Rolling Return to Normalcy

Shepherding the Church in a time of pandemic is a delicate balancing act. You want to move forward in faith, encouraging the congregation to trust in the Lord and be bold in worship and service. At the same time, you want to caution the flock from provoking the Lord through our own carelessness and lack of regard for others.

The elders of my congregation met last night to discuss how best to continue the ministry of our Church as the Coronavirus Pandemic progresses. We struggled with balancing our desire to be together as the body of Christ in worship, fellowship, and service with the need to protect the flock entrusted to us by the Lord. We do not want to operate from a spirit of fear and timidity; but trusting in the providence of God, we want to move forward responsibly and cautiously.

I  thought I would share the following recommendations from our elders here to show what we are doing to move forward in faith:

  • Members may choose to worship in person, but we ask that they be responsible and consider the needs of others by maintaining a safe distance and reducing contact  as much as possible.
  • High risk members (65/older or immune compromised), are asked stay home and join us for worship on Cable or YouTube.
  • Those who are in any way feeling unwell (fever, cough, body aches), are urged to stay home, letting the Elders and Deacons know how we can minister to them.
  • The Church will continue with a “Touchless” Worship Service. We have removed the pew Bibles and hymnals, as all lyrics will be on the screen, and members are encouraged to bring their own Bible. Pews will be marked off so that those in attendance will be encouraged to sit a safe distance apart.
  • The offering plate will not be passed during the service, but those attending are encouraged to place their offering in the plate before or after the service, and those at home to may give as best they can (bring to the church, mail, or online donation).
  • No nursery will be provided during worship, and parents of young children are asked to ensure that their children stay with them at all times.
  • Sunday School will continue to be offered online through Facebook each Sunday morning for the children, and via Zoom with Pastor Sayler for the adults at 11:00 am.
  • There will be no Fellowship Time or in-person Sunday School following worship until further notice. 

The elders want to assure the Church that we are working to keep the building clean by wiping down the pews, door handles and other furniture after every service. Masks are encouraged for those who attend in person, but not required. In all things, the elders ask our members to use their best judgment and to consider the needs of others when deciding to come in person.

We are mindful that the Church is never closed because the Church is not a building, it is the people of God. We shared in thanksgiving to God that even in these troubling times the Lord has supplied for the needs of the Church through the continued  financial and spiritual support of her members.  There have been moments of great blessing in the midst of this crisis, showing God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

We continue to pray for the day when we can encourage everyone to attend in-person, but realize that returning to a sense of normal in the Church is not like flipping a light switch, but more like turning a dimmer. We will slowly, cautiously, and prayerfully restart the ministries of the Church as the Spirit leads us in wisdom and discernment. 

I’d be interested in hearing how your church are responding to the Coronavirus, and what their plans are for moving forward. Leave your comments below.

Grace and peace,

One in Christ

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:12–13

We have our annual congregational meeting tonight, a time to give thanks to God for His grace that has brought us thus far, and a time to recommit ourselves as a church to trusting in that same grace to lead us forward in ministry together.  

As I was preparing for my Pastor’s report for the meeting, I came upon my notes from when I read through Jerry Bridges’ book, True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia.  Bridges does a fantastic job of defining koinonia (a Greek word that is best translated as “fellowship”) to mean more than just the social activities of the church, but has more to do with the idea of community in Christ.

Bridges writes:

It is not the fact that we are united in common goals or purposes that makes us a community. Rather, it is the fact that we share a common life in Christ. There are many organizations, both secular and Christian, whose members work together to pursue common goals. Some of these groups may call themselves communities. But biblical community goes much deeper than sharing common goals, though it ultimately involves that. Biblical community is first of all the sharing of a common life in Christ. It is when we grasp this truth that we are in a position to begin to understand true community.

We share the life of Christ together as the Church.  It is wonderful to have a place that cares for you, that shares in the joys and sorrows of your life; a place where everyone knows your name.

But the Church, the true fellowship of Christ, must go deeper. The Church is one, not because of a shared interest in music, or because of the local projects and activities it offers. The Church is one because it is in Christ, and Christ must be at the center of our fellowship, of our life together. 

Bridges goes on to write:

How different is our present-day concept of fellowship? Take those typical times of “coffee fellowship.” We discuss everything else except the Scriptures. We talk about our jobs, our studies, our favorite sports teams, the weather — almost anything except what God is teaching us from His Word and through His workings in our lives. If we are to regain the New Testament concept of fellowship within the community, we must learn to get beyond the temporal issues of the day and begin to share with each other on a level that will enhance our spiritual relationships with one another and with God.

I am thankful to be able to serve Christ’s Church, and to serve a Church that loves to share in one another’s lives. Let’s be intentional about that this year. As we meet for fellowship, get caught up on the kids and their lives, but also be sure to ask about what the Lord has been teaching them as they’ve been reading Scripture this week, or what they learned from the sermon that morning.  Encourage one another to come to Bible Study or Sunday School, find out how you can be praying for one another.  Let us celebrate the blessing of being one in Christ, and may we grow in our shared life together.

Grace and peace!

Excerpts from: Bridges, Jerry. True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia . Navpress. Kindle Edition.