UPDATED JULY 14, 2020, 9:15 A.M. 

 

Here is a (rather long) update on masks for TGP Wardville and response to Governor Edwards’s mask mandate for the state of Louisiana. I want to reiterate a couple of points I communicated on Sunday (7/12) before explaining our decision:

 

1.   Gov. Edwards has a difficult job of trying to balance reopening our economy, promoting religious liberty, and seeking to do what (if anything) he can to help keep people in our state safe. Whether you like or dislike him (or the job he’s done), you can affirm both that it is a difficult task and that he needs wisdom from the Lord!

 

2.   I personally appreciate at least the way he explicitly worded that religious organizations would not have the mask mandate enforced with citations, and that he allowed “churches and religious organizations” to continue operating at 50% capacity rather than with a 50 person maximum limit. In light of the extreme singling out of churches/faith groups in other states, we can be grateful for this careful wording.

 

3.   Whether or not you trust him or not, the elders are asking for you to trust us as we seek to lead our church as those who will give an account to God for our leadership. Because of this, we are asking the Lord to purify our motives from political/partisan considerations and have them be theological (loving God and neighbor).

 

4. We would ask that you pray for us as we continue to lead and that you’d pray for our government leaders as they seek to balance all these moving parts.

 

So with all those things said, your elders met this morning and have decided to encourage our church to follow our governor’s mandate that Louisianans wear face coverings. We are not mandating masks for every attendee, but we have changed our stance from neutral to encouraging people to wear them while in the building. With that said, I want to provide (1) some reasons why we decided this, (2) what it means for a normal gathering, and (3) what it does not mean for our church.

 

Reasons We Made This Decision:
  • It is not within the elders’ competency to make determinations about the efficacy or inefficacy of masks. We all have opinions about whether or not masks work, or even whether or not the government should be able to mandate them, but those are not (and cannot be) the basis of our decision.
  • Romans 13 does not ask believers to assess politicians’ motives, the effectiveness of their policies, or the legitimacy of their decisions (for instance, you may argue that taxes are a form of theft and should not be an authorized function of any government; whether that’s right or wrong, Paul commands the believers to pay taxes.) but to submit to the leaders God has placed over us for our good and ultimately for the Lord’s sake (1 Pet. 2:13). There is a Christian duty to civil disobedience in the event that the government asks us to do something patently immoral or which would violate the clear commands of Scripture. As far as we can tell, Governor Edwards’s mandate does not call us to violate a command of Scripture and does not unreasonably target Christians/churches.
  • We are grateful to be able to continue meeting, and if this can in some way speed up the likelihood of our returning to “normal” (whether it actually changes anything with the virus itself or not or just helps leaders feel better about moving forward), we don’t want to be a contributing factor in slowing this process down.
  • We believe this will prove to be a temporary order and are hopeful that it will only affect our gathering for about a month.
  • It may encourage other members who have remained at home to attend if we are covering our faces.
  • Every believer must give an account to God as well (Romans 14 is as true as Romans 13). This is why your elders are not seeking to bind anyone’s conscience by mandating masks in order to attend our gatherings. If you pray about this issue, seek the Lord’s wisdom on it, and decide that it would violate your conscience to wear a mask, we will not ask you to leave or cover your face; we will trust your judgment before the Lord.
What this Looks Like this Sunday:
  • We are encouraging all persons over 8 years of age to cover their mouths and noses whenever they are not in their rows. We believe it would be ideal to wear them the entire service (the elders have decided that we ourselves will wear masks for the entirety of the service, except when Kevin/band are on stage and Zach is preaching), but we are asking people to wear them at least when entering and exiting the building and during greeting times/times of movement.
  • Governor Edwards has strongly recommended that children under 8 also wear masks, but we are leaving this entirely up to parents’ judgment, since you know your kids better than we do! If you believe your children ought to wear masks and that they’ll keep them on, then you should have them wear them. We’d only ask that this not be allowed to be a point of contention in families or fuel disunity between parents and children.
  • We are currently planning to obtain a limited supply of disposable masks so that if you’re unable to acquire one, there is one available when you arrive.
What This Does Not Mean for TGP
  • By God’s grace, masks will not be a point of division at TGP.
  • By God’s grace, masks will not become a reason for feeling a sense of spiritual, moral, or intellectual superiority over other believers (for being uninformed/misinformed, for being cowards, for wrongly interpreting Scripture, or for not obeying Scripture).
  • By God’s grace, masks will not communicate anything other than that we are seeking to live before God in a humble, quiet, godly, and dignified way.
    • If you choose to wear a mask, do so before the Lord, and let it be an act of worship to Him alone. Don’t worry about what others think, and don’t look down on people with convictions different from yours.
    • If you choose not to wear a mask, do so before the Lord, and let it be an act of worship to Him alone. Don’t worry about what others think, and don’t look down on people with convictions different from yours.
  • By God’s grace, masks will not cause anyone to feel unwelcome.
  • By God’s grace, thinking through, and wrestling with, all of these issues will not weaken our unity and love for the Lord but strengthen it.
  • By God’s grace, masks will not become a hindrance to worship.
  • By God’s grace, masks will not be a signal of virtue or political affiliation.

     

P.S. whether you’re reading this with a mask on or not, remember that because of God’s Holy Spirit, we behold God with unveiled faces and are being transformed into His image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18)!