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March 31, 2020

Regardless the outbreak of COVID-19, church is never and should never be closed. Why? Because church is not a building. Church is people. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Therefore, as long as there are people of God, there is church. Buildings are only places for worship. By “church building” we mean a building dedicated by God’s people where they can have their regular worship especially on Sabbath day. A church building may be closed, but the church—God’s people—remain!

Church buildings or places of worship may be closed overnight by natural disasters, wars, and unexpected things. Since February 2020, many places of worship of local churches have been closed, in many different parts of the world.

On Sabbaths, what do we do in our church building? Yes, we meet friends, we greet one another, we sing and listen to worship music, we praise God, we discuss Sabbath School lesson, we listen to sermon, our children would always love to listen to good Christian stories. Can we do all these alone or with our family in our houses, due to our cooperation and support to the government instruction for self-isolation to suppress the spread of the Coronavirus? The answer is “Yes, we can do most of these activities on Sabbath, at and from home”

We need to understand that in the time of the early church, Christians gathered together at their homes for their regular meetings. Several families may come and worship together in one house (e.g. Rom 16:5; 1Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Phil 1:2). That is why when Saul (who then became Paul) was trying to persecute and banish the Christians, he went “from house to house” and dragged people out and put them in the prison. Why from house to house? Because the church is there!

Given this fact, we should remember that the idea of having church building is certainly biblical. It is a place dedicated to God, where His people may come together to worship Him. That is why the “temple” of God in the Bible is also called “the house of the Lord.” They are used interchangeably (e.g. 1Kings 12:12, Psalms 24:7; Ezek 8:16; Zech 8:9). When people come together on Sabbath to meet in their church building or place of worship, they can do more than what they could if each person or each family just stay home and have personal devotional or even watch worship service livestreaming. The functions of fellowship, mission planning, encouraging one another, communal activities and services, closeness and physical presence are best fulfilled when people come together to worship.

However, when an unexpected and unavoidable circumstance, such as the outbreak of COVID-19, requires the God’s people to celebrate Sabbath just alone or with family members at home, the same Sabbath blessings they will receive from God. God is present there. He has promised in Isaiah 58:13, 14:

“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,

From doing your pleasure on My holy day,

And call the Sabbath a delight,

The holy day of the LORD honorable,

And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,

Nor finding your own pleasure,

Nor speaking your own words, 

Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD;

And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,

And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.

The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Jesus promised: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20). Even when you are just alone in a self-isolation due to the Coronavirus, He is our Good Shepherd (John 10:11), and He will be with you, just as He was with John in Patmos on the Lord’s day (Rev 1:10). The church should never be closed, because you are His church and the head of the church is Christ (Eph 5:23; Col 1:18).

By Richard A. Sabuin