As I mentioned in my letter last week to you, these are unprecedented times for us. I think I’ve said, texted, and emailed words like: “unreal”, “shock”, “unimaginable”, more than I have at any other time in my life. Those words really describe my emotions. It certainly seems like there are some days where things ratchet up and go at warp speed. Monday, March 16, 2020, was one of those days. Luckily, our elders already had a meeting planned that night to discuss plans for subsequent Sundays. So, I want to take some time to share several thoughts with you (warning: this is a longer post than last week’s).
Things are worth repeating:
First, as Christians, it is remarkably important not to allow ourselves to be governed by fear of the unknown or anxiety of what-ifs. Here’s what we know: We have a God, who has seen this, watched over this, and is still on His sovereign throne. He is faithful to His people. He has allowed these events for reasons unknown to us, but, we know, God will use this for His eternal glory and our everlasting good. If God can take the most vile, criminal act in the history of the world (Jesus’ death on the cross) and use that for His glory and our good, then we can have great confidence that God will do the same with the Coronavirus.
Second, as Christians, this is a great time to demonstrate and declare the hope you have in Jesus. Listen, this virus is a shocking notice to all of civilization that we are not in control, and we are all destined to die. We’re finite, small, frail, and easily breakable. This pandemic reveals the results of living in a Genesis 3 world which is stained by sin. And that is reason to speak about our hope in Jesus. Friends, you will have friends, neighbors, co-workers, and strangers, who will see death more real than they ever have before. Don’t be afraid, but rather demonstrate your hope in Jesus and declare your hope in Jesus to them. Some very practical ways to do that right now can include:
- Be aware of and care for elderly folks or those who are immune-compromised who might have self-quarantined. Maybe you can go on a grocery run for them, fix something around their house, or alleviate some of their fears through conversation. We have communicated with the members of our church who might be in either of these categories and we will keep you posted on needs as they arise.
- I’ve heard through various organizations that drivers are needed to serve the Vulnerable Douglas Public Health Network. They need drivers to deliver food, medicine or other supplies to those who are being asked to stay home. If you’re interested, visit recovers.org, enter your location and then select “Douglas County Community Organizations Active in Disaster”, and select that you’d like to volunteer. Contact Reed Finlayson at 541-378-7283, if you’re having trouble signing in.
- I’ve also heard that Meals on Wheels is need of volunteer drivers. Contact them at: Phone: 541-673-5929 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Look for ways to serve those in the medical field. These folks are selflessly giving their time, energy, and their own personal health/safetfy to care for others. They may not have time to cook a meal or might need child-care. Be aware of their needs.
- The news today about restaurants and bars doing delivery or take-out only is simply shocking (there’s that word again). Consider ordering out or buying gift cards for a later use as a way to serve them. But above all…pray for others, pray for healing, pray for mercy and ask the Lord for opportunities to share the gospel with others.
Now, here’s some new stuff:
After reading through more reports of the spread of this virus over the weekend, our elders have decided that we will not have Sunday services at our building until further notice. In lieu of Sunday gatherings at the church building, we will ask you to gather in your homes, with your families, and/or with a small group of neighbors/friends to watch our services via our Livestream or pre-recorded video. At the time of this email, we have not yet decided on the exact format or platform that this will take, but it will be something that you can watch from your living room or on your devices.
Here are our reasons for making this very difficult decision:
- Our first reason is our care and love for you and our neighbors and community. As I mentioned earlier, this virus is showing itself to be incredibly contagious. After reading/researching over the weekend and speaking to medical professionals in our church, it seems that the best way to keep this virus from spreading among us is by limiting large gatherings. This is one small way that we can show our community that we care about their well-being.
- Our second reason is a desire to obey Romans 13 about submitting to governing authorities. The federal government has come out with restrictions and so has the state government. Those differ in their scope and time-frame. As we discussed as elders, these restrictions in no way hinder our ability to share or display the gospel. Rather, these restrictions have more to do with public safety and care for those around us. So, as mentioned in the first reason, this fits with our biblical mandate to love our neighbor as ourselves. Allow me to speak to a few misconceptions that we, as elders, are seeing/reading right now:
- One thing you might wonder is if we should’ve made this decision with last week’s service and with our marriage retreat in Bandon? Well, the restrictions for this past weekend were no more than 250, and we knew that in both locations, we would not be near that number. However, over the weekend, this changed, and we felt we needed to change as well.
- You might also be thinking, “the government is infringing on our rights to gather, and this is a moment when we must obey God rather than man.” Our challenge with this line of thinking is 1) the government has not stopped us from preaching the gospel, nor have they arrested us for doing so, as was done in Acts 4-5, when “obey God and not man” was first revealed in the New Testament; 2) the government is merely asking us to consider the needs of others above our own, which, to be clear, does not compromise the Bible. So we do not see this “mandate” from the government as something that should be ignored or disregarded.
- You might also be thinking: “we’re being persecuted for our faith.” Friends, if we really understood the nature of persecution and understood where the stoppage of social gatherings in the US began, we would realize that this is not persecution. Let me explain: the nature of persecution is to stop the preaching of the gospel. If we were truly being persecuted for our faith, those sharing the gospel would be arrested for preaching or beaten for their faith. Right now, we are simply being asked not to gather publicly for the sake of others, and to offer our services online or in a digital format. Does it hinder fellowship? Yes…but does it hinder the proclamation of God’s word? No. So, this is not persecution. Further, if we understood where the stoppage started, we would stop thinking the government has a sinister plot to persecute us in this cultural moment. The stoppage of social gatherings in the US began with sports…the Ivy League was the first on March 10 to suspend their games and practices and the NBA (National Basketball Association) on March 11. The NBA was the biggie. When that hit, every major sports league began to follow suit. My point is this…this was not instituted by the government…the government was responding/reacting to what the sports leagues were doing. Further, as I’ll quote in my fourth point, these major sports leagues are risking huge amounts of profit on this…and they would not do that to persecute the church! I’m sorry, and this will sound harsh, but it is offensive for us in the US to say that we’re being persecuted by this when brothers and sisters in other parts of the globe are truly being persecuted for their faith. There is no comparison. Now, I would say, we are clearly being tested in our faith…but persecuted, not yet.
- So, because we see the government’s request not hindering the preaching of the gospel, we will give ourselves to obey it.
- Our third reason is from history. In 1918, the Spanish Flu was spreading in the U.S. One city in particular, Washington DC, was ravaged with the flu. When city officials limited gatherings and actually informed churches that they could not meet, the church responded by affirming and submitting to this request. Here is a blog post that we found very helpful regarding this: https://www.9marks.org/
article/how-dc-churches- responded-when-the-government- banned-public-gatherings- during-the-spanish-flu-of- 1918/. So, in agreement with these historical brothers and sisters, we will do the same with the COVID-19 virus. And in doing so, we will stand firmly and believe wholeheartedly what Jesus said regarding His church in Matthew 16: “I will build My church and the gates of hell (or the COVID-19 virus) will not prevail against it.”
- The final compelling reason to us comes from a world that I love…sports. I’ve got to admit that early on, I probably took this virus a little lightly. But I began to ask myself: why would the sports world risk billions of dollars if this thing was just another sickness, like the flu or simply some political plot? Well, what Matt Walsh wrote in this post gave me some serious pause: “These factors explain why organizations like the NCAA and Disney have chosen to forfeit many billions of dollars by shutting down their basketball season and theme parks, respectively. We can’t chalk this up to simple panic. Businesses don’t throw billions of dollars in the trash on an emotional whim. Meanwhile, states and towns are banning large gatherings, shuttering government buildings, closing schools, etc. Perhaps these measures will prove to be overkill. But the testimony of most experts in the field seems to rather strongly suggest that the consequence of a lack of caution would likely be much, much worse than the consequence of too much caution.” Let that last phrase sink in: “a lack of caution would likely be much, much worse than the consequences of too much caution”. That got me, and it caused me to re-think some previous ideas I had about this. Could this whole thing be an overreaction? I sure hope so. But what if under-reacting causes more death than we could possibly imagine? Is it too much to ask of us to simply do our services online for the sake of being more cautious for the most vulnerable among us? We don’t think so.
So, until further notice, CLF will not be meeting in the church building for Sunday gatherings. We will worship together, at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning…just in different homes, neighborhood, and locations. While our goal is to make the song/sermon as “normal” as can be, we must realize, it’s not supposed to feel normal. The normal gathering of the church, is in person, face-to-face, worshipping Jesus together, praying together before His throne of grace and hearing God’s word read and preached. So, our hope is that our “gatherings” digitally, will make you long for and miss our gatherings personally. Pray for us.
Our church is wonderfully supported by community groups, study groups, classes, and discipleship groups. Here are some of the guidelines that we’re implementing until further notice:
- Community groups: we recommend that groups that are larger should suspend their gatherings or do things in smaller groups (no larger than 10). We will leave it to the group leaders to determine the best way for their groups to meet or not to meet.
- Classes and groups held at the church: since these classes/groups vary in size, we decided that there will be no classes or groups at the church until further notice. If the group leader would like to gather in a smaller group somewhere offsite, we will leave that at the class or group leaders’ discretion. However, the TF classes will be suspended until further notice.
- D-groups: since these groups are smaller (4-6), we believe these groups are fine to continue.
Blog posts that have helped us:
thegospelcoalition.org/ article/things-coronavirus- teach-us/ : a good one to go over with your family.
thegospelcoalition.org/ article/what-we-know- coronavirus/: I have great respect for Miguel Nunez. He’s a wonderful pastor, and he is a medical doctor. Not unlike Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who’s one of my favorite historical preachers.
- I have great respect for Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hills Baptist Church in Washington, DC. This Twitter post is the letter they wrote to their church: https://twitter.com/chbcdc/
- This article by Christianity Today was very well done with graphs (pictures for grown-ups): https://www.christianitytoday.
com/ct/2020/march-web-only/ seattle-churches-stop-meeting- to-slow-covid-19-coronavirus. html
- This one made me re-examine my original thoughts about this virus: https://medium.com/@
tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act- today-or-people-will-die- f4d3d9cd99ca
Our church is wonderfully sacrificial and eager to give. That’s been evident by some folks asking me how they can make sure their tithes/offerings are given to the church. So, here are a few ways you can give your offering:
- You can mail your check to CLF at P.O. Box 1765, Roseburg, OR 97470.
- You can give online at https://clfroseburg.com/give/.
- You can text your giving at (541)236-9234. Please note, the first time that you give via the text number, you will be asked to enter your credit card or bank information.
If you have any questions or issues with any of these giving options, please call or email Dave Quilla at (913)909-2050 or email@example.com.
In regards to prayer:
I received this today from Mark Prater, Executive Director of Sovereign Grace Churches, calling us to prayer as a denomination on Friday, March 20th. Here’s the blog post regarding that: https://sovereigngrace.com/
Alright, let me close this thing out by calling you to pray, to be a witness to your community, and ask God to end this thing quickly. Let’s not forget that this is an enormous opportunity for the gospel and an enormous opportunity to be good neighbors. But, I’ve got to be clear: I want to be with you, in person, on Sundays to worship Jesus! I want to be able to do all the great things we get to do in the NW, together, in person. But for that to happen, we need God to intervene. Pray with me about this. And Lord willing…I will SEE you soon and SHAKE your hand or give you a HUG!