Official Statement from Pastor Preston Hoiseth of Bible Baptist Church in Crookston, regarding the “soft reopen” of church services:
After much deliberation and prayer, Bible Baptist Church of Crookston has determined to have a “soft reopen” of church services on Sunday, May 24th at 11:00 am.
Out of concern for the health of our own church members, relatives, and our community, Bible Baptist Church decided in mid-March to cancel all in-person services for several weeks, and we went to an online and radio format. Together, we were all asked to help “flatten the curve,” and along with other businesses and churches in the area, we did our part to help in that effort.
With the nicer weather, we held drive-in services for three weeks in May. Everyone cooperated with the guidelines that were in place, and we were able to gather very safely in that way. Online and drive-in services were ways to temporarily make the best of the situation until the stay-at-home order expired.
While Governor Walz allowed a good number of businesses to reopen as of May 18th, unfortunately, he did not make any suggestions, nor did he give any kind of timeframe for when he would permit the safe reopening of churches in numbers greater than 10 people.
Bible Baptist Church has taken a very proactive position all throughout this crisis. We did not wait at the beginning for anyone to tell us to cancel our in-person services. And as an independent church, it is ultimately our own decision when to reopen.
We love, pray for, and respect all our civil leaders. However, when it comes to the decisions that govern the operations of a church, both scripturally and constitutionally, churches are autonomous and answer to Christ alone. A church’s authority to meet together for worship comes from a Higher Power than the Governor’s mansion in St. Paul, or even the White House in Washington, D.C.
This is not an emotional decision, nor is it a political statement. We are simply exercising our God-given right to worship in the way that the Lord leads us, according to His Word and our own conscience. We want to be loving and considerate of our neighbors. Yet at the same time, we must be faithful to the Lord and to the Bible.
By deciding to reopen, we are not minimizing the sickness and devastation that COVID-19 has caused. In fact, we are taking this crisis very seriously. Our prayers are with all those who have been directly impacted by this virus. As responsible fellow-citizens and neighbors, we gladly cooperated to flatten the curve and to delay the spread, giving our healthcare institutions the time they needed to prepare.
Going forward, we will all need to slowly and carefully get back to life, making day-to-day judgment calls and managing the risks of this “new normal.” The government has said that many businesses can now reopen, and that they are trusting them to do their part to operate safely and to help minimize the risks for people. Churches are also capable of being responsible in this way.
We are taking serious measures to help keep safe those who choose to attend during this time. Those who are elderly, those with underlying health issues, and those who simply feel unsafe attending church in person are being encouraged to continue watching the services online at home.
At this point, the great majority of our church membership is ready to take this step. There is a significant spiritual and emotional cost to not meeting that is becoming even greater than the ongoing risk to our physical health.
There is simply no substitute for the in-person gathering together of God’s people. The church is by definition a physical assembly, and without that, we simply cannot accomplish what God has put us here to do. Therefore, with respect to our civil authorities, we have determined before God that we will safely reopen this Sunday, for all those who wish to gather together for worship.