In recent weeks, this has been one of the most difficult questions facing churches in Singapore: Should Christians still gather for church service?

There’s no easy answer. Depending on which camp you’re in, both “yes” and “no” are sensible replies (though maybe not to the other side!).

Some believe churches should do the socially responsible thing and stop the mass gathering of people, to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Others feel that Christians should continue meeting as a matter of principle and faith, as long as the necessary precautions are taken.

Several churches have suspended services for now, and their congregations are “attending” service through live streaming. Others have chosen to continue with their services.

So, which is the right response? Perhaps we need to go back to the deeper, more basic question: Why do we gather?

A quick look at several biblical references to the gathering of God’s people gives us a good picture of why believers come together:

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24–25)

When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. (1 Corinthians 14:26)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer . . . Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42–47)

These verses and others tell us some things about what happened when God’s people come together:

  • They worshipped and praised God, remembering their unity in the same faith.
  • They prayed.
  • They delved into God’s Word.
  • They ministered to each other and inspired each other to serve God.
  • They encouraged each other with what they experienced and learnt.
  • They broke bread and remembered Jesus’ sacrifice.
  • The Holy Spirit empowered them to heal, minister, and share the good news with others.

What’s notable is that many—if not most—of these things can happen even when God’s people do not meet in large groups. In fact, members of the early church often had to meet in small groups at home because they were under persecution. In many countries, Christians still do that because of restrictions on worship. Some “groups” can be as small as two or three… or one.

At the same time, there is real value in meeting in person. Being made in God’s image, we are naturally relational. Something special happens when we see and talk to each other, smile, and laugh together.

What does this all mean for us in this current situation?

It means that if we are worried about coming into contact with others and prefer to attend service at home, it’s okay. We need not feel guilty, for God understands our fears and worries. We can still carry out the spirit of God’s instruction to meet by worshipping, praying, and studying God’s Word together. We can minister to each other, encourage others, and share the good news through our phones, social media, other means of modern communication—and in creative ways that God will open our eyes to.

It also means that if we still want to attend service in person, it’s okay too. As long as we take the practical precautions on hygiene, we need not feel guilty about meeting in large groups, for God will honour our convictions and determination to continue gathering. We just need to behave responsibly—such as staying at home if we are feeling unwell or having a sore throat or slight cough in the morning, for we can always worship God along with His people at home.

God is interested in our hearts as much as He is in our actions. We please Him when our motivations and intentions reflect His.

 

Father, You know how I feel about attending church service.
Whichever option I choose, may I honour You with a genuine heart.
Open my eyes to creative ways to serve You
and minister to others in this challenging situation.

Leslie Koh spent more than 15 years as a journalist in The Straits Times before moving to Our Daily Bread Ministries. He’s found moving from bad news to good news most rewarding, and still believes that nothing reaches out to people better than a good, compelling story. He likes eating (a lot), travelling, running, editing, and writing.

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