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Why we have decided NOT to resume physical services

Why we have decided NOT to resume physical services

Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni

Dear church family,

The elders of Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni have recognized the South African government’s responsibility to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic (Jn 19:11, 1 Pt 2:13-14). We have also respected and adhered to the regulations aimed at flattening the curve (Ro 13:1-7). Our President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has now announced that religious groups may resume gathering. While we welcome the concession it comes with many restrictions. Gathering now would not represent the fullness of the Biblical picture of corporate worship in our context.

We want to take you into our confidence and share our reasoning with you:

We spent the first 6 weeks of lockdown defining the church. Part of that definition included the essential nature of gathering physically. Hebrews 10:25 commands us “not to neglect to gather together.” The word translated “to gather” is episynagōgē. We get the English word synagogue from it. The word means to gather together in one place. Less than 50 of us would be able to gather under the restrictions. Gathering now would not represent the fullness of the Biblical picture of “corporate” worship in our context.

Our Sunday gathering is a God orchestrated affair. We assemble to read the Word (Ac 15:21, 1 Ti 4:13, Re 1:3), preach the Word (2 Ti 4:2), pray the Word (Mt 21:13), sing the Word (Co 3:16, Ep 5:19, Ja 5:13), in the ordinances we see the Word (Mt 28:19, Ac 2:38–39, 1 Co 11:23–26, Co 2:11–12) and give towards the promotion of the Word (Ga 2:10; 1 Co 9:3-12). We would be able to read, preach and pray the Word. But to sing, see or give towards the promotion of the Word is either restricted or impeded. There can be no corporate singing under the restrictions. There can be no baptisms under the restrictions. We are in two minds whether we could have communion under the restrictions. The handling of giving is impeded under the restrictions. There can’t even be fellowship under the restrictions. Gathering now would not represent the fullness of the Biblical picture of corporate “worship” in our context.

At the beginning of each online service, we have said that church this way is not “church” in its fullness. It is a substitute for the time being. We are saying that resuming physical services now will not be “church” in its fullness either. It would be a substitute for the time being. As elders, we must choose between two less than ideal options.

In light of the above, the most compelling reasons to gather or not to gather become pastoral. On the one hand, we’re very concerned about our members who have no access to online services. We must make greater efforts to include them over this time. But we’re very concerned about exposing members who gather to the infection. This is especially felt towards older members and all with underlying medical conditions as winter approaches. We’re concerned about the potential loss of household income due to self-isolation if an infection was traced back to a gathering. And we’re also concerned about the practical constraints of our seating capacity.

In light of the above, for the time being, we have decided not to resume physical services.

Over this period we encourage you to participate in our live Sunday services by joining the Zoom meeting. This will need you to install an application, so click on this link and get installing. Alternatively, You can watch the live stream. This doesn’t need you to install anything, click on this link and start watching or watch on our Facebook Page or our YouTube Channel. Our online service starts on Sunday at 9:30am.

May God bless and keep each one of you.

In Christ and for His glory alone,

Mark Penrith (on behalf of the elders, Warren Scott and Etienne Du Toit)