March 23, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I’m sending you a link to a message I preached from John 16:31-33 this Lord’s Day. You can view the sermon here. In verse 33, Jesus tells his disciples just hours before his own death, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33; CSB). This text reminded me of the powerful words of the song “O Church Arise,” that we have sung together numerous times:
Come, see the cross, where love and mercy meet,
As the Son of God is stricken;
Then see His foes lie crushed beneath His feet,
For the Conqueror has risen!
Praise the Lord that Jesus has conquered the world with its sin and sickness! I pray this message from God’s word will be a source of encouragement to you this week.
In light of the barriers presently inhibiting us from safely and responsibly gathering for worship, our current plan is to offer our people a video recording of a sermon each Lord’s Day. A link to the video will be posted on our church’s website each Sunday at 11:00 AM, Lord willing. Some of our people have limited internet access, so we are also exploring ways to offer these sermons to them as well.
Our earnest hope is to resume Lord’s Day worship as soon as possible. As of right now, we are still seeking to follow the counsel of our national, state, and local leaders concerning this COVID-19 pandemic. So far, they remain consistent in urging people not to gather in large groups at this present time.
Brothers and sisters, I pray that you are still nourishing your own souls with the Scriptures each week in the time we are apart. Remember the words of our Lord Jesus who taught us, “Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). I’m hoping to lead a weekly Bible study on the Zoom video conferencing platform on Friday mornings. I pray that this might supplement your own Bible reading. I will send you more information about this in the coming days, Lord permitting.
In these challenging days, we also want to serve our congregation’s precious older members in light of some of the risks associated with public exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Based on all the information that continues to come down from the CDC and our nation’s other health experts, people over the age of sixty-five are at the greatest risk for 1) contracting this virus and 2) being most severely impacted by this virus. If you are one of our older members, we want to bless you during this time by coordinating arrangements to pick up groceries and other household items for you. We have already reached out to many of you about this during the past week. To our dear elderly brothers and sisters, I pray you will consider letting us serve you in this way.
If you have not yet had an opportunity to hear the song “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death,” I pray you will listen to it if you haven’t already. The song was written by Keith Getty (co-author of “In Christ Alone”), Jordan Kauflin (“All I Have is Christ”) , Matt Merker (“He Will Hold Me Fast”), Matt Papa, and Matt Boswell (“His Mercy is More”). Here is a link to a short video about how these brothers came together to write this song. I can hardly think of a more encouraging and timely song that could be written at our present moment.
I miss you, church family. I am praying for you and look forward to the day when we can meet together again.
In HIS grip,
March 16, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
So much has changed—and continues to change—since last week. Last night the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that “for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.” Today the White House counseled against people meeting in groups larger than ten. Obviously, choosing to follow such recommendations would have significant implications for our church in coming weeks. Today, Indiana’s state leadership essentially made a decision for congregations like ours. Governor Holcomb released a statement saying that “Indiana will adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for large events and mass gatherings. The guidance recommends no in-person events of more than 50 people.” You can read the full statement here. This sort of news is difficult to receive. There are occasions when, as a church, a mandate of our government might so strongly oppose the righteous reign and rule of King Jesus that it would require us to engage in civil disobedience. I do not believe we are presently faced with such a dilemma. As a church, I believe this sort of government mandate currently falls under a biblical command like Titus 3:2: “Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:2).
One early implication of this news for our church is already becoming clear: this is not a challenge that we are going to overcome in one week’s time. In other words, brothers and sisters, it appears we must now begin preparing for the reality that it may be multiple weeks before we can safely meet together again for corporate worship on the Lord’s Day. This is saddening and unsettling news to take in. I never dreamed that as a pastor I would have to share this kind of news with the people God would call me to shepherd. Out of concern for our beloved older church members, community, and our corporate witness for Jesus, however, it seems that this is the action we must start planning to take. I’ve already communicated with a number of pastors in our area today who are preparing to make changes that would have seemed unthinkable just a couple of weeks ago.
In coming days, we will continue communicating with you through email, and in other ways as necessary, more about what this will mean for our church. Please reach out to us if you need something or have questions. More importantly, Pastor Deven and I ask that you would remain faithful to pray for us during this time. We are continuing to listen to counsel from other pastors and denominational leaders about the wisest ways to move forward at this moment. We are also seeking to gather information concerning the COVID-19 virus from the most reliable sources possible like the CDC. If this feels like a lot to take in, please know that I have had those same sorts of feelings too. What great hope we have in moments like this to remember that we worship One “who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory”! (Eph 1:11-12; ESV).
Yes, much is changing quickly in these troubled days. Praise be to God we have the glorious comfort of knowing that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8).
I am continuing to pray for you, dear church family.
In HIS grip,