“Soon, We Will Be Back Together!”
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” (Psalm 122:1)
Greetings to you all! There are a number of issues that I would have preferred addressing in this issue of The Contact. As a Pastor/Teacher, my mind is always churning with ideas to share and things to present to you, the dear flock of Evangelical Free Church of Oroville. However, things have turned out differently this year than what we thought they would be when the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2020. In a short time, our plans were shelved and our focus, of almost the entire human race, has been on dealing with a new virus that moved quickly across the globe. Yet, we know that this unusual period will come to end, hopefully soon. Therefore, now is a good time for us to pray, plan, and prepare for when this crisis becomes a thing of the past. There will be a lot of discussion about how to reopen our country, our state, and our community. I will not attempt to summarize those discussions here, rather I want to talk about how we will reopen our church – at least in broad strokes. More information on this will come in subsequent communications from the church office. In this article, I will speak of the 4 “C’s” that give the main emphases we will have as a worshiping, preaching, loving, and serving church.
We will be Christ-centered. Our hope, our strength, our future, and our joy all come from our union with Christ. It is important that we remind ourselves that “Christ is our life” (Col. 3:4) and that “to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21). I encourage you to read and meditate on the truths of Colossians 3:1-4 and Philippians 3:7-11 over the next few weeks. Paul wrote these things to churches, not just to individuals. Let the truths contained therein guide your thinking and prepare your heart as we come back together in our public worship gatherings. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). In my own experience during this time, I have drawn deeper into my relationship with Christ. My prayer is – and has been – that each one of you is experiencing the same thing. We will spend eternity focusing on the greatness and grandeur of Jesus Christ. Therefore, use this time wisely to become more connected to Him, dependent upon Him, strengthened in Him, and loving and serving Him. The more we are focused on Christ, the richer and fuller our gathered worship time will be when the current restrictions are lifted.
We will be courageous. Earlier this year I shared what our theme verse for 2020 would be. It is 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Little did I know then just how timely that verse would be. Think about this verse, memorize it, and use it in your times of prayer. Claim the truth of this verse for yourself and act accordingly. Many, many times in the Bible we are called to be bold and courageous, not timid and cowardly. If we are in Christ, and He is our life, then these short days that we have on Earth are not to be our ultimate concern. Rather, we are to reach out to others, tell them about Christ, serve them in love, and be more concerned about the welfare of others rather than merely protecting ourselves. This seems like a great time for us, beginning with myself, to learn in a deeper way what Jesus means when He commands us “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). Now more than ever, when voices of fear, panic, and anger are all around us, we need to be a people that proclaim the truth in love and not shrink back from the challenge of the hour.
We will be connected. As soon as is humanly possible, our Connection Groups will relaunch. This may happen even before our regular church services return to “normal”. If you are not in a Connection Group, this is a good time to join one. As helpful as are radio programs, online church services, or personal devotional times with the Lord, these things do not – indeed they cannot – replace the public gathering of our worship services. As poet John Donne says, “No man is an island.” We are created and we are redeemed to be a gathered people, not a scattering of individuals, each one in separate locations. As part of connecting, or reconnecting, with one another, we will have a renewed emphasis on regular Church worship, on our Sunday School classes, and on our other ministry activities. My prayer is that each one of us, in Christ, will overcome the tendency toward and the temptation of isolation that the current situation is only exacerbating.
We will be caring. Many among us and around us are facing difficult times right now. There are financial needs, social needs, family needs, and medical needs. However, there are also great spiritual needs. Loneliness, depression, guilt, fear, and suicidal thoughts are on the rise during this crisis; thus, we who know the Author of life have an opportunity to minister grace and truth to others. After being separated from one another for so long, it will take some time to reconnect and take care of one another. As we readjust back to the new normal, using wisdom and compassion, we will follow appropriate guidelines, praying for each other, and looking for ways to meet the needs of one another. Moreover, we will need to exercise patience with one another as we all learn a new rhythm and routine of life because it is likely that we will not be able to go back completely to the way things were. Some changes will remain and require some adjustment on our part. That is okay because we are not the same people coming out of this crisis as we were going into it. Growth and change have happened during this time. The challenges that we will face will not be insurmountable. They will be opportunities to grow in grace. The Church has known many great difficulties in history, and the LORD has always seen fit to see Her through. I have every confidence He'll do the same with the Church today
Christ-centered. Courageous. Connected. Caring. May those things mark us more and more in the days to come. Over the next few weeks, you can expect to hear more of what we will be doing once we can return to our regular church services and ministry activities. I urge you to be in prayer for one another, for our church leaders, and for yourself, that we may all be ready to grow and move forward together as we emerge from this “shelter at home” order. I believe God is doing great things now, and He will continue to do so in the days to come. I end this letter with some thoughts from the Book of Hebrews: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:23-25).