This week has certainly been interesting as we have witnessed local, state and federal governing agencies issue new recommendations that will impact our public gathering of worship for at least the next 3 weeks and potentially even beyond depending on how things progress. We received official communications from the school district that they have suspended extracurricular activities across all facilities through April 5th. With that said, we are sure that you all are wondering what church will look like and we certainly want to provide answers to those questions, but before we do, let’s talk about the process that we as elders have walked through in coming to the conclusions that we have. Why does this matter for you? Because it involves you. Remember, you are the church. Before you are a citizen of the United States before you are a tax-paying resident in the State of Missouri or your respective county, you are a citizen of a heavenly kingdom, an ambassador of Christ, as 2 Corinthians 5:20 reminds us.
In the spirit of transparency, this week has been extremely challenging for us as we wrestled with reconciling our desire to stay obedient and true to the Scripture’s command to ‘gather faithfully’ for the worship of our Risen Lord, while also desiring to faithfully model good citizenship and social responsibility as we consider the good of the general population. So, what then is a church to do in these troubling times?
As we look to Scripture, we don't find an explicit chapter and verse on what steps to take during a worldwide pandemic, but what we do find is the general wisdom and heart of true Christianity in its most basic form. The Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:14 summarizes the entire law in this one statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We can also look to the heart of Romans 13, and although it is positioned as an ‘individual’ response of submission to authority, it certainly should influence our corporate response as well. As we individually obey, we are called to then gather together with other like-minded believers, which should result in collective obedience as the Body of Christ.
In the spirit of ‘loving our neighbor’ and ‘submitting to governing authorities,’ we recognize that our government is requesting that organizations of all kinds adhere to the wise and reasonable request to temporarily suspend gathering in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 (i.e. the Coronavirus). There are no specific passages that address the corporate gathering of the church and its broader relationship to governing authorities; however, what we do know is that our governing authorities are not demanding compliance in an effort to silence our gospel influence, but rather they are urging us to act in partnership with other efforts for the "good" of the general population. We as the church in our context as Liberty Hills Bible Church would like to unashamedly support the health, protection, and well-being of our community as we remember that this is the same community that we are called to serve, love and reach with the good news of the gospel. With that in mind, our position is that we should comply with these requests to limit gatherings of 10+ for the next 2 weeks as outlined by our President, and then we would further evaluate the status of our local Clay County restriction of 50+ for next 8 weeks.
Those numbers are daunting to consider and we are confronted with questions as we wrestle through the ever-evolving circumstances. Are we disobeying the command to ‘gather faithfully’ in Hebrews if we were to suspend the public gathering of the church in the midst of a national health emergency? We as elders would contend that we are not in disobedience. We believe we could potentially do more harm than good, literally and figuratively, if we as the church insist on gathering while the rest of the world rallies together for the good of humanity. By God’s grace and for His glory, we desire to be on that side of history when the dust settles.
So let’s clarify a few practical items:
- We are NOT encouraging a ‘cease and desist’ of all body life within LHBC.
- We ARE encouraging all members to look for unique and potentially ‘non-traditional’ ways to honor the heart of these biblical commands to ‘love your neighbor,’ ‘submit to governing authorities,’ and ‘to gather faithfully.’
- We ARE encouraging everyone to follow the guidelines that have been established for social distancing and self-quarantine.
- We ARE encouraging everyone to be mindful of the need to go above and beyond with communications, text messages, emails, phone calls, etc.
- We ARE encouraging everyone to stay connected. Don’t allow yourself to fall into isolation during this time. Be proactive and be a blessing to someone else in your sphere of influence.
- We ARE encouraging you all to reach out to your deacon(s) within your life group if you or someone you know would encounter a physical or financial need during this time of uncertainty.
- Stanley Life Group | Bob Anderson and Riley Swanson
- Welch Life Group | Russ Palmer
- Hermann Life Group | Aaron Hermann
- We ARE encouraging you all to reach out to an elder at any time if you need to talk or pray through anything specific that you or a member of your family may be dealing with. Our availability to you all is in no way impacted by this situation.
So what does ministry look like in these unique and challenging times?
- We will be “reworking” our Sunday services at a minimum for the next 3 weeks as our regular facilities are unavailable.
- We will be providing an order of service and application questions that will provide a structure for a home/family worship time.
- We will be providing a livestream of our preaching time as we continue our journey through Genesis.
- We will be hitting the pause button on AWANA indefinitely and will communicate a plan to finish out the 2019-2020 season in the coming weeks.
- We will be providing further communication as we monitor the 8-week restriction on 50+ person gatherings that is actively in place by the Clay County Public Health Center.
In the meantime, we as elders would like to remind us all that we would never promote or advocate that we operate in this manner one day longer than we have to. We would never, even for one moment, trade a ‘livestream’ for ‘life-on-life’ shepherding. This is a season of providential hindrance and we believe we can and should be mindful of how the Lord might be using these present circumstances to draw us and others to Himself.
We desire to fellowship and worship freely with the body. As elders, we cherish leading and shepherding His gathered Church in person, but if we believe in the sovereignty of God, which we do, we must also believe that in His wisdom He has allowed these circumstances to be present in our world for some specific reason. So in our feeble attempts to ‘get this right,’ we humbly admit our inadequacies before the Lord and seek His face through prayer and we would invite you to join us in that endeavor. Our hope and prayer are that we are able to resume our regular schedule as soon as would be appropriate and safe!
Grace & Peace,
Andy, Dave & Eric