I’ve spent a lot of time this week hearing from advisors, listening to our leaders, and considering the spiritual and practical implications of COVID-19 virus for our church, school, and ministry. I’ll share more thoughts on Sunday via livestream at 10am as well.
I ask you to read this post carefully and prayerfully, and premeditate your response as a follower of Jesus. Also, consider sharing this email. We want to make sure our whole church engages in a godly response to our present situation.
How do Jesus-followers respond to hard stuff?
1. Jesus-Followers Respond Prayerfully and Hopefully
Our church family has studied much recently (during our emotional health series) about biblical responses to fear and worry. You might be encouraged by some of those messages of hope. We’ve also recently studied God’s strength. We belong to a good God who promises to meet our needs.
In this, I encourage you to be at rest psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. You are no less secure in Christ than you were a month or two ago. The gospel is designed for times like this. This is when our hope matters most!
I encourage you not to descend into divisive, political, or pointless rhetoric and not to be captured by the rampant panic, fear, and conjecture. Rather be prayerful and be hopeful.
How can we pray? Please pray for those impacted by this illness. Pray for those at risk, those who are sick, those who are fearful and anxious. Please pray for medical professionals and governing leaders who are under much stress, long hours, and intense public scrutiny. Pray for lost hearts to turn to Jesus. Pray for God to protect our nation, our region, our church family, and our ministry. Finally, pray that hearts will open to the gospel.
(In that light, I am meeting with a small group of men at 8am tomorrow at our church just for prayer. Feel free to join us if you would like to pray with us for a short time.)
“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6)
2. Jesus-Followers Respond Missionally and Intentionally
As I’ve studied various leaders’ responses online and elsewhere, I have been struck by the absence of gospel intentionality. I’ve heard many pastors concerned about their church’s financial giving. I’ve heard only two mention the potential of gospel ministry in times of crisis. I’ve heard none mention concern for how this virus will impact members of the church family either in health or in financial fears.
The first century church was resilient because of the resurrection. They viewed hardship as opportunity for the gospel. Indeed, the rapid expansion of 1st century Christianity was a result of believers spreading the gospel in response to crisis. God often uses fear to help people see their need for Jesus. People around us are scared and this is no time to panic. It’s time to speak. It’s time to let others know of the hope that is within us.
My friend, Pastor Josh Teis well wrote, “Take one minute—imagine what it would be like to not believe in an omnipotent God. Imagine the terror and uncertainty that so many are feeling tonight. Could this be our moment? Could this be our chance to demonstrate true peace and genuine faith to a world in panic?”
Let us pray together that God will help us speak the gospel into a fearful world! Only Jesus ultimately resolves fear.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15)
3. Jesus Followers Respond Lovingly
This is not a time to hoard, but a time to serve. This is a time to unify for the purpose of loving others. Who do you know that is vulnerable? Who do you know that is afraid? How can you serve and help to care? Would you be willing to grocery shop for a widow or high-risk neighbor? Is there someone God would have you help to serve or bless or comfort. Likely, within your reach, there is someone God would call you to love.
As a church we want to help team up those willing to serve with those in need of help. If you are a part of our church that is at risk or in need of help with something like a trip to the store or child care, please contact the church office. If you are willing to be a helping hand in this way, please email [email protected] so we can coordinate these needs.
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14)
4. Jesus-Followers Respond Practically and Reasonably
Because of the possibility of overwhelming our health-care system, our governing leaders have asked us to limit public gatherings. This pains us all, as Sunday is probably our favorite day of the week! And yet, I believe it is wise and responsible to heed the direction of those God has placed into leadership. Regardless of your personal persuasion as to the nature of this threat, it is wise to be cautious and to act responsibly as a church family. (Romans 13:1, 1 Peter 2:13)
Here’s our plan for this weekend. (Beyond this weekend, we will be communicating on a week by week basis regarding future scheduling of services and events.)
Sunday Worship—We will livestream one service at 10am at the church with our worship team, our pastoral staff, and a full Bible message. We encourage you to gather your family or even consider gathering with one or two other church families to engage in the livestream together from home.
We will promote this service as an online event called “Fearless—Finding Real Confidence in Crisis Moments.” We encourage you to share and invite fearful friends and unbelievers to engage in this service and simple gospel presentation. People are looking for a hopeful message right now, and we want to speak into that cultural need.
You can find the livestream at https://ebcnewington.com/live/ or on our church Facebook page. Our pastoral staff will be responsively engaged on the livestream starting at 9:45am, so jump on early and join the “good morning” conversation. (The service video will continue to be available after the service so you can share with others.) Our staff will also be responsive to phones and church email during the service time.
5. Jesus-Followers Respond Patiently, Flexibly, and Faithfully
Like you, I have no clue how this will develop or how long it will last. I ask you to pray with me that it will pass quickly. That said, it is impossible to know about the status of future events except on a week to week basis. Please stay connected with email and church social media accounts and website for the most current announcements and information.
We will postpone our Vision Offering and reschedule it after this crisis has past. Personally, I have prepared my offering and am excited to give it to the Lord’s work at the right time. I pray you will be seeking the Lord’s direction in this as well.
Finally, when it comes to provision, both for your family personally and for the whole ministry, we are all tempted to fear. I encourage you to remember—God’s got this! He’s got us. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom and all these things will be added…” (Matthew 6:33)
Keep Him in view. Sometimes He provides weeks or months or even years in advance, but at other seasons He provides day to day or week to week. Whatever He chooses to do, be at rest in His protective promise. He will care for you, and He will care for us. In fact, it’s going to be exciting to see just how He will show Himself real and trustworthy to each of us in these times. I know this, it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18.)
As for me and my house, we will continue our regular giving patterns in love and trust. Being that we are not gathering, I encourage you to engage in giving online, text to give, or feel free to drop your offering by the church any time the office is open. I know God will continue to be faithful to us and through us. For more information about giving options during season, visit https://ebcnewington.com/give/
6. Jesus-Followers Respond Calmly and Confidently
In closing, pray that God will lead us forward, calm our hearts, and sustain our needs. Pray that He will use us to be loving light as darkness grows. Pray that He will intersect our path with seeking and fearful hearts. Pray that He will make us courageous and confident to share the hope of the Gospel in the midst of such hopelessness.
I love you. I will miss gathering on Sunday. I can’t wait to see how many of you engage on livestream, and how many of our friends will do the same. God is at work around us and in our world. We are His, and He has called us for “such a time as this.” May we not shrink from our calling, but step into it with real faith!
Let me know how I can serve you!
“And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:” (Hebrews 6:11)
“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:13)