Good morning Poplar Springs. This is the start to what will be a weird week and possibly many weird weeks as we navigate a situation that is new to all of us. Thank you to everyone who sent encouraging messages to us yesterday. Thank you for loving and supporting your church staff and letting us know that you were present with us even though we were miles apart as we worshipped.
It was very strange… to be standing in the pulpit giving announcements and words of encouragement to an empty sanctuary. But it was also a beautiful and humbling reminder that none of this “church business” is dependent on our formal sanctuary and its stained glass windows, red carpet, and pews. In the last 24 hours, God has already poked me with many reminders about who He is, what He is doing, and how His grace and love work. They are fueled even more (if that could be the case with an already unconditional and sacrificial love) by the events happening around the world.
It was a tough decision for us as a staff and also our health promotion team and deacon chair, to decide to call off church this week. Maybe it felt a little bit like we were acting in fear and not trusting God. But as we look back on thousands of years of history, we know that God doesn’t just wipe out things that threaten our health and safety so we can meet at church on Sunday. Sunday church is not a special bubble where we are free from the evils of the world. God doesn’t gives us immunity to viruses and tragedies. He gives us immunity to the bondage of sin and then walks along side of us through the evils of the world.
The spread of the gospel is happening outside of our building exponentially more than it can when it is trapped inside our hearts and our “church” walls for a couple of hours on Sunday. Sundays are great for encouraging one another and reminding each other of God’s promises… and that we are loved and forgiven. We get refueled on Sunday to go out into the world and try to love others better! Sundays are a time to clean off our glasses and refocus. A time to regain our composure and find our foundation… our purpose and our hope.
On a normal Sunday, around 200 people show up for the service at 11:00. As of last night, over 700 people had viewed the live stream of our service through Facebook or the church website. That is nearing on QUADRUPLE the number of people that we would have reached by meeting in person. Being forced to stay at home actually opened wide the doors of communicating and encouraging one another. People were able to see the service and SHARE it with friends and family.
I briefly mentioned this in closing yesterday – when the first group of believers were scattered thousands of years ago, it meant that the news of the Gospel went worldwide. It was the sad and scary scattering of God’s people that meant an exponential growth in the good news of the Gospel. It was this scattering of God’s people which created the landscape we live in today. It is why 1/3 of the world’s population claim Christianity. And it is one of the most beautiful and poignant examples of how God’s love and His purposes are not extinguished or halted by people, places, or events. God’s goodness and His saving grace is only AMPLIFIED when times seem uncertain and we feel as though evil is winning the fight. It seemed that way when the Son of God was murdered on a cross, too. But at that very moment, when the world went dark and God’s people mourned in despair, heart break, and the deepest of pain, God SAVED US ALL and WON THE FIGHT.
This virus is very real. Thousands of people have died around the world. We need to take precautions and protect ourselves so that people at risk can be protected. I may be healthy, but my family members, neighbors, and the people who are on the front lines still working their jobs and encountering people, may not be as healthy and are definitely at a much higher risk. We must be in constant prayer for safety, wisdom, and hope for our entire world.
But also keep your eyes open. We often notice what God is doing the most in times such as this. He is good. Be reminded of that and open your eyes to see the good that is coming from our time away from each other, our time in isolation, and our time that is uncomfortable and uncertain… for nothing is ever uncertain with God.
Take care and take heart. And please share with us how God is speaking to you and what He is showing you in the days ahead.