Let's talk about the elephant in the room around churches and reopening: money.

Churches are struggling because people many folks only tithe in person. When the offering plate isn't passed, there isn't money to pay staff, rent, bills, etc.

So churches are feeling desperate.
And they aren't necessarily desperate because they are greedy. (I mean, some are.) But most churches are desperate because, like so many other businesses affected right now, they are having to make really hard decisions. Like laying people off. People with families to support.
So churches are faced with a really difficult dilemma, trying to protect the pastors on their staff from layoffs and financial collapse, vs. trying to be responsible to the community at large because reconvening could very likely increase infections.
And now on top of that pressure, we have a president who is encouraging churches to reopen and using rhetoric that suggests that churches are being persecuted by their governors. This is reckless, irresponsible, and a false narrative, but a lot of people are buying it.
As Christians, we know that gathering as a large body is not the only way to worship. We also know that an imperative of our faith is to love and care for others. We are not modeling community care or social responsibility, key tenets of our faith, by gathering in a pandemic.
So what do Christians do to discourage churches from reopening before it is safe to do so? If you have been a regular member of a church body, one step is to tithe. Set it up online or on autopay from your bank. Remove money as a reason for your church to reinstate gatherings.
(And yeah. I never thought, as a post-evangelical that I'd be doing a public exhortation to get people to tithe. But here we are.)
I also think we need to encourage others to continue tithing if they can, and to reach out to our pastors and ask them to please refrain from in-person gatherings until it is really safe to do so. They need to hear from you.
I follow a lot of churches on social media and I see that they are hustling. Creating a lot of content, pivoting to online services . . . some are working harder than ever. But if those offering plates are not also pivoted by congregants, that temptation to gather is strong.
As a former pastor's wife, I have a ton of empathy for how scary this has to be for so many people on church staff, whose livelihoods are really threatened right now. But the church cannot be responsible for more outbreaks that lead to more loss of life.
And Christians . . . if you see churches reopening in places that still have community-acquired infections of COVID-19, speak up. The chorus of "churches are essential and need to reopen" is loud. We need to be louder.
You can follow @kristenhowerton.
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