These are uncharted moments for the human race and this has been brought about by the outbreak of covid-19 pandemic, which has affected every facets of life including the church. And how the church responds to this unprecedented health crisis matters a lot and will determine the continued relevance of the church in the post Covid-19 era.
One thing that the church, most especially the pastors must watch out against is the subtle attempt by the world to make it compromise its spiritual stance as a beckon of hope and a refuge for those who are in despair. According to Joshua 20:1-9, in the Old Testaments, cities were selected and named as centre of refuge.
This fact was also underlined by Jesus when he declared in the book of Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” By this Jesus made it clear that the church was not a common place, but a centre of refuge safety and solution.
This means that even if the rest of the world is gripped by fear of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of thousands, the church must be a place they can look up to for help. But in a situation where the pastors who are supposed to be the principal figure of the hope and safety that the church symbolizes, now seek protection from face mask, this impinges the testimony of the church as a sanctuary refuge.
If truly any pastor believes in the word of God as a fountain of healing, then such pastor must authenticate his faith by putting all of his or her hope in the word not in face mask.
In my view, the image of a pastor adorned in a face mask does not inspire faith and undermines the integrity of the church and the word of God as a refuge of safety and healing. That is why I align with Pastor Chris Okotie that the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) must be careful of the kind of agreement it reaches with government in a bid to open the churches for worship.
According to the Senior Pastor of the Household of God Church, “Social distancing in the Church of Jesus Christ is tantamount to blasphemous infidelity and an impeachment of the integrity of the Word of God. Healing is fundamental to the redemptive work of Jesus.
“To allow the idol of Corona Virus to determine the scope of congregational worship in the house of God is an abomination of gargantuan proportions. No true minister of the gospel will succumb to such travesty of the faith. This is a summary of my objections.”
As part of the guideline for church to reopen, CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, said churches will disinfect their premises, as well as make provisions for alcohol sanitisers, among others. If that is the case, then where is the faith in the church?
Does this not undermine the very foundation of the church? If the church cannot live above the fear of coronavirus and cannot shine the light through bold faith and actions, then the doors of the church can as well remained close forever because there is no use having a church that is no better than a social gathering.
As a Christian, I cringe to imagine that great men of faith like Pastor E A Adeboye, Pastor Kumuyi, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, Bishop David Oyedepo and may other healing ministers will succumb to wearing masks during their services as a protection from coronavirus. That is not what I believe Jesus will do if he were alive at this moment.
Therefore, it is not enough to open the church, but it must be done in such a way that it doesn’t erode the integrity and spiritual sanctity of the church. For what is the use of going to church if we cannot trust God for out healings and safety. And what is the use of serving a God that cannot cure all sicknesses and diseases, including coronavirus.