Information and Links
Dear Valley Heights Church Family,
As you are aware, the B.C. provincial government and Dr. Bonnie Henry recently issued a new Public Health Order effective from midnight on November 19 to midnight on December 7 (with the option to extend the order). As part of the order, Dr. Henry has suspended all in-person worship services. In a follow-up town hall question and answer interview, Dr. Henry was asked, “Why are worship services being shut down,” and the answer given was, “We need to keep essential services and essential activities open and operating safely.” Still further clarification was offered by saying, “We are not banning visits to religious places, but worship and religious services can now only happen virtually.”
Obviously, an order such as this has significant implications for us as a church. It also has led to many questions - some of which you are asking, and some which others are asking of you. For example: “How should the church respond to this order?” “Aren’t Christians supposed to obey the government?” “Does human government have the authority to cap attendance or ‘suspend’ in-person worship?” “Is it loving for the church to hold in-person worship services?” “Is it loving for the church NOT to hold in-person worship services?” “Why not just hold ‘virtual’ services?” The list goes on. I want to provide you with at least some answers and give you some things to think about as you try to navigate through these challenging times.
Basically, I’m sending this email to you today, praying that it will be a source of encouragement as well as provide you with an understanding of why we are continuing in-person worship services on Sundays. Some of what I say will simply be a reiteration of the email I sent to the church on August 8th. We continue to hold to what was said in that email and so we refer you to it. Some of what is said here has been said by church leaders from other churches and we affirm and agree with their statements. Some of what I say will reflect our position on this newest order and its implications. All of what is said here comes with the prayer that we will honour Jesus Christ the King of kings and Lord of lords in everything.
Let me begin by affirming the following: Jesus Christ is Lord of all and the one and only true head of His Church (Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18). As such, He stands supreme over every earthly authority (Psalm 2; Ephesians 1:20-22; 1 Timothy 6:15). As His people, we are subject to His will and His commands as revealed in Scripture. What this means then is that we cannot and will not be subject to any order or any command from a lesser authority that tells us to #1 – sin against God, or #2 – stop doing or not do that which Jesus Christ has commanded us to do in His holy Word.
(ex. When commanded by Pharaoh King of Egypt to sin against God and kill the male Hebrew babies, the mid-wives, “Feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live,” (Exodus 1:17), and God rewarded them! Hebrews 11:23 reminds us that, by faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents … and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. Also, in Acts 5:27-32, the apostles, who were given strict orders by the religious leaders, not to teach in the name of Jesus, replied, “We must obey God rather than men.”)
This being said, we do recognize that Scripture makes it clear we ought to, whenever possible, respect, honour and obey human government in the sphere of authority God has granted it ( i.e. - to protect and praise those in society who do good and to punish those who do evil - see Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2). Because of this, we pray for our civic leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-5) and willingly obey them as authorities God Himself has ordained for the governing of society.
However, we need to understand that God has not given civic rulers jurisdiction over the church, nor has He granted them authority over the doctrine, practice, or polity of the church. Thus, “when any government official issues orders regulating worship (such as bans on singing, caps on attendance, or prohibitions against gatherings and services), he steps outside the legitimate bounds of his/her God-ordained authority as a civic official and arrogates (assumes) to himself authority that God expressly grants only to the Lord Jesus Christ as sovereign over His Kingdom, which is His Church.” (adapted from Grace Community Church’s Elder’s statement – see attached).
At this point, I want to quote some significant comments made by Grace’s elders in their statement that I believe give clarity to the matter at hand. I trust these will be helpful to you:
In short, as the church, we do not need the state's permission to serve and worship our Lord as He has commanded. The church is Christ’s precious bride (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23–27). She belongs to Him alone. She exists by His will and serves under His authority. He will tolerate no assault on her purity and no infringement of His headship over her. All of that was established when Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).
Christ’s own authority is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And [God the Father has] put all things in subjection under [Christ’s] feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:21–23).
Accordingly, the honor that we rightly owe our earthly governors and magistrates (Romans 13:7) does not include compliance when such officials attempt to subvert sound doctrine, corrupt biblical morality, exercise ecclesiastical authority, or supplant Christ as head of the church in any other way …
(What about the matter of meeting "virtually", instead of in-person?)
The church by definition is an assembly. That is the literal meaning of the Greek word for “church”—ekklesia—the assembly of the called-out ones. A non-assembling assembly is a contradiction in terms. Christians are therefore commanded not to forsake the practice of meeting together (Hebrews 10:25)—and no earthly state has a right to restrict, delimit, or forbid the assembling of believers. We have always supported the underground church in nations where Christian congregational worship is deemed illegal by the state.
When officials restrict church attendance to a certain number, they attempt to impose a restriction that in principle makes it impossible for the saints to gather as the church. When officials prohibit singing in worship services, they attempt to impose a restriction that in principle makes it impossible for the people of God to obey the commands of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. When officials mandate distancing, they attempt to impose a restriction that in principle makes it impossible to experience the close communion between believers that is commanded in Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26. In all those spheres, we must submit to our Lord. (Grace Elder’s statement)
It is our conviction from Scripture that the Lord has called the local church to assemble together as a body (as much as is possible) to worship Jesus Christ and to engage in corporate Christian fellowship which includes preaching, teaching, singing, partaking in the ordinances of communion and baptism, praying and practicing the “one another’s” of Scripture (see Acts 2:42, 44, 46; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:17-18, 20-22, 33-34; 1 Corinthians 14:23-26; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Gal. 6:1-2; Heb. 10:24-25;). Please read these passages, honestly asking yourself if God’s intent is for these to only be practiced “virtually.”
Additionally, we should by no means fail to recognize the context of the New Testament church … the believers receiving these instructions and commands were actively being persecuted for their faith and they were subject to the fiery persecution of Emperor Nero for practicing Christianity! And yet it was specifically to the Hebrew believers who were “enduring a great conflict of sufferings,” who were being “imprisoned” and whose “properties were being seized” (Hebrews 10:32-39) … that the exhortation was made … Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, (this is love) not forsaking our own assembling together (it means, “a gathering together in one place.” Also used in 2 Thess. 2:1), as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near! The clear teaching of the Scriptures is that the church of Jesus Christ is called to come together to worship the Lord. We will need to count the cost of discipleship (Luke 9).
What about the question: “Is it loving for the church to hold in-person worship services?”
As I mentioned earlier, another question could be offered in response: I ask, “Is it loving for the church NOT to hold in-person services?” We need to think carefully about how we define what is loving.
What is the most loving thing we as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ can do? Is it not to manifest (put on display in manifold ways) the love of Christ for His Bride, and, manifest love for lost souls who need, not only to hear the gospel declared “virtually”, but personally, visibly, tangibly and as the church always has – following the Biblical model of bold, public proclamation – even in distressing times? We could ask: is it loving to restrict and in some cases forbid family members from giving tender care to their aged parents? (leading to an exponential increase in the hopeless elderly asking to be euthanized and their requests being granted and performed by doctors! Medical Assistance in Dying now reports more than 2% of all deaths in Canada are by euthanasia – over 1500 in BC alone in 2019, and on track for far more in 2020. That is 5 times the number of all covid-19 deaths in BC! [at the time of writing]). Is it loving to forbid Pastors and other caring Christians from visiting and comforting the sick and the dying? Is it loving to restrict or forbid attendance at baptisms, communion, weddings and even funerals? What about physical care for and interaction with neighbors, with those in care facilities, with shut-ins and with the elderly? We could go on.
Some will say, “But there is a virus and someone might get sick or even die.” Of course it is not our desire that anyone get sick or die (though, we understand we cannot override the sovereignty of God in determining the well-being of each person). And, we absolutely affirm the need to take appropriate and reasonable measures to protect the most vulnerable. (Please see note below affirming our call to protect the health of one another).
Having said this, we also need to entrust our lives to the Lord! One pastor has written this:
“When people are so afraid of dying that they are willing to stop living, it reveals an unhealthy infatuation with avoiding death and a misunderstanding of our purpose on earth. We do not exist today to “not die”. We exist to live. To live for God’s glory even as we seek to make His glory known over all the earth. No doubt we need to make wise and loving decisions during these days (we should care for and protect our own health and the health of others). We should be good stewards of our bodies. But this short life we’ve been given by our sovereign God is too short to waste in fear of the uncertainty of what will eventually happen to us all: it is appointed unto man once to die. If the reality of death keeps us from living for God and following His Word, we have failed to understand the purpose of why we are here. Again, we are not here to “not die.” We are here to live by enjoying God and glorifying Him forever.” (Pastor Allen Nelson)
The Lord does not want us to live our lives in fear. He tells us to trust Him with our living and with our dying. He appointed the day of our birth and the day we will die. We can trust Him to do what is best and most glorifying to His name. The Lord is our Shepherd! Psalm 23!
And so, we want to affirm once again (as in an earlier email) it is our conviction that, out of love for God and others, the body needs to be given the opportunity to meet together corporately for encouragement and counsel, for exhortation and instruction, and to promote unity in the body. It also needs the opportunity to meet in order for believers to show love to, to minister gifts to and to serve one another. Additionally, by meeting, the burdens of suffering Christians who are troubled, fearful, distressed, weak and ailing, or being mistreated for their faith will be more easily recognized and so carried by the members of the body (1 Corinthians 12:25-26; Galatians 6:2). Finally, and not the least of reasons, the body needs the opportunity to meet for the faithful proclamation of and visible testimony to the saving and transforming gospel of Jesus Christ, to the end that lost souls may be saved. Indeed, this is loving, Biblically.
Through much prayer and seeking wisdom from the Lord, along with considering the course of action of other like-minded churches, we believe the Lord would have us continue our normal practice of worshiping Jesus Christ the King, in-person, with any who choose to join us. It is our prayer that the Lord will be honoured, the church body strengthened and built up in the faith, and that souls will be saved.
With hearts of love and affection for all of you, blessings!
Additional Notes & helpful links:
Note: We remind you again, that we need to continue to take seriously our calling to love and protect one another. We urge you, then, to remember and practice the necessary health protocols provided by the church (see information provided in previous emails and on the welcome table as you enter the facility). We ask that you take seriously the potential health risk to the elderly and those with compromised health. And, we encourage everyone to respect one another’s preferences regarding physical distancing. Also, as we have said throughout, if you in any way do not feel comfortable meeting with us in person, we encourage you to join those who are viewing the services on live-stream. You are in our hearts!
Interview with John MacArthur Church Is Essential: Special Edition Podcast w/John MacArthur, Part 2 | Falkirk Podcast 45 - YouTube
Ezra Institute Podcast https://www.ezrainstitute.ca/resource-library/podcast/responding-to-a-second-lockdown/
CDC Covid-19 Data update BC_COVID-19_Situation_Report_Nov_20_2020.pdf (bccdc.ca)
Dear Valley Heights Church Family,
As we continue to navigate through these unique times, we need to keep our eyes fixed on the Lord and to keep songs of praise to our Lord in our hearts and on our lips. Getty Music has been a real blessing and encouragement to Christyn and me, and we think it will be to you as well. You may have already received this email direct from the Gettys but I thought I would send it out to you also. Praying this music will bless and strengthen you and your family in the Lord! Proverbs 3:3-8
Dear VH's Family,
I am sending you a link to a class taught at Compass Bible Church in California. Perhaps you have heard of what is called "The Spanish Flu of 1918". More Americans died of the Spanish Flu than died in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined! In this special release of CLASS at Compass Bible Church, you are taken back in time to see how the church responded to this global health crisis. We found this talk really helpful in understanding our own situation today with the spread of, and attempts to contain the impact of the coronavirus. May the Lord be pleased to use His church in our day to bring glory to His name and hope to this world.
(The talk starts at 3 minutes, 15 seconds)
Dear Valley Heights Family,
I've put together a list of some web links that I hope will be a blessing to your heart. Blessings! Pastor Tim
Sing! 2019 Conference highlights
gettymusicworshipconference.com (scroll down to videos)
A wonderful new contemporary hymn
Christ Our Hope in Life and Death
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7