Monthly Archives: April 2020
Do you remember how this all began? Do you remember how COVID-19 forced us into a whole new world that included suspending our church’s face-to-face meetings? On Wednesday, March 11th, the first domino fell when the Oklahoma City Thunder game with the Utah Jazz was canceled moments before tip-off. Just a few days later, on Friday the 13th, we made the decision to cancel our Sunday morning worship gathering and stream our Sunday worship content online. In a matter of days, we made the decision to cancel all our in-person gatherings and continue to try to be the church using the Internet and technology. The change was abrupt. By necessity, it was a sudden decision that changed the way we function as a local church.
Seven Sundays later, we are hopeful that we will soon be able to gather again, just as local churches have done for nearly 2,000 years. Unfortunately, gathering again won’t happen as suddenly as the shutdown did. Church life as we knew it before COVID-19 is not going to go back to normal on May 3rd, the first Sunday churches can meet again under phase 1 of Governor Stitt’s Open Up and Recover Safely (OURS) plan.
So before I disclose the details of what the Elders have discussed and decided, I ask the following of all our members. First, please recognize that getting back to normal will be a process. It might be a long process, as in months, not weeks. Second, please understand that the situation is fluid and can change quickly. According to Governor Stitt’s plan, if restrictions are to continue to loosen so that we can graduate to the next phase (phase 2), then hospital and incident rates must remain manageable for 14 days. Third, keep in mind that the situation is not simple. We have to think about a number of concerns that will impact the safety of people we care about and love. Please be patient and considerate of one another. Finally, pray for wisdom and guidance as we navigate this together.
Without further ado, here is the short-term plan the Elders unanimously endorsed on Sunday afternoon.
- We will not be meeting at the church building during phase 1, which includes both Sunday, May 3rd, and Sunday, May 10th. We will continue to stream our worship content via Facebook during that time. There are several reasons we chose not to meet on those Sundays. First, we could not have childcare per the governor’s policy. Second, people 65 years and older, and people with pre-existing conditions would be asked not to come. Third, we would have to honor social distancing requirements as it relates to seating. There are other reasons that we chose to wait, but the bottom line is this: we all concluded that phase 1 would make worshiping together very difficult.
- We hope that 5Groups, and one-to-one meetings, will start to happen again. These meetings can happen in coffee shops, restaurants, and homes.
- The Elders are recommending that larger groups, like Core Groups, continue to use zoom, and other online platforms, to maintain social distancing through phase 1.
- We are asking that all groups refrain from using the building in phase 1. We are doing this in part to make sure we are consistent with who can use the building and who can’t.
- The Elders will meet again on Saturday, May 9th to reassess the situation, and decide what adjustments to make going forward as we enter into phase 2. Keep in mind, that progressing on to each phase is dependent on whether or not hospital and incident rates remain manageable during each phase.
We recognize that other churches will have different plans. Some will gather on the 3rd and some won’t gather again for months. One thing we have learned as we have met with other pastors and church leaders from across the state is that there is no consensus plan on how churches will adjust to opening up again. Every congregation and context is different. The one thing we have been told over and over again is that reopening is a process, not a one-time decision. Please be patient with us as we navigate this unique time.
As always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. The Elders are always glad to listen.
Many of us have extra time on our hands these days as we shelter in place, and I hope that each of us will make sure not to binge-watch our lives away. The temptation is real. The Bible exhorts us to make the most of the time, for the days are full of evil (Eph. 5:16). We are told to put on the full armor of God through Bible reading and prayer (Ephesians 6:10-2) so that we will be ready to speak with confidence the gospel of Jesus Christ. We may want to watch our quarantine days away, but I hope we seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
Having made this obvious but necessary qualification, I want to suggest several forgotten or under-the-radar family-oriented options for your viewing pleasure.
- Lost in Space on Netflix – This is a modernized version of the 1960s sci-fi show. It has impressive special effects, and it is very family-friendly as far as language, sexuality, and violence. If you like sci-fi and adventure, then this worth the watch. Season one is a little slow in the beginning, and the second season is quite a bit better than the first. There is a third season coming out in 2021.
- The Pilgrim’s Progress – Revelation Media has created and released an entertaining and gripping version of John Bunyan’s classic. Bunyan’s book is second only to the Bible in popularity, using allegory to present the gospel message and the journey of a disciple’s life. We watched it with our 8-year-old and it produced very good conversations about spiritual realities. The portrayal of characters can be a bit frightening to smaller children. Click on this link and you can watch for free: https://www.revelationmedia.com/watchpilgrims/RM11280/
- That Thing You Do – Tom Hanks and Liv Tyler star in a very clean and entertaining story of a one-hit-wonder band in the 1960s. It reminds us that fame and human applause is fleeting. On the entertainment side, it has quickly become a favorite of my oldest son.
- Hoosiers – The NBA is on hold indefinitely and the NCAA tournament was canceled, so where are you going to get your basketball fix? Gene Hackman stars in an underdog movie that is based on a true story of rural, Indiana High School Team. If you have a son or daughter that only likes to shoot or do the things that get the glory, then this is a great story that reminds us that fundamentals and discipline are critical to success. That is what I tried to tell my sons, anyway.
- Greater; The Brandon Bulsworth Story (Netflix) – I don’t like the Arkansas Razorbacks but I really like this movie. This film tells the story of a small-town Arkansas football player with a difficult home-life, who dreamed of playing for the Razorbacks. Overcoming a number of obstacles, including college teammates who belittle his faith in Jesus, he not only makes the team as a walk-on, but he excels and eventually gets drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. While the football side is a great story, his greatest impact is the legacy of his faith in Jesus Christ.
- A Hidden Life – Based on a true story of an Austrian peasant farmer who refused to declare loyalty to Hitler during WWII. It portrays unwavering faith that keeps him loyal to his convictions, his wife, and his children as he faces the threat of execution. This movie is almost three hours long and is rated PG-13. It comes highly recommended as a film that has flown under the pop-culture radar. Trailer: https://youtu.be/qJXmdY4lVR0
- Free Solo – This a documentary about Alex Honnold and his journey to be the first to solo climb Yosemite’s El Capitan. It is PG-13 for strong language.
Do you have any suggestions the provoke the imagination and teach good life-lessons? I would like to see your suggestions.
Some say we are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. For many, the crisis is real. There has been a loss of employment. There has been isolation and loneliness. There has been illness and death. There is uncertainty. There is fear.
But there are also good things happening. There is service happening. There is courage. There is giving. There is love. There is sacrifice. There are many reasons for encouragement. I want to encourage you by sharing some acts and attitudes that have encouraged me.
- I was exchanging texts with a church member today who was checking on me, and I asked him if his family had contacted those below and above him in the membership directory. He said they had, but they were going to start contacting more. His initiative to do more than asked edified me.
- I was speaking with some of our senior adults by phone, and a sister told me that they are not fearful of what might happen. She said they go to bed every night knowing that God is in control, and the most important thing in life is taken care of in Christ Jesus. She rhetorically asked, “Why should we fear?”
- Our children’s director from church called and spoke to our daughter this morning. She didn’t have to do that, but listening more than she was able to talk, she took the time to care about a 7-year-old and her 7-year-old concerns. She also asked her about her favorite Bible verse. During the conversation, I heard out daughter say, “I really want to be able to go to Wednesday Night and Sunday Church again.” I thank God that an adult took time to care about a child and I was encouraged my daughter likes to gather with our local church.
- I have been encouraged by several who have offered to serve others, and give money and food to those who are in need.
- Our staff has been eager to adjust to the circumstances, taking on new responsibilities to serve our faith family. They have excelled at thinking of ways they can be innovative.
There are other examples that I have seen in the past several weeks that escape me now, and God knows them all.
How have you been encouraged by others? What are you doing to be an encouragement to others during these trying, uncertain, and even fearful times?
Pray for wisdom and strength to be an encouragement to someone in Christ. A crisis is an opportunity to make a difference and encourage someone who is in need.