“Snowstorm Coming! No Church Tomorrow!” If we’ve been part of a local congregation for any length of time, we’ve received news like that. Whether it be ice, rain, snow, or excessive heat, some natural elements can affect the advisability of corporate gatherings. Like the local school systems, many churches choose caution and safety over pushing forward with a planned activity. No one in authority wants his or her decision to be the cause of someone’s misfortune. However, as people of faith, shouldn’t we be fearless? Isn’t church more important than the weather? Is it right for a church to close due to inclement weather?
The first thing to keep in mind is that no human being has the power to “close” the church. The church is not a building but a body of believers (Romans 12:4–5), and Jesus declared that even the gates of hell will not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). We have no central temple to which we must go to worship. God has created a new temple—the bodies of His saints (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16). We take the church with us everywhere we go because Christ is within us. Therefore, even when the congregation cannot meet together physically, they can still worship as one in spirit. Paul spoke of being “with you in spirit” when he could not be physically present with the churches he loved (1 Corinthians 5:3–4; Colossians 2:5).
Second, when we argue that it is sinful to close the church doors for any reason, we run the risk of stepping into legalism. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had created all kinds of religious rules about worship, and Jesus rebuked them for it (Mark 7:7; Matthew 15:7–9). He reminded the Samaritan woman that the location of worship did not matter to God. The Father was seeking those who would worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:19–24). Like the Pharisees, we can grow so comfortable in our own traditions that we mistake them for God’s commands. Our instruction is that we do not neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). Missing one Sunday because of bad weather is not being neglectful.
Third, closing church due to inclement weather does not mean there is no church service. In our modern age, with online services so readily available, no Christian needs to skip Sunday worship. A multitude of Bible-teaching churches are making the Word available every Sunday, no matter what the weather.
Of course, being part of a local congregation of believers is vital for spiritual growth. Jesus did not create a church filled with Lone Ranger Christians. Most letters of the New Testament were written to churches, not individuals. Christian fellowship and corporate worship are essential. God gives pastors and elders the responsibility for a specific flock (Acts 14:23; 1 Peter 5:2; Titus 1:5), and the flock is instructed to honor them as God’s under-shepherds (Hebrews 13:17). Sometimes, when challenges such as inclement weather present themselves, the pastor or elder board must weigh carefully the pros and cons of a temporary closing for the good of the congregation. They recognize that there will be consequences of either decision. When the leaders of a local church decide that the risks of inviting people to get out on slippery roads are greater than the risks of the flock missing a worship service, the local congregation should honor that decision and pray that God will continue to build and strengthen His church.