Why We Should Stop Meeting Together
By Dr Alex Tang
Why should Christians stop meeting together during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic? Is it because we lack faith that God will protect us? Did God not promise His protection in Psalm 91:5-6 that we may not “fear the terror of night… nor the plague that destroys at midday”?
More and more churches are suspending their services and other meetings in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Many are instead streaming their services online, or have a link to other online platforms to provide their members encouragement, connection and the Word of God.
The meeting of together physically is an important part of the Christian church tradition. We meet together for koinonia; communion, fellowship, prayer, worship and edification. Even in times of extreme persecution, the Church has always tried to meet together secretly in spite of the danger. So why should we not have a physical face-to-face meeting now? Why should we try to cancel all physical events?
Not lacking faith, but we don’t test God
First, it is not a lack of faith in God when churches suspend their physical meetings. Instead, it is having faith in a God who created rational human beings so that they will behave rationally. Yes, God has promised His protection. But do we then step off a 10-storey building and trust Him to send His angels to catch us before we go splat? Didn’t Psalm 91:11–12 say, “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways… so that you will not strike your foot against a stone”?
We need to think if this an issue of faith or pride. The devil suggested the same to Jesus when he brought Him to the highest point of the temple and told Him to jump. The enemy even quoted Psalm 91:11-12 (yes, he knows the Scriptures too). But Jesus’ response was instructive. He said that we are not to test God, quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.”
As Jesus rightly said, the issue here is not about faith but about testing God. In Massah, the Israelites argued with Moses about the lack of water, and Moses rebuked them for testing God with their disobedience and lack of faith. That is why Moses’ generation did not see the Promised Land, but were condemned to wander the desert for forty years until they were all dead (Psalm 95:8-10).
So when we question each other about our faith or lack thereof, we must be sure that it is not to test God. Sometimes, we just want to see if He will keep His word. I would like to suggest that the suspension of meeting together is not a lack of faith, but an act of worship to God.
Social distancing is our responsibility
Second, social distancing is found to be an effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19. This virus can only live in human beings and is spread from one human to another by droplets (coughing) and contact (including contaminated tables and chairs). The virus spreads easily when groups of people come together and one of them is infected. When the infected person is identified quickly and treated (there is no effective treatment, just supportive), the virus dies and cannot spread.
Stopping human-to-human spread will curb the pandemic. Hence, the need to cancel all public gatherings where people come together. This is called social distancing and it is our social responsibility to act on it. It is to protect one another, especially those over 65 years old who are most at risk to die from this virus.
Another effect of social distancing is that it slows the spread of the coronavirus. If too many people are infected and become sick at the same time, our healthcare system will be overwhelmed such as is happening in Italy and Iran right now, and what happened in China.
Can we do anything about it?
Again, no. What we can do in our little part of the world is to maintain our personal hygiene and trust our own healthcare services to do their job.
Some practical tips for us all
- Stay at home as much as possible.
- Avoid trips both local and overseas if possible (even if you have paid, your health is more precious than your money).
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water at home, and with hand sanitizer outside the house.
- If anyone is sick with fever and cough, stay at home and do not visit your friends.
- ‘Tapau’ / takeout and eat at home as much as possible.
- If you have to eat out, use hand sanitizer to spray and wash the area you will be sitting and bring your own eating utensils.
- Avoid touching your nose and face and then your mouth.
- Try to sit two meters away from other people.
- Avoid crowded places, even playgrounds and open-air spaces.
This social responsibility is our act of worship to love our neighbours. The decision to cancel or suspend face-to-face church activities is a responsible response to the coronavirus pandemic. Churches must find different ways to connect with their congregations online, as the technology to do so is already available. Let’s continue to pray that the pandemic will be over soon and we can resume our traditional services.
This article is the personal opinion of our guest writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Our Daily Bread Ministries. It has been slightly edited from the original here.
About the Author
Dr Alex Tang is a preacher, speaker, social technocrat, author and founder of Kairos Spiritual Formation Ministries. He is also Senior Consultant Paediatrician at KPJ Johor Specialist Hospital in Johor Bahru and Associate Professor of Paediatrics, Clinical School in Monash University. Dr Tang teaches practical theology and is adjunct faculty at Malaysia Bible Seminary (MBS) in Malaysia and East Asia School of Theology (EAST) in Singapore. You may also visit his website www.alextang.org
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