“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25 – ESV).The writer of Hebrews was exhorting believers not to become like some who were not congregating corporately for worship. Unfortunately, some professing believers developed a habit of not attending places of public worship. 1) Some may have developed a habit of not worshiping publicly because they feared persecution. 2) Some may have developed a habit of not worshiping publicly because they had no desire to do so. 3) Some may have developed a habit of not worshiping publicly because they were never properly taught to do so. 4) Some may have developed a habit of not worshiping publicly because they were dissatisfied with their preacher or certain individuals who assembled. The writer of Hebrews, being one that did not approve of their reason for neglecting corporate worship, encouraged believers to be unlike them.
The Hebrew writer’s message to believers about 2,000 years ago is relevant for believers today. A lot of believers are not attending places of worship for various reasons, and some of the reasons might be the same as the possible reasons listed above regarding those believers in the early church. Unfortunately, our world has allegedly encountered a serious pandemic which caused many churches, such as St. John, to close for the last 14 months.
As a pastor, I really struggled when I had to close our doors because for 34 years, I have been inviting people to enter the doors of churches. St. John’s facilities have been closed since March 15, 2020. Although I am not anxious to reopen, I am feeling the need to prepare to reopen.
I have often stated that we will reopen when God is willing and when it is safe. Having slightly now a different perspective, I am not sure if it will ever be “safe” again to do anything publicly, but we can see that it is now safer than it was in the past. (Had we known more about this virus a year ago, I would have said when it is safer instead of when it is safe.)
I realize that some parishioners of St. John are uncomfortable at this point about returning to indoor public worship as we did prior to the pandemic. I encourage these individuals to seriously and sincerely pray regarding this matter. On one hand, if they are uncomfortable, they probably would do themselves an injustice if they forced themselves to assemble at this point; on the other hand, even though they are uncomfortable, the time may soon come when God says, “Enough is enough!” We must remember that God is a jealous God. If we can do what we want to do in the public but choose not to assemble publicly for worship, this could be displeasing to God. Also, we must encourage ourselves in the Lord knowing that “no weapon that is formed against [us] shall prosper” (Is. 54:17a).
Furthermore, to individuals who believe that it is too soon to return to indoor public worship as we did prior to the pandemic, be mindful that many are thirsty for corporate worship. Some are perishing spiritually because 14 months has been too long for them; perhaps, some of them are babes in Christ having no one to nurture them. Some of our parishioners are assembling with other congregations that are open for worship. For these reasons, I encourage those of you, who are not ready to return, to avoid saying anything negative about St. John if we reopen sooner than you prefer because the need to reopen is great for so many people.
Am I considering reopening because of pressure from people who desire this? No! After 14 months, which has been a long time, I realize that conditions may never be the way they were. In other words, it may never be as safe as we desire, so we must examine when it is “safer.”
If it is “safer” the 1st Sunday in June, we may have 1-3 Worship Celebrations. Please note how I underlined the word “may” because I need everyone to understand at this point that it is not a certainty that we will. I need everyone to join me in prayer asking God to direct us concerning His will in regards to when and how St. John will reopen. This is a matter of prayer instead of gossip, naysaying, speculation and negativity. Paul said: “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). After much prayer, God will reveal to us exactly when and how to reopen.
Last but not least, let’s remember that we worship God also through giving. With everything that we are doing and trying to do, your financial contributions are needed. We currently give by mailing or dropping off our Tithes and Offerings to our St. John South Campus (662 South 52nd Street—Richmond, CA 94804) or by giving online through our website (sjmbc.org). If you are a member of St. John who is financially able but not supporting our church financially, allow God to bless you with more by giving today your Tithes and Offerings.
May God bless and sustain each of us.
Your Servant In Christ,
Dr. Kevin B. Hall, Pastor