to be equipping our congregation to function as the Church in smaller settings now! What literature do they need? What resources? MP3 song tracks? Songsheets? Who will teach them if the pastor is unavailable, sick or dead and physical meetings are difficult or impossible?
12. Consider putting up a sign outside the main door with these guidelines and an explanation for visitors.
13. Cancel every service that we feel we can – Men’s Bible Study, Sunday School, etc.
14. Run the air handling circulation fan more and cycle in more fresh air to the auditorium.
15. Make sure that the church has a substantial amount of cash on hand to operate if/when banks are closed or inaccessible. Set up an accountability system. If banks close in an economic collapse all of our money in those accounts could be gone.
16. Have a plan – if things get really bad – for the pastor to do his sermons from home. What tech would he need to do this?
17. We need to train and empower our families with “permission” (and written materials) to lead their families or a small group of families in the Lord’s Supper. (We’d recommend going so far as to hand out grape juice and Matzo crackers to every head of household.) And we probably need to have people ready to perform funerals and weddings and maybe even give those persons counseling resources (not books – concise handouts).
18. Many of us have read “Preparing for the Underground Church” – now it’s time to act on those insights. Act! The church must be able to function without its buildings and possibly even without its pastor. (The time to raise up other worship leaders from the congregation, and others capable of pastoral functions is past. Now we’re just going to have to do the best we can do.) See here .
19. Is there an online resource we can use for real-time conference call “meetings”? For prayer, for leadership, etc.
20. We need to get serious about being able to communicate securely. In a crisis, with martial law and an Antichrist in the wings, we simply cannot continue to communicate the way we are.
THE TIME IS NOW
If we don’t start doing this a before COVID becomes a crisis We. Won’t. Be. Ready. – we won’t have developed new habits and families won’t have the needed masks and other resources.
This is going to break down most noticeably with masking/goggles for children. Fortunately, children seem the least affected by the virus, but parents who take them out in public are going to have a massive burden of guilt if their kids do get sick.
Masks and goggles are inconvenient, uncomfortable, strange and seem very un-spiritual for people who supposedly “trust God” to keep them safe. We need to teach a theological basis for preparedness!
The reality is we’re probably going to have to wait until there are prominent deaths or official quarantines (or martial law) before our congregation will comply. The preppers in the congregation should be OK with these measures, but everyone else will hold this against the pastor if the local deaths and social dysfunction don’t turn out to be severe. People may bail from the church until later when the wisdom of these steps becomes obvious.
Whatever we do needs to be sustainable for months, maybe even the entire rest of the year. We can pretty much guarantee that other crisis are going to come up and we’ll need to fit our response to them into the context of our pandemic preparedness.
JUST DO IT
How many of us have thought that these were the End Times? I guess we got complacent? Got too busy? Forgot what the Bible actually says to “make disciples“? Where are the worship leaders and pastors in training? What’s it going to take for us to do what we know we should do?
Trust God. Be prepared. We can do both. Tick tock…