Our return to in person services.
As churches were making plans to return to in person services, many sent out a survey asking their members what safety measures would most likely cause them to return. We chose not do that and here’s why. We felt that was asking the wrong question. We felt the better question wasn’t what do we need to do to get people to come back, but rather who does God need us to be in this critical hour. In other words, what expression does God need His church to be in this moment of crises.
When God sent Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt, The Lord’s words to Pharaoh were, “Let my people go, so they can WORSHIP me.” (Exodus 8:1)
Obviously during the nearly 300 years of Egyptian captivity, the Hebrews worshipped God. Yet, according to this verse there was a level of worship Israel could never experience while in captivity. It was in liberty that Israel would be able to truly worship God. True worship happens in the place of freedom, not restrictions. For example, freedom to wear a mask without judgement, as well as freedom not to wear a mask—also without judgement.
Am I required to wear a mask?
We consulted with some local physicians and asked if there was a strong medical reason to mandate masks. Based on their feedback, we chose not to. In addition, you will not see our staff or volunteers wearing masks.
As a result of the lack of consistent medical proof of the efficacy of masks, people have the freedom to self-govern. If you are more comfortable wearing masks, you are free do to so. If you prefer not to wear a mask, you have the freedom to do that as well.
Is social distancing practiced?
There are no restrictions for gathering in the atrium or common areas. In addition, seating in our worship center is basically the same as Pre-Covid, though we have added extra space between rows. At times our worship center can become quite full. Consequently, if you would like more space between yourself and others, we will joyfully accommodate you by setting out additional chairs for you and your family separate from others.
We are wired for connection. The sense of community we all desire and need is as much a part of “church” as the sermon. As a result, if we were going to meet in person, we felt it needed to involve human connection. Advertising a “no contact” church service for example is an oxymoron. Without community through connection, all you’re left with is music and a sermon; that’s not church, that’s just an event. If we were going to gather together, while at the same time trying to stay away from each other, we might as well just stay online.
The safety precautions we do have in place
We strongly encourage the following to take advantage of our live stream experience:
- Those who have been in direct contact with anyone who has tested positive for Covid 19.
- Anyone who is symptomatic.
- Those who are considered “high risk.”
- Before Sundays, we fog our high traffic and children’s areas with a bio fresh treatment designed to kill bacteria and viruses on surfaces.
- Our children’s ministry classrooms are sanitized before and after every service. Each classroom has separate pre-sanitized toy bins for each specific service.
- Teachers and children wash/sanitize their hands upon entry into the classroom. Shoe covers are worn in the nursery classrooms. Teachers wear disposable gloves when serving snacks and changing diapers.
- Bathrooms are sanitized before and after each service.
- Hand sanitizer stations are available throughout our facilities
- We’ve also added HVAC ultraviolet technology that filters bacteria and viruses, purifying every square foot of air that passes through our air conditioning system.
A final word
At no time in the recorded history of the early church was it safe to be a Christian. Can you imagine the early church making decisions whether or not to meet based on how “safe” it was? If they had, there wouldn’t be a church today. The one thing the early church refused to do in the face of the most horrific circumstances, was to give up gathering—not just in small groups, but as many as could gather.
In Acts we read how unsafe it was to be a follower of Christ.
and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. (Acts 5:40)
Further down though we see the apostle’s response.
In Acts 5:42 we read, “Yet [in spite of the threats] they never ceased for a single day, both in the temple area and at home, to teach and to proclaim the good news (Gospel) of Jesus [as] the Christ (the Messiah).” (Acts 5:42 AMPC)
When it came to the threat of safety, the early church realized their primary call wasn’t to be safe, it was to be heard.
Christianity isn’t just about a family, but it’s also about a movement. Movements don’t happen by playing it safe or seeing how far we can stay away from each other. They happen when we pray, serve and give sacrificially. They happen when we gather together in homes to encourage one another. Movements also happen when we gather corporately.
The protests we have seen in our nation are an example of that. Those protesting aren’t struggling with whether or not they should gather en masse. They instinctively know there isn’t any way to create the show of force necessary by making sure they are social distancing. Their protests would have looked more like a parade than a national movement.
You can be sure it never entered their minds to lead their movement through a zoom call. They also knew the success of this movement wasn’t going to happen by gathering 15 or 20 people in a room and live streaming it. Their efforts would have looked weak and fractured. Instead of communicating a clear and bold sound, it would have come off more like an insecure whisper. The protesters have schooled us in what we as a church should never forget—the power of a crowd and the urgency of a message.
This is why by God’s grace, we will never close our doors at NLC. People must have a place to come where they can see a smile, experience a reassuring arm around their shoulder or have someone hold their hands in prayer.