Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I’m sending you an MP3 file of a brief devotional meditation (20 min) I’ve prepared for you. As we face the prospect of not meeting in coming weeks, Pastor Deven and I are working to make audio/video accommodations so that we can continue to let you hear the preaching of God’s word each week. There’s no spiritual substitute for us gathering together on the Lord’s Day. If you’re at home and feel some sadness or restlessness about not being able to gather with your Christian brothers and sisters at church this morning, it is not a bad thing that you have such feelings—we should have them. I have felt those same sorts of feelings today! I miss seeing you and being together with you at the time that we normally worship our risen Lord.
We do not take lightly suspending a Sunday morning worship gathering. We can praise God that the gospel can reach people through MP3s, video cameras, and livestream AV technology, but watching a preacher on a screen or listening to a sermon over headphones can never be a substitute for physically gathering with the saints on the Lord’s Day. The writer to the Hebrews lovingly warns us as Christians that we must “not [be] neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” (Heb 10:25; CSB). Under normal circumstances, it would be sinful for us to identify as God’s people while habitually neglecting to gather together for worship with the people of God in the covenant community of a local church’s membership. There are good and legitimate exceptions to a command like this. This is why we rightly don’t hold members with crippling health or deployed military service members to this same standard we hold most church members. Another legitimate exception for not gathering together on a Lord’s Day would be under the sort of health crisis that our community, state, nation, and world is facing in this COVID-19 virus. This is indeed the situation we find ourselves in as a local church at this moment. Though we may gladly leverage certain technologies in coming days to give you access to parts of our service, we feel it’s important that you know we feel this can never be a fitting substitute for corporately reading God’s word, praying together, singing praises to God together, and sitting under the preaching of God’s word together.
Please continue to pray for our church, our community, and our nation during these days. As I mentioned in my last email to you, Ronnie Floyd, along with leaders of the SBC’s other national entities has called members of our SBC churches to a “Day of Prayer for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Global Pandemic.”
Here are four key ways they are calling us to pray….
- Ask God, in His mercy, to stop this pandemic and save lives — not only in our communities but around the world, particularly in places that are unequipped medically to deal with the virus. (Isaiah 59:1-2)
- Pray for President Donald Trump and other government leaders — international, federal, state, and local — to have the wisdom to direct us in the best courses of action for prevention and care. (Romans 13:1–4)
- Scripture says: Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Pray that the Lord will give us wisdom in this moment of fear as the foundations of what we know are shaken, that others would realize how fragile life is and how real eternity is, and they would see their need to turn to God. (Psalm 90:12)
- Ask God to protect our missionaries and their families around the globe, using this global crisis to advance His Good News to the whole world. (Mark 16:15)
I also want to introduce you to a wonderful new song of worship that I pray will encourage you in these days. The song is called “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death.” You can watch a video of the song here. Here are the lyrics:
“Christ Our Hope in Life and Death”
What is our hope in life and death?
Christ alone, Christ alone.
What is our only confidence?
That our souls to him belong.
Who holds our days within his hand?
What comes, apart from his command?
And what will keep us to the end?
The love of Christ, in which we stand.
O sing hallelujah!
Our hope springs eternal;
O sing hallelujah!
Now and ever we confess
Christ our hope in life and death.
What truth can calm the troubled soul?
God is good, God is good.
Where is his grace and goodness known?
In our great Redeemer’s blood.
Who holds our faith when fears arise?
Who stands above the stormy trial?
Who sends the waves that bring us nigh
Unto the shore, the rock of Christ?
Unto the grave, what shall we sing?
“Christ, he lives; Christ, he lives!”
And what reward will heaven bring?
Everlasting life with him.
There we will rise to meet the Lord,
Then sin and death will be destroyed,
And we will feast in endless joy,
When Christ is ours forevermore.
Music by Keith Getty, Matt Boswell, Jordan Kauflin, Matt Merker, and Matt Papa
© 2020 Getty Music Publishing (BMI) / Messenger Hymns (BMI) / Matthew Merker Music (BMI) /
Jordan Kauflin Music (BMI) / Getty Music Hymns and Songs (ASCAP) / Love Your Enemies Publishing (ASCAP)
I love you and am praying for you.
In HIS grip,