Opinion: Church is essential even if the government says it is not

When churches were first labeled as non-essential across the U.S., I felt my heart tighten. This pandemic was hitting hard. Not only was it attacking society at a physical level, but the mental health of many was suffering, too. You would think that during a time like this church would be crucial. Many governors did not agree.

Although as a believer, the fact that churches were not deemed important enough to stay open broke my heart. It also opened my eyes to a lot of unique opportunities for growth. When church became non-essential, it also granted us the opportunity to rethink its current impact and effectiveness. This government order, although tragic to Bible-believing America, also served to bring some issues to light that would have otherwise remained in the dark. 

1. Church is no longer as important in America.

The fact that many reluctantly stayed home when churches were added to the non-essential list diagnosed a big issue for  21st century believers. Going and serving at a local church, engaging in fellowship with other believers and singing in-person as a congregation have all, seemingly, ceased to be as important as they were before. 

An article published by The Gospel Coalition said when churches are lumped into the same reopening categories as nail salons, gyms and movie theaters, they become “nice to have” luxuries but no longer a necessity. Some people have stopped viewing church as a “must-have” for proper societal flourishing. Despite the fact that this is slightly terrifying, we know that not even the gates of hell can prevail against the church.

As believers we should heed to this warning and realize how important it is to remind the world of the church’s vital role within society. A recent study by Faithwire found that 21.5 percent of non-Christians are starting to read the Bible and listen to Bible teaching or sermons online, even though they didn’t before.

2. The church forgot who its
ultimate authority is.

As believers, we know we are called to conquer evil by doing good, to love others and ultimately to respect our authorities. These are some of the many ways in which we are able to display Christ’s character to the world. Although the book of Romans is clear when it calls us to submit to governing authorities, we cannot forget who established the church. Christ’s authority trumps every worldly authority, and the moment that worldly authority comes into direct contradiction with what God calls us to do, we must forsake it. 

The church has forgotten this. When it was declared non-essential, many churches submitted to the mandate willingly. The church must remain obedient to Christ’s authority over any other authority, and church is definitely not an option given to us by God.

Pastor John MacArthur, who came under fire for defying California Gov. Newsom’s order by continuing to host indoor church services, said: “Christ is Lord of all. He is the one true head of the church. He is also King of kings — sovereign over every earthly authority. As his people, we are subject to his will and commands as revealed in Scripture. Therefore, we cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.”

Even though COVID-19 has taken its toll on the church, it has also reminded us that there is still hope. Religious liberties might continue to be stripped away, but this should never stop the spread of the gospel nor the meeting of the saints. 

Despite the negative side effects quarantine has had on the church, we should be encouraged by the opportunity for improvement that it has served for us on a silver platter. May these unprecedented times be for us a stepping stone that leads to the revival of the church. May we remind everyone why the church was established in the first place.

Rosa Elias is an Opinion Writer. Follow her on Twitter at @rosaeliasnajri.

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