March 19, 2020
Dear GCC Family,
As I write this letter, I am sitting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, watching the rate of change rapidly increase. When the men met on Tuesday morning, the recommendations were not to gather in groups over 50. Now, that recommendation has been reduced to 10.
I need point out that it is a RECOMMENDATION. It is not a mandate, at least not yet. The language in the current CDC guidelines is, “Consider cancelling gatherings of more than 10 people.” The reasoning behind this recommendation is easy to understand. Because this virus is so contagious, a single person could easily infect the entire group, even large groups.
How am I responding?
As a dad and a pastor, I feel the tension. I do not want my family becoming infected (even though I am not in the least fearful of it), nor do I want to pass it on. At the same time, I recognize that the best place for us in a time of crisis is with God’s people in God’s presence.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “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.”
Two quick points about how this verse applies to my family.
1) Neglect is more accurately to be thought of here as “forsake.” Don’t forsake; don’t leave behind the gathering of the saints. Do not conclude that it is OK to skip out, even for a single Sunday. This verse is not addressing those times when we are providentially hindered such as being sick ourselves, or having an emergency. However, the FEAR of Covid-19 infection for me or my family does not rise to this level. For me, to skip Sunday worship for no other reason than a possibility of infection would work against my faith.
There is another distinction that I, as a pastor need to make. Being in a high-risk category does not necessarily mean that someone is living in fear. In fact, recognizing that you are in such a high-risk category and avoiding people altogether could be a very wise course of action and it could, in fact, be the right application of the 6th Commandment -Thou shalt not kill. This 6th Commandment requires the valuing of life and taking reasonable and rational steps to protect your own life and the life of others.
2) Encouraging takes place in the context of gathering together. We need encouragement. We need to hear truth applied to us so that we will know how to handle and respond to the chaos around us. We need to see that we are not unique or alone in the chaos that we face. The very place where we will receive the strength to persevere in wise decision-making is the body of Christ! We will NOT find it in general posts on social media.
The recent upheaval and uncertainty in our nation has created a variety of new stresses and pressures upon families. My family needs the constant reminder of Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
How is GCC going to respond?
We want to encourage our members to think through their decisions. We do not want to force or coerce anyone to go against their conscience. If you are unsure of what you should be doing, please call or email. We are available for discussion. Additionally, we are going to continue having our Tuesday Men’s group and our Friday women’s group meetings (except the women will not be meeting tomorrow 3/20 since I am out of town), since these are prime opportunities to discuss and wrestle through the issues facing us.
We want our members to consider Sunday Worship as a time of spiritual encouragement. We are going to continue have our worship service at 10:45, but we are going to put in place some procedures to minimize spread if a stealth carrier should attend. Unless and until the situation changes, we are going to cancel our Sunday School and Sunday Evening Services. We are going to tweak to our Wednesday evening time. We want to change the focus from education to prayer. In all our meetings, we are going to ask that people follow a no-contact strategy.
1. If you or someone in your household is sick, please stay home.
2. Please do not make physical contact. No hugs, shaking hands, or fist bumps.
3. Please do not touch counters, door handles, or other items, unless absolutely necessary.
4. Please be sure to wash your hands frequently and use a sufficient hand sanitizer regularly.
2Timothy 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Now is not the time for the Church to slink back and become irrelevant. Now is the time for the church to demonstrate a wisdom that is from above. Isaiah 26:3 is God’s promise for difficulty times. “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
We can trust in God during this time, even when the world is racing into chaos because our God is both sovereign and good. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”