I’ve said it before, navigating pastoral ministry is tricky business. But one thing that you can take to the bank is that requiring masks and social distancing at church is an outstanding pastoral decision. The nice thing is that you don’t really have to think about it. The government and health experts have already done all the thinking for you—your job is to do what they say. But just in case you are still unsure if you should require churchgoers to wear masks and social distance, here are six reasons why every pastor should require these wise and loving measures.
1. You Will Be Fitting in (and Helping Others Fit in Too)
One of your most important duties as a pastor is to fit in with other pastors. If a majority of other churches have chosen to enforce mask mandates, they are obviously correct. Throughout history, it has always been the case that the majority is correct. Christians, and especially Christian leaders, are never called to stand alone in the world. John Knox was definitely wrong when he said, “A man with God is always in the majority.” Furthermore, your duty is to help church members fit in with the world around them. It’s not helpful for Christians to look different than the world. You want visitors to walk into your church and say, “Hey, everyone here behaves just like the rest of the world—this seems like a good place for me!” You want outsiders to understand that the church reacts to the virus just like the unbelieving world. This is how we reach the lost. As you lovingly lead your people by requiring them to wear masks, you will be helping others conform to the world, which is better than being transformed.
2. You Will Encourage Everyone to Trust the Government
Christians should be innocent as serpents and wise as doves. This is especially true when it comes to government mandates relating to the church. Because the government is worthy of our complete trust and obedience, there is no need to question any of their decisions. Anything they tell us to do is undoubtedly for our good and should be adhered to rigorously, especially as it relates to church matters. By requiring face masks and social distancing when your church gathers, you will be helping your congregants to realize that every mandate from Washington, D.C. is worthy of our unquestioning obedience. Despite our government’s immaculate track record of always caring for life, from the preborn to the elderly, some naïve church members still stubbornly think that the government is not qualified to give such directives. These foolish Christians overreact to the fact that the government allows a few abortions each year. Overall, our government is manifestly spotless when it comes to protecting life. Any mandate to wear a mask or stay away from other Christians during church should be submitted to so that more people will trust that our government always knows what is best. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it just to be safe (and safety is always first in Christianity): the government obviously has the best interests of the church of Jesus Christ in mind whenever it makes any decision. In earlier times, before Christians knew better, the church stood independent of government regulations and mandates. Some asinine Christians (like the Pilgrims) were even willing to face imprisonment and torture to be free of government intrusion in matters of church life. Thankfully, pastors today don’t have to be like them. It is now not only acceptable to let the government tell the church what to do, but also the most loving thing.
3. By Binding the Consciences of All Believers, You Will Weed Out Dangerous, Independent Thinkers from Your Church
By using your authority as a pastor to require all church members to wear masks, you will do the good work of separating the wheat from the chaff. Why would you want to have supposed “Christians” in your church who think that individual believers should be able to make up their own minds about wearing a mask or social distancing? Those types of people certainly cause divisions and create obstacles. They are probably also conspiracy theorists. If you do not require masks, you will not only allow these dangerous parishioners to think for themselves, but you will be implicitly allowing them to encourage others to think for themselves as well. This is the last thing you want to do as a pastor. Your job is to do all the thinking for your church. Since you went to seminary, you are clearly the most qualified to decide if everyone should wear a mask. Your sheep are not able to make these decisions for themselves. By lovingly forcing everyone to wear a mask, you will likely get rid of those wolves who foolishly think you do not have the authority to bind the consciences of believers regarding the Lord’s Day assembly. Stand firm in your conviction that everyone should have the exact same convictions about masks; lord it over the people if you must. Your church, and world for that matter, will be a much better place without these people who think they can make decisions for themselves; self-government is so passé.
4. You Will Be Showing Your Support for the Government Mandated Shutdown of Your Congregant’s Businesses
Social distancing requirements have led many family businesses to close their doors indefinitely. There is no question that this was the right decision. It is far more important that we slow the inevitable spread of the coronavirus than that people can support themselves and their families. If even one person dies because of the coronavirus, we have failed as a nation. But if a someone loses their business, cannot support their family, and turns to drugs, alcohol, and suicide, our hands are clean. This is the price we pay for safety. We will stoically accept such consequences—it’s the loving thing to do. In the extremely rare event that people in your church lose a business because of the government mandates, your job as a church leader is to show your faithfulness to the government’s decisions so these people will feel better about being out of work. By enforcing mask and social distancing requirements, your church will be an example to the community around you, a city on a hill. Your church can lead the way in helping businessowners submit to all the government mandates, even if it means Christians lose their jobs and have to rely on government money. This is the sacrifice you have been called to as a minister of the gospel. If you don’t follow this advice, the results could be disastrous. If you don’t comply with mask regulations, you might unwittingly encourage businessowners in your congregation to do the same thing. Obviously, if a business does not religiously enforce mask mandates and social distancing, all employees and customers will get the virus, and probably die. Businessowner Alfie Oakes committed the unpardonable sin of allowing customers to choose whether to wear a mask. He is a boar in the Lord’s vineyard. Avoid such heretics like the plague (or the coronavirus…same thing, right?) and do not let them in your church (unless they repent and don a mask).
5. You Will Help Christians Understand True Science
In the past, before scientific advances helped the church realize many of her errors, Christians used to believe that God created humans with immune systems. There are still some fundamentalists who believe this today. Now that we know better, it would be unconscionable to proport the lie that our bodies are able to develop immunity to viruses and diseases. To be honest, it is disgusting that some parents continue to teach their children this fairy tale. By ensuring that everyone covers their face and stays six feet away from one another, you will reinforce the undisputed truth that our bodies were not designed to interact with microbes and develop natural immunity. Churches should definitely not be the place for people to interact with other people. If you enforce these measures, concerned mothers can rest assured that their children will be much better prepared to face the world around them, having been sheltered not only from the coronavirus, but also a bunch of other deadly microbes. You’ll be a hero.
6. You Will Ensure Unity by Making Everyone Act the Same Way
It doesn’t make sense to recommend that only people truly concerned about contracting the virus wear a mask, or face shield, or hazmat suit, if everyone else isn’t also required to wear a mask. If some people are worried about getting the virus, then it makes perfect sense to make everyone else wear a mask too. Anytime anyone is concerned about something, then everyone else should also act as if they are concerned about it too. This what it means to love others. Love means we accept whatever someone else believes. If everyone isn’t required to wear masks, then the people that are really concerned about getting infected would be forced to make their own decisions about how to avoid the virus. They might even have to think about how concerned about the virus they really are. In any case, you don’t want to be the cause of those things. You want everyone in your herd, or flock, to wear a mask until further notice. In this way, no one will get the virus and the group will develop herd immunity. And, if you are ever tempted to question the wisdom of these mandates, just remember that “we are all in this together.” As long as everyone is acting in “unity,” nothing else really matters.
Chris Hume is a Christian husband, father, and military veteran. In case you didn’t realize it, this article was satire. To read about his views on the subject of the coronavirus and the gathering of the church, read his book Essential Service, available as a free download here. The revised edition includes an appendix about pastors requiring masks and social distancing.