Thinking Through A Theology Of Bad Weather

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A snowplow truck removing snow from a tree lined rural road on a cold winter day.

A few weeks ago we canceled Sunday worship at PBC. I absolutely hated doing it. We canceled because of weather, and I was raised to think that weather has no relationship to what must be done. Furthermore the amount of snow we got would have been characterized as an invalid excuse to be late for work amount of snow in Colorado, where I spent all of my adult life prior to moving to L.A. for seminary. It was hard, others didn’t like it, and it discolored to whole week. So how could we do it? Because we have a Biblical philosophy of ministry and we have thought through a theology of bad weather, and your church should too.

I know it is a little out of the box to say that, but what I am really getting at is that any church that proclaims the sufficiency of Scripture and advocates for the authority of Scripture ought to think biblically about everything, even weather cancellation.

To be honest when I came here to Virginia, I was little taken aback by how people reacted to snowy weather. As I said I lived the vast majority of my adult life in Colorado where less than a foot of snow never canceled anything.  Not only that, I grew up in Pittsburgh a scant 3 ½ hours away by car. It’s a little colder there, but it is essentially the same climate. And I don’t remember ever anything being canceled for less than a foot of snow, and I can say with certainty we had less than 10 snow days off from school growing up. But it is a regular occurrence here, there have already been at least 2 snow days (that I have noticed) already in 2019 for prince William County Schools in 2019 including one day that was canceled according to PWCS for “snow residue.”

The point is not that they do things wrong here, it is that snow is just thought of differently here than anywhere I have lived.  Honestly I almost fell over in shock the first time somebody asked me on a Sunny Sunday if we were going to cancel church the next Sunday because snow was forecast.  I answered, “We aren’t planning on it,” but in my head I thought, “Of course not you heathen.”

And I convinced the leadership to adopt my default setting of we have worship no matter what.  And we did.

But after a few times of preaching an old message to my wife and 1/2 of the leadership team on snowy Sundays over my first two winters here, I thought we needed rethink our policy, or to be honest, think it through for the first time.

Anytime we think through anything ministry related the first question we ask is does the Bible say anything explicitly about the subject.  Of course the Bible says nothing about snow days, but there are some principles to consider.

Of first importance, the corporate worship service is not to be devalued, it is supremely important.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:19-25

Although it is more common when it comes to thinking through maintaining, and attending the corporate gathering to see only Heb 10:25 cited, it is important to not treat it as a bare command to go to church. The why is even more important than the what. The why of the corporate gathering is that it is a loving response to what Christ has done for us, and that means that the corporate gathering is not simply something to be done, it is an expression of our hope in Christ. It is something to be highly valued, and not to be disregarded or canceled lightly.

Next, we (and by we I mean me) need to put the interests of others ahead of our own interests and opinions.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3

I can be tenacious (my wife might say stubborn) at times. I live close enough to the church that if the roads are impassable I could walk (Its about 2 miles) just like I remember my father walking to work in snowstorms, and I planned on it. These days the mail might not be delivered in bad weather, but neither rain nor snow nor sleet would keep me from preaching on Sunday morning if it was up to me. And I felt so strongly about it that leadership, without a word, deferred to me. But our church is unique, though we are small, we are a regional church with most in the church driving 25 minutes (or more) on Sunday mornings. While I might be able to make it to church without endangering my life or the life of others, most people in the church cannot.

Thirdly, and this is one you might not think of, we want to be exemplary in our citizenship, and submit to the authority of the governing authorities. 

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. – Romans 13:1-2

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. – 1 Peter 2:13-15

How this factors in, is that just like the schools here are quick to declare a snow day, both the governor and the county government are quick to respond to snow and even the forecast of snow.

Putting all of these things together, the supreme importance of the corporate gathering, thinking of others first, and citizenship concerns we arrived at the following policy.

PBC will meet for corporate worship unless the state, county, or municipal government declares a state of emergency or institutes a travel (including voluntary) restriction. We encourage you to evaluate your local conditions and make the travel decision that is appropriate for you and your family.

Additionally if a significant snow is expected we cancel all Sunday school classes and I come prepared to preach either a the next message in our current series, or another expository message to be preached in the event of low attendance.

I don’t share this as a model policy but simply as an illustration, a biblical philosophy of ministry means that everything must be considered in light of Scripture, even something as mundane as how to respond to the weather.

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John Chester

About John Chester

John serves the saints of Piedmont Bible Church, a Grace Advance church plant in Haymarket Virginia, as their shepherd, a position he has held since 2012 and hopes to serve in the rest of his life. Prior to being called to ministry John worked as a lacrosse coach, a pizza maker, a writer, a marketing executive, and just about everything in between. John is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and The Grace Advance Academy. He hails from The City of Champions, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and is unbelievably blessed to be married to his wife Cassandra.