At Family Research Council, our mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. This mission guides all our work, including our advocacy for religious liberty, life, and biblical values. It also informs our response to the coronavirus, which, as we are well aware, is now a pandemic.

President Trump has declared a national emergency and released new guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, including avoiding discretionary travel, discouraging eating out at restaurants, bars, and food courts, practicing good hygiene, and limiting social gatherings to 10 people or less. We believe if the steps recommended by the CDC and the White House are followed, there is a good chance we can “flatten the curve” and lessen the impact of the spreading virus on our health care system.

Over the past week, Christians from around the country have asked important questions about how to respond faithfully to the threat posed by the coronavirus. Specifically, many are wondering how churches should respond to the ongoing crisis. We believe there are a few appropriate responses to all of this.

First, Christians must pray. On Sunday, March 15, President Trump called for a National Day of Prayer in response to the calls of evangelical leaders. We must continue praying that God’s grace and mercy would fall upon us and that we would turn our eyes toward Him in this time of great need. To guide our prayer (which should be ongoing), FRC’s President Tony Perkins outlined several ways we can pray for the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus in the days and weeks ahead. We encourage everyone to read these prayer points and use them to guide your own prayers.

Specifically, Christians should commit to frequently praying for the following leaders:

  • President Trump
  • Vice President Pence
  • Secretary Alex Azar (HHS)
  • Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Treasury)
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
  • The White House Coronavirus Task Force
  • Congressional leadership
  • Governors and mayors across the country
  • Other officials in the administration and those at all levels of government who are dealing with this crisis
  • All health care workers and public health officials

Second, we should comply with mandates and recommendations from those in authority. Under normal conditions, it would be impermissible under our laws and the Constitution for the government to tell a church when it can or cannot meet. But certain emergencies, such as natural disasters and pandemics, do present temporary but substantial risks to public health and safety. As long as the government is not singling out and targeting religious gatherings for restriction (while permitting non-religious gatherings to take place), it is allowed to enact policies restricting all gatherings of a certain size in cases like this.

Biblically, Romans 13 reminds us that God instituted the governing authorities whom we should obey so long as they do not require us to disobey God. And while gathering for regular worship is not an optional part of the Christian life (Hebrews 10:25), FRC does not believe it is wrong to temporarily suspend corporate in-person meetings if the authorities believe it is in the community’s best interest. In the Old Testament, God gave Moses and Aaron detailed instructions about quarantines in cases of infectious disease (Leviticus 13-14). When there were outbreaks of disease, the priests served as public health officials and imposed guidelines for quarantining people, infected garments, and even houses. In the New Testament, Jesus called us to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31), and we believe in a case like this, the best way to practice neighborly love is by following the guidance of health and public safety experts.

The church can still meet and gather together in different ways. While not every church need adopt all these practices, there are ways we can still “gather” in the days ahead while ensuring we don’t contribute to the spread of the virus:

  • Encourage church members to drive to a parking lot, but stay in their cars and tune into shortwave radios used to broadcast church services.
  • Meet in small groups instead of one large gathering.
  • Suspend larger gatherings but keep the church office open.
  • Livestream services or other church gatherings and use texting or online chat groups to stay connected (churches with more advanced technological assets such as teleconferencing capabilities or other established systems to livestream events may partner with other churches to help them stay connected to their congregants).

Here are some ways churches can think about serving in the current times:

  • Offer benevolent funds to those facing financial hardship.
  • Provide housing for students who are being required to vacate school housing.
  • If possible, keep food pantries well stocked and include cleaning and sanitizing products.
  • Think of creative ways to serve older members, such as picking up groceries and prescriptions. Establish a way to check in on those who may be living alone, the elderly, or other vulnerable people.

Here are some practical tips that churches can implement, and educate their members on, to help prevent further spread of the virus:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Provide and require members to use hand-sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol while on church property.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Thoroughly and repeatedly clean high-contact surfaces and objects.
  • Encourage sick or at-risk members to stay home and seek medical care.
  • Minimize panic by educating members and preparing for disruptions in service.

The Department of Health and Human Services has also released a list of Recommended Preventative Practices for faith-based and community leaders, which we encourage you to read.

We also encourage you not to neglect your regular financial offering to your place of worship. The church as an institution is always crucial to society, but at times like these, its care for communities in need is especially needed. Your financial support helps do that. If you don’t have electronic banking, most church offices remain open, so please drop your contribution off with your church so that ministry can continue.

Finally, followers of Jesus should maintain a posture of trust while taking appropriate precautions. In times like these, when anxiety, misinformation, and uncertainty abound, it is tempting to become fearful. But while it is important to take all precautions and follow the latest updates from the authorities, Christians should not panic. During this time of increased fear, we must remember that we have been given a “spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7).

Our God is sovereign. The coronavirus did not take Him by surprise. He is still governing and sustaining the world (Col. 1:17). Human tendencies naturally pull society’s discussion of all this in the direction of panic and fear. But the Scriptures are clear: “Be not afraid.” Bible-believing Christians can model a spirit of trust as they remind each other of God’s promises and character. This grounding will enable us to care for and serve those around us.