“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…”
Personally, in these the last several weeks I have learned just how much meeting together as a church over the years has meant to me in its absence. I truly long for the day when we can meet together again. I have also noticed a tendency in my own soul to think about what God’s doing in terms of the future and not the present. It is as if I have been thinking “When God can work in us again.” This belies my own lack of vision for how much greater God is than my circumstances.
This is not how Paul came to think of God during his imprisonment in Rome. While in chains and in prison, Paul did not see these restrictions as in any way interfering in God’s work in the world. In Philippians 1:12, Paul assures the Philippian church that his imprisonment has become a tool for spreading the gospel. While you and I might be tempted to see ourselves as chained to a guard, Paul saw the guards as chained to him so that he could preach Jesus to them. He thought this way because of what he had to say to the young pastor Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:9. He says that although for the sake of the gospel he is “chained as a criminal, the word of God is not bound.”
Do you see the word of God as unbound? Are you taking time in isolation to pray more? To more intentionally disciple the little ones in your home? To pray with and for your spouse and encourage them in the gospel? To use the time connecting on the phone to share encouragement from God’s word? The fact of the matter is, God is not waiting for this to end before He can work in me, in Helena, or in Grace Community Fellowship. He is always at work to draw people to Himself.
This afternoon Governor Bullock announced his phased plan for reopening Montana. In anticipation of this announcement, the elders met last night to plan ahead for this phased gradual reopening. We based our response off of the White House’s “Opening Up America Again” guidelines not as an endorsement of the plan, but as a model of how reopening could happen. Put very simply, the White House guidelines have divided up the reopening process into 3 phases, each dependent on 14 days of local positive trends. We have roughly divided these phases up as follows:
Phase 1: Shelter at home order lifted, groups of up to 10 people allowed with appropriate social distancing.
Phase 2: Groups of up to 50 people allowed with appropriate social.
Phase 3: Groups of up to 100 people allowed with appropriate social distancing.
In each of these phases, at risk people are urged to take extra precautions and avoid gatherings of people.
While the current change in protocol allows for churches to gather at their discretion, we have decided not to rush into gathering again at this time. I realize this will come as a great disappointment to many of you and I sympathize with you because I so desperately want to gather with you all again. We have done our best, however, to respond in faith, while also keeping in mind the logistical realities involved in order to honor the authorities God has placed over us, to love our neighbors, and to keep one another safe. We have also tried to remember to take a view to the long haul and not jump at immediate and temporary changes. Because of this, we have decided to continue with our virtual worship through phases 1 and 2 based on the suggested maximum size of gathered crowds. We thought it prudent to wait until it looked like we might be entering phase three, or when groups of up to 100 were allowed, before we planned specifically what we might do and how we might continue meeting together again as that could potentially be a month or more away and the details on the ground are changing so rapidly. Put simply, as long as there are suggestions not to gather in groups of 50 or more or when it looks like the suggested maximum size of gathered crowds reaches 100, we will revisit how and when we will reopen.
I would ask you in the meantime, how do you want to see God at work? Do you only have a vision for God working once the coronavirus no longer effects our lives? Do you have any hope that God might not only work in you but through you?
As surprised and bamboozled as we all are by this global state of affairs, God is not. I want to encourage us to use this time, then, to draw near to the One who not only knows how it’s going to work out, but who is working it all out for His glory and our good. More specifically, I want to offer three ways we can unite in His presence:
1. Would you consider setting an alarm on your watch for 1900 (that’s 7:00pm). When it goes off, stop to pray for God to work in the midst of this virus to draw us to Himself.
2. Take Wednesday as a day to fast. I will begin fasting after dinner on Tuesday night until dinner on Wednesday. Fasting is a way to not only clear away distractions to draw near to God, but to reveal what we turn to instead of God. Perhaps you can’t physically fast from food, but you could consider fasting from social media, television, or some other fall back. Take the time you’d normally eat as time to pray.
3. Facebook live on Friday at noon. On Friday, in lieu of a congregational meeting I’ll host a Facebook live explaining our reasoning for this decision and opening up a means for you to ask and have your questions answered.
In His Love,
The Session of Grace Community Fellowship