As COVID-19 cases continue to spike, churches are left scrambling with how to plan for services and small groups alike. Push back, especially in regards to meeting in-person, is at an all-time high. In fact, some have made the bold move to declare attendance at a church service as being unlawful.
On June 24, 2020, the U.S. Navy banned service personnel from a variety of activities. Among the prohibitions were shopping at non-essential retail stores, going to the movies, and even attending indoor church services. These imposed restrictions apply to every person assigned to a Naval unit, including chaplains. Those found in direct violation of this order could face punishment, up to and including being court-martialed.
Further review of this order, however, seems to reveal a level of hypocrisy. While the U.S. Navy claims that the order is in response to COVID-19, there are no limitations imposed on participating in protests, utilizing mass transit, or hosting a social gathering in one’s home for any number of individuals.
COVID-19 & The Constitution
First Liberty Institute, the largest legal organization in the U.S. focusing on defending religious liberty, claims that this order directly violates Constitutional rights. Retained by an officer in the U.S. Air Force, who is bound by this order because of being stationed at a Naval command center, First Liberty writes, “Government does not have carte blanche, even in a pandemic, to pick and choose which First Amendment rights are ‘open’ and which remain ‘closed’.”
Mike Berry, a member of General Counsel for First Liberty, commented,
“In open defiance of the Commander in Chief, who recently declared churches as essential to America, the U.S. Navy threatened to court-martial service members if they go to church. It is absolutely outrageous that our troops can’t go to church, but they can attend a protest or host house parties of any size.”
Our Armed Forces sign up to defend and protect the freedoms granted to us by the U.S. Constitution. First Liberty draws attention to this in their letter by stating, “While we recognize the unique challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented to our armed forces, it is imperative that the very freedoms our service members exist to protect do not join its list of victims.”
Seeking Connection & Community
Let’s face it, our enlisted troops deal with a barrage of issues. Lengthy deployments and time away from family, receiving new orders that require them to relocate their entire families, and experiencing traumatic combat can potentially have a negative impact on a soldier’s life. By attending church, they are most likely not searching for a good sermon. Instead, they are looking to stay connected to a community of believers that will help them weather life’s greatest storms.
As churches seek to maintain an online presence, it’s important for them to also find creative ways to offer small groups. These small groups can help everyone, both civilian and military, stay connected during these unprecedented times. Smaller group sizes can make it easier to meet in person. Or, thanks to today’s technology, groups can stay connected virtually.
Tackling Life’s Issues Through Small Groups
Small groups can empower people. They can help individuals learn their areas of strength and weakness. They can reach into areas of brokenness and pain that the Church otherwise may struggle to address. Larry Kreider, founder of DOVE International, states,
“The main purpose for every cell group must be to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell. Otherwise, the cell becomes a social club without any power.”
Strong small groups will deal with issues that most Sunday morning sermons won’t address – including pornography. Pornography is not just a problem in the civilian world. In an article published in The Army Times, Jon R. Anderson shared,
“With the explosion of Web 2.0 – social networking sites, video sharing, blogs, wikis and mash-ups – the seamy side of Porn 2.0 is picking off military marriages and killing promising careers like a shadow army of well-placed snipers.”
Pornography is also one issue that is silently crippling the church. In a study conducted by Pure Desire Ministries, 68% of church-going men struggle with porn. Sadly, though most pastors recognize that it is a problem, only about 7% of churches have programs that will help those who desire healing and freedom.
Finding Freedom in the Midst of COVID-19
The Conquer Series, a 10-week cinematic study for men, was created to help churches tackle this problem. Featuring cinematic military reenactments, this powerful study is suitable for both married and single men. The Conquer Series will cover a variety of topics dealing with sexual sin including pornography and masturbation. This is a Biblically-based study, which also includes scientific evidence to highlight the damaging effects of pornography on the brain. You will learn why trying harder does not work. And as you watch each episode and complete the weekly assignments, you’ll begin to recognize how past painful moments are contributing to the present-day struggle you’re facing.
It appears that COVID-19 is not going away overnight. The U.S. Navy may not repeal their order issued on June 24. Instead, they may choose to enforce this new policy to the fullest extent of the law. But when churches embrace technology to the fullest and continue to offer small groups that meet the needs of their people, lives can still be healed and transformed.
The Conquer Series is a powerful cinematic series which is helping over 1 million men conquer porn and walk in freedom.
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