A statement from the elders to the current provincial lockdowns
First of all, Merry Christmas to our wonderful church family. We count it a tremendous privilege and joy to serve with you in these important times. We also want to encourage you that we are witnessing the Lord working in amazing ways as people continue to be both drawn to Hope Bible Church and brought to salvation in Christ in very recent days by His grace.
It is important for us to share a biblical response to our church family on the recent provincial lockdown and how we believe the Lord is leading us as elders. While it is challenging to convey our hearts fully in writing, we will attempt to express this as best we can.
We are burdened for the people of Hope Oakville and our broader community; this prolonged season has taken its toll on so many. On the one hand we see the kingdom of God advancing in wonderful ways and we hear testimony after testimony of the Lord at work. On the other hand we are so keenly aware that the past nine months have been very difficult for so many.
Like you, we are seeking to be led with faith and not with fear, with love and with wisdom. We want to honour the Lord and faithfully steward what we are entrusted with. We also know the enemy is attempting to bring division, disunity and discouragement in new ways, and we are as resolved as ever to pray for the Lord to sustain and build His church. Join us in that prayer! (Matt. 16:18; 2 Tim 1:7)
Much is being said about the current provincial announcement regarding lockdowns and Ontario being in the ‘grey zone’. At this time, our plan is to comply with the provincial lockdown. This means that we will be proceeding with the ‘online model’ starting December 26th for four weeks.
We are disappointed and discouraged by the decision to lockdown again as it impacts our ability to gather as a church family. We believe there is a time when believers in Christ are called to respectfully disobey the laws of the land, however we do not believe that time is right now.
Recognizing there are people with varied views and passions on this topic, we want to outline how we are trying to think about this biblically and encourage you to do so too:
- We take seriously the biblical commands of Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:11-25. These provide a clear outline of how our obedience to God is seen through our submission to the authorities that He has placed over us. It leads us in how we speak of our governing officials and how we act toward them. How we respond to these God-given instructions must be handled with the fear of the Lord and not dismissed lightly as “those who resist will incur judgment” (Rom. 13:3).
- We passionately understand the call to gather as the Church as stated in Hebrews 10:24-25, and we also hold dearly and with great conviction the call that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). We hold to these truths with immense strength and we will not hesitate to act when we believe we are called to do so.
- We continue to watch carefully how things are progressing. We will comply with the latest lockdown measures as they have been stated to be temporary (four weeks). We also believe the Church has not been specifically targeted by the government at this time. In fact, in Ontario, you could argue that we have been shown favour, relatively speaking, in terms of our 30% capacity and multiple services each weekend. It is here that we seek to “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…” (1 Pet. 2:13).
- However, if any of the following things should change then we would be compelled with prayer and wisdom to consider a form of civil disobedience.
a) If the restrictions were obviously and specifically targeted against the Church at the exclusion of other institutions
b) If the restrictions prohibiting the Church from gathering in person are beyond temporary in nature
c) If the government’s motivation for restrictions goes beyond the welfare of people
We do not believe this is the case yet for our church family. We acknowledge there are some who believe that we have crossed the threshold on some of these points above already. Conversely, there are others who believe that we have regathered too quickly. And of course, there are many points of view in between. We sincerely ask for your grace and patience and we urge you to pursue unity together.
So to reiterate, we will observe the lockdown for the next four weekends as a church with our livestream service and other online gatherings. Over the next few weeks we will continue to evaluate the situation and communicate accordingly if there are any changes. Please also understand that the LORD is using these difficult times to do amazing things! This is a unique opportunity for the body of Christ to be the body of Christ. Now is still the time for us to look for ways to minister to those who are isolated or fearful or hurting. The lockdown doesn’t prevent Spirit-enabled ministry to continue!
We ask you to consider ways that you can be creative and serve one another and our ‘neighbours’. Be innovative, share the love of Christ and watch the impact multiply in supernatural ways. We invite you to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the church office at 905-827-4888 if you have questions. Our pastoral team will be available throughout the lockdown period.
Finally, would you pray for our church family, the advance of the gospel, and for supernatural appointments to serve our neighbours. As you can imagine this is one of the more challenging times for our church in recent memory. Therefore, it is essential we pray for the supernatural unity of His Church (Eph. 4:2-4) and for our leaders as Hebrews 13:17-18 states:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.
We love you all and we value immensely your love and support at this time. Please Lord, lead us!
The elders of Hope Bible Church