Gathering for Worship in the Midst of COVID

Wes Moore Update November 21, 2021

Update October 21, 2021

The Larimer County Health Department has issued a universal mask mandate requiring masks to be worn in all public indoor spaces (any space that is not a residence), for everyone ages 3 and up, regardless of vaccination status. Their reasoning behind this move is the reality that our healthcare system is overwhelmed, with area ICU’s at or beyond capacity. Regardless of your stance on the efficacy of masks or the county’s mandate, PLEASE be in prayer for those who are sick and those who are caring for the sick; this is our great privilege in Jesus.

We encourage you to read the details of Larimer County’s mandate, including the FAQ section, here: Larimer County Public Health Order Requiring Masks in Public Indoor Spaces

Are there any exceptions to the mask mandate from Larimer County?

Larimer County’s mask mandate has a list of exemptions; those applicable to our context at the church include, from the above website:

  • Individuals who cannot medically tolerate a face covering;
  • Individuals who are hearing impaired or otherwise disabled or who are communicating with someone who is hearing impaired or otherwise disabled and where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication;
  • Individuals who are actively engaged in a performing arts performance, leading religious services, or engaged in other similar activities, so long as the individual maintains at least twelve (12) feet distance from non-household members indoors;
  • Individuals who are receiving a personal, religious, or medical service where the temporary removal of a Face Covering is necessary to perform the service.

From the early days of the pandemic and the restrictions enacted by the government, the Elders at LifePointe have done our best to respond in alignment with God’s character, as expressed in Scripture, as we have prayed and planned together. We prayerfully established 6 Scriptural Principles (https://sharethelife.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/6-Scriptural-Principles-COVID-worship-gatherings.pdf) that form the basis of our decisions at each turn.

In response to the new mask mandate established by Larimer County in October 2021, our Elders have taken the following steps:

  • Acknowledged the mandate during the Sunday worship service host section on October 17, 2021.
  • Gave the entire congregation the task of thinking Scripturally about the mandate rather than simply responding with opinions and/or feelings (this also happened during the host section on October 17, 2021).
  • Gathered together for prayer, study of Scripture, and discussion on Tuesday, October 19, 2021.
  • This process of prayer, studying Scripture, careful consideration of congregational feedback, thinking through several options, and weighing the multiple outcomes, yielded for us a clear, but challenging path forward.

The elders’ determination is to lead the church in compliance with Larimer County’s mask mandate. This was determined after much prayer and a fresh examination of applicable Scripture. We believe that, in clear accordance with the Scriptures, this is how we are to glorify God and continue working in fulfillment of the Great Commission.

We are NOT pursuing or considering the county’s program to become a “Vaccine Verified Facility”. As stated in May of 2021, we still believe that each individual should make a prayerful, personal decision with regards to the vaccine, and we do not believe that vaccination status should be something that divides the Church.

The crux of the question for faithful Christians is this: at what point, according to the Scriptures, is it appropriate to defy government authorities?

After prayerful study of the Scriptures, we determined two summary points in answer to this question:

  • Christians are clearly commanded to honor and obey governmental authority, as all governments are established by the active or permissive will of God.

Paul writes in Romans 13:1-2 to the church in Rome, who were suffering under the harsh authority of a government and emperor who blasphemously claimed the status of deity:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

 In 1 Peter 2:13-17, the Apostle Peter admonished Christians dispersed throughout the same Roman Empire with these words:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants[d] of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

  • We see in Scripture two government actions that create a clear exception to this command:
    1. The government bans something that God has commanded
    2. The government commands something that God has forbidden

A New Testament example of the government banning something that God has commanded is found In Acts 5. The apostles (including Peter) were arrested, beaten, and released. Upon their release, the government authorities banned them from speaking of or teaching about Jesus. They defied this ban, because God’s clear command was (and remains) to share the good news of Jesus and make disciples of Him.

An Old Testament example of the government commanding something that God has forbidden is found in Daniel 3, when Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego defied the command of King Nebuchadnezzar to engage in the worship of idols by bowing to his own golden image, an action that God has clearly forbidden.

 

For us, the practical implications for complying with the mask mandate come down to walking with INTEGRITY and GRACE. For everyone who calls LifePointe home, and for our guests, visitors and other building-users, our expectation is that we will move forward with INTEGRITY and GRACE.

For any gatherings in the church building, we will walk with INTEGRITY to honor Larimer County’s mask mandate, including the county’s list of exceptions. As we gather together with INTEGRITY, it will be vital that we do so with an extra measure of GRACE for each other!

For clarity in our context:

  • Cloth masks are to be worn by everyone ages 3 and up, anytime in the building.
    • Volunteers will NOT be expected to help children with their masks; parents & guardians are the only adults who should touch a child’s mask, or put it back on for them.
  • Teachers, presenters, leaders and preachers who are 12 feet from their audience may present without a mask.
  • We hope that those with a medical condition that keeps them from safely wearing a mask will continue to gather and serve, and we hope they feel free to do so without a mask.
    • Note: we trust each individual’s integrity with regards to medical conditions, and do not expect people to disclose details of their personal medical information; if you have a medical condition that keeps you from wearing a mask, and someone asks you to put a mask on, please simply respond with a smile and share that you have a medical exemption. This is one area we will walk with GRACE for each other.
  • Those who are sick should stay home and join us via the livestream.

We believe it is vital for each of us to wrestle with Scripture in regards to this matter, and engage with God in prayer. None of us was hoping that we would face restrictions again, and certainly none of us enjoys wearing a mask.

For those who are considering staying home because of a preference to not wear masks, we encourage you to prayerfully wrestle with the Scriptures and take your desire to the Lord in prayer. We believe that the very best way for each of us to grow in our own faith, and for us to grow together as a church through this trial, is to endure it for God’s glory. This path means sacrificing our preferences to continue worshipping and serving together in-person, by bearing with one another in love as Paul instructs in 1 Corinthians 13:7.

For all of us, we recommend these steps in response to the mandate:

  • Make a list of your questions.
  • Pray, as the Word of God invites us, and be honest with God about how you think and feel about this mandate; invite God’s Spirit to encourage you, to convict you, to reveal the thinking and attitudes belonging to your flesh, and to reveal the wisdom of God. Take your questions to the Lord in prayer.
  • If God’s Spirit is working to convict you of sinful attitudes or thinking, repent and confess your sin.
  • Search your Bible and study the Scriptures that reveal how God’s wants followers of Jesus to engage with government authorities, and how His Church should operate. Take your questions before God’s Word. Consider:
    • Romans 13:1-14
    • 1 Peter 2:11-25
    • Acts 5:17-42
    • Matthew 17:24-27
    • 1 Corinthians 13:7
    • Ephesians 4:2, 4:1-16
  • Pray again, seeking wisdom and clarity with questions that remain, and confess the ways that your heart is resistant to God’s Word.

Finally, as each of us responds to the mandate, consider that:

  • God uses trials to grow our faith & character (James 1:2-4):
  • He is not surprised by the mask mandate;
  • He is sovereign, and has chosen to allow us this trial;
  • we can joyfully embrace His promise to grow our character through this trial (James 1:2-4).
  • Our gospel-witness is impacted by how we respond to governing authorities (1 Peter 2:13-17)
  • Preserving the church’s unity glorifies God and preserves our gospel-witness (John 17:20-21, 1 Cor. 13:7, Ephesians 4:2-3)

Church, in this moment we can choose to let an earthly trial keep us from the work of the gospel, or we can embrace God’s work in it to strengthen and refine us together… and experience the unexpected joy of a life that is more and more dependent on Jesus.

We leave you with the words of Hebrews 12:1-2; it is a beautiful picture of the Church’s unity in Christ, and the example of Jesus who endured even the trial of the cross for the joy the gospel:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

With great love,

the elders of LifePointe

Since early in the pandemic, we have aimed to consistently follow the 6 Scriptural Principles for Gathering The Church During COVID established to guide our decisions about how to operate as a church. In alignment with those principles, we have utilized guidance from public health experts as useful in determining how to follow Scripture’s command to love our neighbors in how we choose to gather as the Church. Recently, public health experts have made huge changes to their recommendations for the health and safety of Americans; experts at all levels are adopting these new recommendations.

With this change in guidance from health experts, we see that our community’s perception of our current level of health and safety is greatly increased. Thus, we believe we can now gather more freely while continuing to glorify God in how we love our neighbors and community… including our neighbors both inside and outside the church.

Our goal as we gather more freely is to provide several options for people attending worship in-person. Our aim is to walk in love together, understanding that what feels safe for some of us may be different than what feels safe for others. So, there will be a variety of options available for attending worship in-person, and we will listen and adjust our approach going forward so that we can walk in love and unity together.

LifePointe’s plan beginning Sunday, May 16, 2021 is as follows:

  • Masks will be optional for everyone, throughout the building. Everyone should feel free to wear a mask or to choose not to wear a mask, anywhere in the building, with one exception:
  • Masks & Social Distancing will be required for anyone seated in the Balcony of the Worship Center. Please do not sit in the balcony unless you are ready and willing to wear your mask.
  • VACCINATIONS: We do not believe that vaccination status should be a cause for division in the church. Thus, we will NOT be asking anyone about their vaccination status in order to determine whether they can enter the building, or whether or not they should wear a mask. We trust each person to make a responsible decision with regards to these issues.
  • Livestream of our worship services will continue.

One final thought: 
As followers of Christ, we are all entitled to walk in love with each other! Not all of us will yet feel safe gathering without a mask. Therefore, we are asking EVERYONE, regardless of vaccination status, to demonstrate love by bringing a mask with you to church. If you feel comfortable NOT wearing your mask, please keep it in your pocket; if you end up talking or in fellowship with someone who is wearing a mask, please walk in love by slipping your mask on for that conversation. This is a simple way to love and care for the body of Christ.

Thank you for your love and diligence through this season! We are excited to see you for worship this Sunday.