Rick McDaniel: Coronavirus church reopening – Services start Sunday. Here's the key question

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It’s been 11 Sundays since Richmond Community Church had a live Sunday service. But this Sunday that unbelievable streak ends. We will meet together again at our Glen Allen campus.

Of course, it will not look like the last time we met on Sunday, March 8. There will be no hugging or handshaking, no passing of the offering bags, no refreshments after the service. And the auditorium capacity is capped for physical distancing.

Just to come this Sunday you have to pre-register to attend the service. We’ve had five Christmas Eve services to accommodate the crowds but we never required a registration. Now you need to register just to attend a service the Sunday after Memorial Day.

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There will be those who choose not to attend. And that is fine. We don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. But we do want to be open for those who desire to attend. Who desperately want to be back at church.

Some will say it is wrong to reopen, we are putting lives at risk. But we are not forcing anyone to attend, only offering the option. They can continue to attend our online service. We were the first church in Virginia to have an online campus over 12 years ago. We are quite comfortable doing ministry in this format.

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We don’t have many people in the high-risk category of over 60 in our church. We are following the governor’s mandate and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. I can’t see a compelling reason for our church not to start having live services again.

In fact, the biggest question is not, should we have services, but rather, what is God saying to us? What is the message from this pandemic for the church? Is this enormous disruption for a purpose?

There is an amazing story in the history book of the New Testament. The book of Acts tells us how the early church began and expanded. It gives us a timeline of church growth and shares the stories of church leaders who led the way.

One of the most fascinating stories is about the apostle Paul. He was the Christian leader who started churches and wanted to continue expanding the church into Asia.

Since God has a purpose for all of us then he must be up to something. This virus certainly did not take him by surprise. Is there something new we need to discover? 

But God stopped him. He did not allow Paul to preach the Gospel, he actually stopped him twice. Acts 16: 6-7 tells us, “Paul and his friends went through Phrygia and Galatia but the Holy Spirit would not let them preach in Asia. After they arrived in Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia but the Spirit of Jesus would not let them.”

What a remarkable event. Throughout the New Testament Christ-followers are told to preach the Gospel, to share the good news and yet here God stops it. Just like the church has been stopped from meeting since March.

Could God do his greatest work in the new reality of a broken plan?

Since God has a purpose for all of us then he must be up to something. This virus certainly did not take him by surprise. Is there something new we need to discover?

Paul ended up going to Macedonia. And it changed history. Christianity advanced from Asia to Europe. The Church was established in Europe and then spread throughout the world. There are now over 2 billion Christians.

It never would have happened without God’s disruption.

Paul responded enthusiastically and positively to the change in his plans. He is the one who wrote the poignant words “All things work together for good to those that love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”

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Paul could have been mad at God or felt sorry for himself. He could have begrudgingly gone to Europe but not given himself to the work. But instead, he established the church in many cities.

We are like Paul in a situation we did not plan to be in. No one could have ever predicted churches would be stopped from meeting on Sundays for services. It’s a total disruption, a complete change from everything we normally do.

Paul went to Macedonia because he had a dream of a man asking him to come over and help them. In the midst of this change to our lives and church there is an opportunity to do even greater good. To have a higher impact.

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The Church is not stopped, certainly not defeated. We have a new chance, a new possibility. Jesus went to Calvary and all seemed lost but he triumphed over it and won the victory.

And we can too.

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