The Non-Essential Church

Times of crisis reveal much about us as individuals: our courage, faith, integrity and more. Such times also reveal much about the state of a society or nation. Like those dots on a map of a park trail, certain moments in a crisis tell us, “You are here.”

Last year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was asked why the coronavirus infection rate was slowing in his state at that time. He answer was quite revealing. He said, “The number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that. Faith did not do that. Destiny did not do that. A lot of pain and suffering did that.” Note that he was not asked about God or faith or prayer, he just said brought it up. That was a “you are here” moment for society.

Acknowledging God and His providence has been a common theme throughout the history of many nations. Whether our leaders were calling for a day of prayer in the crisis or a day of thanksgiving after it was over, yet there was at least a tacit acknowledgment of God and His involvement in our affairs. Today, it’s common for officials to just ignore any role God might play in our world. But there is a big difference between ignoring God and outright denying that He deserves any credit at all for anything; from miraculous intervention, to aiding medical professionals by giving some of them the minds to develop therapies and technologies.

Even more alarming is that Cuomo’s comments hardly created a stir with almost no comments from the media or church leaders, showing that secular humanism is now firmly entrenched in our western culture. Not the kind of secularism that boldly takes Christianity and its claims about God and truth and morality head on in honest and open debate, but the kind that simply dismisses and relegates them as just personal, private commitments, irrelevant to public life and maybe even an obstacle to society.

It is clear that society no longer takes seriously God’s place in this world anymore, beyond being a source of personal encouragement and inspiration. As a society, we no longer are the kind of people who really turn to God in humility and prayer in times of trouble. For proof, just look at the growing conflict between churches and governments. For instance, the demand by our government that churches not gather for worship during times of crisis. In some places people were ticketed and fined for attending a drive-in church service, while fully complying with social distancing guidelines, listening to the sermon on radio in the church parking lot with windows rolled up! Surely if we can trust people to go grocery shopping in a safe manner, we can gather safely, using prudence and doing everything reasonable and lawful to minimize the risk to worshippers as well as to the community at large.

Our governments deem churches “non-essential” In many jurisdictions abortion is an “essential service”, but worshiping God is not! But the sad truth is that well before COVID-19 many “Christians have considered the church as “non-essential” and relegated it to a place of convenience or something one might need in a time of crisis. When Christians choose to simply stay home rather than attend the services on the Lord’s Day, or they choose spend the day shopping, partaking of their favourite recreation, attending functions that conflict with times of worship and so on, they have already declared to both God and man that the church is a non-essential aspect of their lives!

Governments have seen that and are just using this pandemic to make official what many Christians have already made their practice.