We are commanded in Scripture to "not forsake the assembling of ourselves." (Hebrews 10:25) Along with that command the NT invites us on 59 occasions to practice a variety of "one another’s" which can only be fulfilled in the context of fellowship. All of this leads us to a question: in light of the current state restrictions on gathering as a church, how are we to respond?
One possibility is to not comply. Some churches have chosen to do that. Some believe that since God is commanding us to gather and the state is passing laws not to gather, it is an occasion for civil disobedience. Other churches have chosen another direction. In light of passages like Romans 13:1, these churches have chosen to remain in "submission to governing authorities." Both decisions are biblical and have to be made in accordance with one’s conscience and the direction God leads.
The leadership of Immanuel Bible Church will be meeting the next few days to creatively find a way forward in prayer to gather in accordance with state law. This will include additional meetings in small groups both in the church and at homes. While we will continue to live stream on Sundays, outdoor services both at homes and church can be up to 25 people, while indoor services are limited to 10.
Keep in mind that the executive order issued by Governor Murphy is temporary. While I do not agree with all the facets of the order itself, I do believe that the governor and state health agencies have the best interests of the public in mind. As believers, civil disobedience is to be done only on rare occasions. I do not think we have yet to come to the point that we need to do that. While many of us are frustrated by the current restrictions, let us remember that this is temporary and an opportunity to trust the Lord for a few more weeks.
So let us pray together that God would grant us wisdom during this unusual time of COVID. Let us trust God that while it is a great time of loss, it is also a season for God to do a new work in our church and in our hearts. Finally, let us pray that God would continue be glorified and lifted up through Immanuel as we to lift up the name of Jesus, that the world may come to know Him.