Worship (Assemble) at Your Own Risk: History
Worship assembly can be risky. Just ask History.
First, I’d like us to recognize/accept that we use language as a shortcut sometimes, and by that, meaning can end up becoming blurred or lost altogether. An example of this would be the word “church”. We use the word “church” so often when talking about the “church building” that oftentimes people (especially little people) can come to think that the church is the building, that it is the brick and mortar location, rather than what it actually is - the people. The church is the people. The same problem can occur with the word “worship”. Oftentimes people use the shortcut “I’m going to worship” for “I’m going to church”, when what they really mean, and is technically/actually correct is, “I’m going to the assembly (of the church - people)” that “assembles/meets at the church building”. They are distinctions with a difference.
So why the need to establish this? In our series, we have been discussing the topic of “Worship at Your Own Risk” where we looked at many different dangers/risks involved in worshipping God. However, many likely thought of the “worship services” or “assemblies” or “going to church” whenever the word “worship” was in the title. Admittedly, in the text of some paragraphs, there may have been the implication of such; however, there are inherent risks in both.
This article exclusively considers the assembly. Christians assembling together as the church to worship God together and encourage one another in the faith. There is inherent risk in that. There always has been. There always will be. Just ask history.
In the first century, there was spiritual risk in assembling together. For example, we see from churches like that in Corinth that “a little leaven (of immorality) leavens the whole lump” I Corinthians 5:6. What’s a practical solution? Don’t assemble and meet together and that helps to eliminate the problem; right? No. That’s not the solution presented by God. God says to quarantine the immortality (sinner) - to cut them out of the dough, to remove the leaven from the lump. (I Corinthians 5:7-11)
Likewise, there was the common problem in the churches of false teachers who would introduce heresy - false doctrine. (I John 4:1) So what’s the solution? Everyone just study on their own and never assemble? Quite to the contrary, they were commanded to “test” the speakers. To quarantine the false teachers and their false teachings and to accept those who were true teachers. (I Thessalonians 5:19-22)
But there has also always been the ever-present physical/carnal dangers as well. Is the Coronavirus the first communicable disease men have faced in 2,000 years? Is it the first plague or pandemic? Again, quite the contrary. There have been plagues through the centuries. Look at how “Christians” were described at one time:
“What a difference from what we are seeing today…Between 250-260 AD a terrible pandemic swept through the Roman Empire. Dionysius, an Alexandrian bishop wrote this about the Christian response: ’Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors, and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead...the best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning high commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.’” - Daniel DeGarmo 1/19/21
Today, we have so many protections in place that it can leave us with little excuse not to fulfill the instruction to assemble and to not forsake our assembling. (Hebrews 10:24-25) “But what about the singing?”, one might protest. A study released in August of 2021 found there is no greater risk in singing than there is in talking. (https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-08-risky-covid-.html). And the way that we do the singing, with people sitting apart from one another, makes it even safer.
There is likely, even in the midst of a pandemic, no safer time in the history of the O’Connor Road church of Christ to assemble and worship than right now. There will always be risks, but the risks are so minimal that it’s not “risky”; it’s not dangerous. It is not dangerous to assemble and worship together as the Lord has commanded. In fact, it is so not dangerous that one can honestly say that it is safe to assemble and worship together.
If one is sick and/or showing signs of illness they should obviously stay home so as not to increase the risk of infection to others. If one is in a “high risk” category (65+ years of age and/or serious underlying health conditions) then extra precautions can and should be taken in wisdom. The church, and its leadership in particular, are taking every precaution possible to create a safe environment where all can assemble without fear, and with total focus on the blessing at hand… worshipping together.
There have always been risks to assembling to worship. There always will be. But we can take precautions to minimize those risks and create a safe, welcoming, encouraging environment. Let’s continue to work together to do just that.