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Church Family Update - Coronavirus

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As the leadership team has got together over this past week, we have tried our best to sort through the copious amount of information that is out there regarding the COVID-19 crisis that has affected the entire world. We have spent a lot of time reading reports, trying to weed through any potential hysteria, listening to the experts in the appropriate fields.

We want to acknowledge up front that your elders are not medical experts, we are not experts in how viruses spread, nor do we fully understand what the appropriate response to a global pandemic is. We are pastors, entrusted by God to shepherd and care for this local church. We get our orders from the Bible on how to care and shepherd for the local church.

So, when a global health crisis overtakes the world, we do try to understand these events from a biblical perspective. We see that God is sovereign over these events and there is no need for us to fear. But, we are also thankful for God’s common grace in giving us government and medical experts to help us navigate on how best to take action in light of the unprecedented events of this past week.

Initially, we asked a few of our members to be part of the conversation of helping the elders understand and process through this information. I have been in conversation with Paula Sanders, Colin Sprague, and Chris Lawrence who have helped us by providing wise counsel from medical and administrative perspective on how to best apply the recommendations of our government and healthcare officials in our local church context.

I’m sure that there are a variety of opinions that we all have on the severity of the situation locally, including how we should respond as a church. I want to ask you to have grace on us as elders and patience and understanding with one another. This is unprecedented in our lifetimes and we are all learning as we go. At the same time, we want to urge the utmost seriousness of all our members to heed the advice of our government and healthcare officials. Just to recap the events of this past week.

  • Our president, the governor of Ohio, and the Mayor of Dayton have declared a State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • In Ohio, schools have been closed for 3 weeks, gatherings of more than 100 persons have been banned.
  • The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Ohio has gone up from one on Monday to 26 as of yesterday.
  • We have been told that those who are elderly as well as those with prior medical health issues are most vulnerable to this virus. We have been told it is much more contagious than the flu and almost 20 times more deadly.
  • We have been told that while the risk of serious health problems are low for most people, the possibility of asymptomatic carriers spreading the virus is very likely. What this means is that you and I could be carrying this virus without showing any symptoms and spreading it to others who might be more vulnerable to this virus. This is why we have been urged by government officials to take personal responsibility to do our part in employing social distancing (6’ apart) as a means of loving others, even if you think you might be ok.

Given this reality, the elders, the leadership team, as well as key members in the congregation have been praying and reading God’s word to help us understand how to best to respond to these events. Most importantly, we have decided to move all our church gatherings on Sundays to an online format for the next three weeks. We will have additional impacts to church life that Pastor Dan will address after this. Let me just walk through some reasons on how we came to this decision.

First, we made this decision based on the recommendations of government and healthcare officials. People who have been placed in authority over us for our good (Rom 13:1-7). When experts in the field use words like “containment” and “mitigation;” phrases like “keep away from one another,” “protect people,” and “stop community spread,” ring loud in our minds as we want to care and protect our church members.

Second, we want to do our small part in loving our neighbor as yourself (Luke10:27). One of the ways we express our love and submission to the Lord is by loving and caring for our neighbors (not just next door, right? But our fellow man…) by choosing to take heed to the wise and informed counsel of our leaders and not ourselves inadvertently contribute to the potential spread of this sickness by assuming we know better. It is hard to convey the reality of asymptotic carriers that may be unknowingly spreading this disease. That is why social distancing is being recommended as a means to mitigate the effects of this spread.

I do want to tell you that if it were the case that we were being told we couldn’t meet on account of our faith becoming illegal as it is in many countries I would be much more in faith to meet nonetheless. But that’s not the case here. I also want to reaffirm with you that we take Hebrews 10:24-25 seriously and have no desire to neglect meeting together as is the habit of some. It is not our intention to make this habitual, although this crisis might necessitate a few weeks of the kind of prudence we are trying to walk in this morning. It is on account of our intention to meet “together” via the common grace of livestreaming on the internet.  When we gather together on Sunday mornings, in one place, it is uniquely powerful and wonderful, and we are convinced that it is a command in scripture that is meant entirely for our good and our joy and the glory of God. We also believe that when we come together in one building we, mystically yet truthfully, as the author of Hebrews says,

“…come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:22–24 ESV)

And friends, that is true of us over livestream as well. While meeting together face to face is certainly meant to be the absolute norm (and we have no intention of moving away from this), it doesn’t preclude the wonderful reality of by the blood of Christ we do indeed gather together over the internet in our homes, and come to a party (festal gathering) in heaven, looking to Jesus together, trusting in God together, depending on him for everything by prayer and supplication together, ready to hear his word and respond to it rightly together.

Temptations & Encouragements

  • Temptation to Fear and Anxiety (“Will I or someone I love get sick?”)
    • God is our refuge and strength in these times of trouble (Psalm 46)
    • Comfort the weak and fainthearted with the promises of the gospel
    • We should not say to fearful people, “You’re overreacting.”
  • Temptation to Self-Preservation (“All I care about is me”)
    • Instead of hoarding at stores which can keep those who need things from getting it, be wise and get what you need to prepare for the days ahead
  • Temptation to Dismissiveness (“Everything’s going to be fine,” or, “You’ll be fine.”)
    • Not taking the recommendations of government officials seriously
    • Not mindful of community spread
  • Encouragement to Selflessness (“I want to care of others”)
    • Take the recommendations of government and healthcare officials seriously
    • Have grace on others as we figure out what things to do and what not to do. We need love to govern our decisions.
    • Care for others in the church in need, and those that might be fearful or anxious
    • Care for your family by modeling dependence on God and trust in his Word and promises which are a lamp to our feet in uncertain circumstances.
    • Look for opportunities to share the gospel with others

Temporary Church Life Structure

  • Sunday Mornings
    • Sunday morning services will be livestream and recorded
    • Our current plan is to gather together at the church building on April 5th depending on how events unfold over the next few weeks.
  • Formal Community Groups Cancelled
    • As hard as it is, we’ve been encouraged repeatedly by Dr. Amy Acton and others, to employ social distancing. This feels wrong doesn’t it? We’re glad it does. It goes against our instincts as humans (except for introverts...) but it especially goes against our new instincts as disciples of Jesus called to all the “one another” commands. Nevertheless, for the time being we want to highly dissuade you from gathering together in any size group where you cannot keep to the 6-foot, social distancing, guideline.
    • We can set up community group ZOOM meetings for smaller DNA groups or discipleship groups. you can get together via some other technology, but we just really want to plead with you to take heed to what we’re being told by those who have been put in place to help us through this crisis in the quickest manner possible – as much as it depends on us.
  • Zoom Meetings
    • New Members Class
    • Deacon Training
  • Deacons and pastors available to help members in need
    • If anyone need help getting groceries and necessities
    • If the sick/quarantined need help getting groceries
  • Church Office Hours
    • Won’t have office hours over the next three weeks. But church staff will be available via phone and email.
    • No gatherings at the church until early April.