Church Family - Please find current updates below
We Are Regathering!
Before addressing the details of our regathering, we want to thank all of you who filled out the survey we sent out a week ago. It was very helpful in gaining a snapshot on how our members are thinking through regathering. We apologize if any of you did not receive it; please contact our office if you did not.
Fifty-five percent of our members filled out the survey and 85% of you expressed that you are ready to come back at the first available opportunity. Our oldest members were some of the most eager to return according to the age breakdown of the survey!
Another helpful insight from the survey is that 75% of those taking the survey desired to see some and will be taking some precautions as they return. Most who filled out the survey desired to avoid physical contact (shaking hands and hugging) and maintain the recommended physical distancing from governing entities. What was also clear in the survey is that only 25% of our members had no inhibitions or did not intend to take any specific precautions.
Sixty-four percent of the parents with children under 18 at home who took the survey indicated that they were ready to see their children back in their regular classes as we look to regather.
While we don’t want to make our most important decisions based purely upon a survey, the survey provided insight into how most of our members are thinking about regathering.
As we have given considerable thought to regathering as a church, we have sought to uphold a number of important priorities. The first of which is how do we communicate the best idea of what the church is, even if we cannot accomplish all of what we desire. In other words, our goal is not to merely provide an individualized in-person worship experience, but to get as close to a full congregational body-life opportunity as we can.
We recognized that in order to realize this goal, we would likely need to wait until our county moved into Phase 2 of their recovery plan. As stated in last week’s update, we were anticipating the county’s official announcement about enacting Phase 2, with a date and increased facility usage allowance. Under Phase 1, we did not believe we could accommodate our goal of having the vast majority of our congregation worshiping together as a church.
Last Friday, May 22, the county officially announced a first possible date for the beginning of Phase 2. It was not May 25 as we had hoped, which would have given us capacity for the church to gather. Instead, they announced that Phase 2, pending any significant progression of the disease in our area, would begin on June 1.
With that, the elders of Summit Woods are happy to announce that we are planning to regather on Sunday, June 7, 10:30 am for a full and as-close-to-normal-as-we-can-get worship gathering.
What Is Involved?
With the new building usage allowances under phase 2, SWBC can accommodate the full number of our average attendance within one service – our normal service.
Phase 2 means we can avoid asking people to choose a time slot and asking staff to manage when members can attend on a Sunday. We will have no sign-ups to gather as a church.
We are planning to participate in as normal a Sunday gathering as we are able. We will sing our hearts out to God and one another altogether, pray altogether, hear the Bible read altogether, commune with God as the word is taught altogether, publicly remember the Lord and demonstrate who we are as His body in taking the Lord’s Supper altogether (in a safe manner), and commune with each other in fellowship over the word altogether.
Because we are in the process of enhancing our audio/video capabilities, for the foreseeable future, we will also aim to livestream the 10:30 am service and continue to offer video (captioned capable) and audio of each week’s sermon online.
As Phase 2 begins on June 1, Summit Woods will resume our gathering for corporate worship together on June 7, 10:30 am.
While we will not begin by offering the full slate of children’s ministry during our worship gathering, we will be providing childcare for those ages 0-2 years. When you enter through the main entry, you will find members ready to assist with childcare in a way that avoids crowded hallways and waiting in bunched-up lines.
We are also looking to designate specific rooms for parents to take kids out of the service if they need to for any reason. Each of these rooms should have audio capability to continue to hear all that is happening in the sanctuary during the service.
If our county slows down or re-issues a different and/or extended date for the Phase 2 recovery other than June 7, we still plan to meet. We have developed plans that would be less than ideal, but allow a modified gathering to take place until Phase 2 becomes official. In any effect, we plan to begin meeting weekly again on June 7.
What Will Be Different?
We can’t live out Christianity effectively without socially engaging one another. But we do want to honor the guidance that calls for us to adhere to publicized physical distancing protocols.
Some pews in the sanctuary will be taped off for non-use. We simply ask that singles maintain the six foot (about 2 arm-lengths) distance from others while in conversation or seating. Families may sit together but should ensure that the six foot distance is left between them and another family or individual. We trust you to wisely, maturely, and eagerly maintain this standard throughout your time at church.
When the sanctuary reaches its capacity, we will use our fellowship hall for additional overflow seating. The seating will be appropriately spaced and cleaned and we are aiming to have a video and audio feed of the service on the large screen. We are also taking steps to outfit the Foyer with new video streaming of all that happens in the sanctuary. Audio should be provided throughout almost all of our facility, so that no matter where you may be during the service, you will be able to hear the content from the sanctuary.
We have been more than encouraged with the faithful financial support of our ministry together. Many have been using our new online giving capability through our website. Others come by and drop off their offering in the locked offering box just outside the office. Many continue to mail in gifts. You can continue to use any of these means for your giving. In addition, ushers will be standing with offering plates outside the sanctuary doors if you wish to drop your offering off as you leave the service. We will not be passing offering plates during the service.
Because of the physical distancing limitations, we are unable to adequately manage the flow of people and ensure the necessary cleaning protocols between our 9:00 am and our 10:30 am meeting times. With that, we are suspending our 9:00 am Equipping Classes for the summer session and will reassess how we can restart them beginning in September.
Honoring One Another
As we regather, we recognize that our varied congregation has a variety of convictions about issues related to physical distancing, handshakes, hugs, wearing or not wearing a mask, etc. Our gathering on June 7 should show a clear distinction between the condescending attitudes we are seeing from some in our culture. Our desire is to actually apply Philippians 2:3-11 to these issues and prefer one another above our selves. Many of these issues are similar to those described in Romans 14:13-23.
A significant number of people have indicated that they intend to wear a mask to the service. Hand sanitizer will be readily available. We encourage each other to avoid physical greetings without first asking and respecting another’s preference. Our campus should be a judgment free zone on matters like these. The glory of Christ, not our personal preferences, should be our singular emphasis when we gather.
We are excited and eagerly planning and anticipating your return to weekly congregational worship at Summit Woods. We encourage you to invite others to come. On June 7, our doors will be open and our gathered praise to our glorious God will be exuberantly expressed. We can’t wait to worship him with each of you.
OUR REGATHERING PLANS
In anticipation of regathering soon, we want to ask each of you to provide some feedback for us as to your preferences, expectations, and comfort-level in regard to regathering. This evening, our members will be receiving an email with a link that will allow you to fill out a form that will greatly assist us in solidifying our plans for regathering. Please take a brief moment to fill it out when you receive it through the weekend. Our staff will be evaluating the responses, preparing a report for the elders that will assist us with the many details involved in regathering.
This is the question on everyone’s minds. While we have a target date in mind, we are awaiting details from Jackson county as to whether they will move to Phase 2 of the reopening plans and what that will consist of. Even if the county chooses not move to Phase 2, we are making specific plans to accommodate meeting together under the current restrictions. Please know the staff and elders are as eager as the most eager to regather. We deeply miss the fellowship of God’s people together. As we think through the practical and biblical issues involved, we are prayerfully navigating many challenging implications.
Issues related to physical distancing, seating in the sanctuary, use of the foyer, restrooms, fellowship hall, entrances, greeters, ushers, music, musicians, parking, offering, the Lord’s Supper, bulletins, content of the service, use of video in other rooms, video for those who cannot attend, and several more issues are all being planned for now, with the aim of meeting again soon. Please pray for all who are involved in these conversations.
For this Sunday, May 24, we will continue with our video sermon and in-home worship suggestions. Be looking for communication early next week in regard to specifics regarding regathering in the very near future.
OUR REGATHERING EMPHASIS
One issue pressing on our minds is the vast variety of preferences and convictions, feelings, and thoughts we all have about what we have been going through, where we are presently, and what is best in moving forward. Thankfully, we are not left to ourselves to determine how we are to think about applying our convictions and preferences with others in our congregation who may think and feel differently. On one extreme side are those who feel very strongly that the current restrictions we are facing need to be immediately lifted, if not outrightly ignored. Another extreme is so fearful of exposure to the virus, they believe society is moving too quickly and dangerously in the attempts to reopen. What is vital for both extremes and all in between is not how to exercise your rights, pursue your convictions, or apply your preferences. What is vital for all of us is how will we obey God’s word in the way we treat each other despite our preferences and convictions. In fact, we have a choice. Will we be known for our rights and freedoms (even those spelled out in the Scripture); will we be known for our fears (even rational concerns); will we be known for our humble unity with one another that is more fixed on what exalts Christ and his word?
Ephesians 4:1-6 must be the unified expression from our hearts, toward each other, regardless of what our personal feelings, thoughts, convictions, and/or preferences are about our current situation.
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
What is more important, even than our physical regathering, is our spiritual fellowship through the gospel. Our unity as a single body of Christ, is of chief concern to God, and should therefore be ours as well. We need to think carefully about how we are apply Ephesians 4 with each other.
And the primary way to pursue such unity is through a kind of humility that prefers the good of another above our own personal preferences and convictions. We should all be resolutely fearless when fearlessness is called for. But what is better than being fearless? Being Christian. Consider Philippians 2:1-9 carefully.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
We are called to express selflessness, humility, and regard someone other than ourselves (likely someone who does not share our present confidence) more important than ourselves. In fact, the very reason you and I are saved is because Christ willingly surrendered the free exercise of his own privileges in the most humiliating of ways in order to accomplish what would be eternally best for us. And God exalted him with the highest possible exaltation as a result.
As we think through the details of our potential differences with one another, especially as we consider our regathering, let’s make sure that the portrait we display is that of our self-sacrificing savior – that’s what we are called to display as Christians. Let’s make sure that we are publicly known more for our citizenship in heaven governed by the document of the written revelation of God in the Scriptures than we are as citizens of any other kingdom governed by any other document.
Meeting as a Congregation
It has been a whirlwind of activity in our county over the last week, of which I am sure many of you have been hearing.
Jackson County has amended their restrictions of church gatherings, to allow churches to accommodate 10% of the facility occupancy (for those larger than 10,000 sq feet), meaning, we would be allowed to accommodate 152 people.
Our goal is to accommodate the vast majority of our congregation in worship at one time. At the present restriction, this is not possible. For convictional and practical reasons, we are not planning to offer multiple small venues. Our goal in traversing the restrictions is not merely to provide multiple venues within our facility from which small groups may view a service, but to accommodate the congregation in one gathering from which we can all participate as the body of Christ, carrying out the biblical priorities of a gathered assembly. Assuming the next Phase allows a greater number of people, we hope to accommodate the vast majority of the church.
Until that time, we will continue offering in-home worship suggestions and provide our teaching through video streaming.
Meeting in Small Groups
As the restrictions are lifting, we encourage you to consider meeting in smaller groups. In-home gatherings remain restricted to 10 people during the current re-opening phase. In the next week the elders will be discussing what accommodating larger groups at the church facility could look like (i.e., GSM small groups, Titus 2, Ironmen, and possibly some Growth Groups). As you would expect, careful thought and planning are required for us to move forward with allowing our members to use the church facility.
The Office is Open
Staff began working from the church office again this week and can accommodate small meetings and walk-in guests, as we continue to follow appropriate physical distancing guidelines.
We Praise God for You
Our congregation has been a tremendous blessing to be a part of during these days. Hearing stories of your service, meeting with many of you through video conferencing, praying, studying, encouraging, counseling, and assisting one another. We thank God for your expressions of love and care.
The Battle is Won First in Our Minds
While our spiritual life is more than what we think, how we live is often connected to how we feel, and how we feel is definitely tied to the way we think. For some, anxiety is not an issue. In fact, things are going so well and at such an easy pace compared to our pre-COVID environment, you won’t be disappointed with a few more months. I’m thankful for those who are finding a laid back peaceful time like this beneficial. A question for those in this situation would be, “Are you growing in your communion with Christ? Are you thriving at an accelerated pace in your affections for the things of the Lord? Are you stretching yourself to care for those who are in a very different place than you are? Are you involved in encouraging, discipling, praying for, and investing in others?” If not, or if you are at a sluggish pace in these things, realize, that is fundamentally a thinking problem. God hasn’t ordained these days for you to regress in spiritual fervor. It would be the quiet hiss of our enemy that says that the slower pace of present life should be applied to what stokes your heart’s affections for Christ. How we think about these days governs much of what we are feeling and how we are acting. Perhaps you need to activate a more robust biblical mindset, so that you feel more of the weight of need to grow deeper in Christ and more faithful to others. You may need to consider how to stimulate your thinking in more biblically saturated ways, rather than merely pragmatically driven responses to the present easy course.
For others, to even breathe the word “easy” during these days infuriates you. You are worried. You are worried about the virus, your job, your family, your bills, your way of living, and . . . well, the list could go on an on. This also is a thinking problem. God has ordained these days of challenge for your good. Perhaps to wean you from elements of this earth. Perhaps to reorient your affections to what is eternal more than the temporal. Perhaps God has ordained these days to clearly communicate to you that you are not in control. You cannot secretly manage your insecurities. You cannot be defined by your job, your ability to produce, your position of perceived influence, or your ability to think you are in control of your surroundings. God may in fact be weaning of us most everything – even good things, to remind of what is most important – himself, his Son, his grace, true faith, his Word, his people, and his glory.
Spend a moment meditating on Philippians 4:4-9. Dwell on the commands and consider the specifics of how they are playing out in your situation. Linger on the implications of the encouragements. Consider in writing what thinking on the things of verse 8 would look like in your particular environment of life. Who are the examples in your life of God-centered thinking and living and how can you emulate their faith? Who in your life isn’t enjoying the fruit of these verses? Take some time by text, phone, video, or even meeting in person to encourage them. Perhaps you are not even aware of how others are doing. This would be a good time to find out. They may need you. You might find that you need them too.
God has brought us into these days. God wants us to reflect him and his Word and true fellowship with Christ. Let’s be known more for that than anything else.
The doorway has been cracked open and we can begin to see light inside the room of a more open society within our community’s recent steps to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Jackson County released their plans for Phase 1 of reopening the area for regularity of life. The initial steps begin Monday, May 11, with the lifting of the Shelter-in-place order, which allows for groups no more than 10 to meet and some businesses to re-open. However, Phase 1 does not include our regathering as a congregation. We understand the caution as churches are in fact very unique venues for large gatherings of people singing, socializing, physically greeting, and being places for the easy spread of this unique virus.
What does that mean for us immediately? Please review our own Phase 1 plans that will begin next week and continue through May 24 (tentatively according to County regulations):
- The church office will be open for staff to work on premises, Monday, May 11, but not open to the public until Monday, May 18 (allowing us to make necessary preparations for walk-up visitors to the office). In-person appointments may be held by scheduling in advance so as to ensure acceptable numbers in the facility and physical distancing.
- Scheduled guests to the office will be encouraged to bring and wear a face mask or one will be provided. Staff will wear face masks for in-person meetings.
- Small discipleship groups are encouraged to meet in person if all are comfortable doing so and appropriate physical distancing and size (no more than 10) is maintained. However, no in-person meetings will be conducted in the church facility during this phase.
- All other gatherings (i.e., Growth Groups and our Morning/Evening Gatherings; Mid-Week Fellowship Ministries) are encouraged to take place through video/phone conferencing. No gatherings will be held at the church facility.
- Resources for in-home Sunday worship, including video recorded sermons will continue to be provided each week.
Jackson County has not released numbers associated with permitted size of gatherings for the remaining phases of their plan, therefore, it would be impossible for us to suggest any future plans, which includes any anticipated dates for our re-gathering as a congregation. As the County communicates and rolls out each phase, we will likewise.
As we anticipate our society beginning to open up again and as we face personal and congregational challenges, we would do well to consider the application of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. These are momentary, light afflictions when you think of them as tools of preparation for the eternal weight of glory we will experience. Remember, our ultimate goal is not meeting together as a congregation here on earth (though we long for that time to come soon). Our ultimate goal is meeting together in glory together before Christ. And what is happening in our lives this very moment are feather-like afflictions in comparison to the concrete-like glory God is working in us through these challenges.
As we navigate these days together, we are here to serve you as best as we can. Keep devoting yourselves to prayer and meditating on God’s word. Invest in each other actively (meet together now). And guard your heart from sinful and soul-depleting anxiety (Philippians 4:6-9). God is preparing us now for something far more glorious than we could ever imagine.
Church family, allow me to express my gratitude to God and to you for the way you have been responding and serving each other in ministry over the last number of weeks. Our quarantine has yielded specific needs as well as detailed responses from you. It is marvelous to watch the body coming alongside to aide one another in trusting Christ and seeing needs met in a Christ-centered manner. I wish I could relay to you much of what I have been hearing and seeing. Rest assured, the Lord knows and I can’t help but think he is pleased with your heart and service. I thank God for you.
As we originally planned the preaching schedule for the year, next week and the week after were to be weeks where I and some of our members were going to be in Central Asia. With recent events cancelling that trip, the elders determined to continue with the planned schedule. With that, Dawson Bryant will be leading us in the study of God’s word this week, focusing our attention in Luke 11 and the application of Scripture to our prayer life. This is a consequential time for us to make the most of deepening our prayer life. I am looking forward to this time in God’s word and what it will yield across our congregation as we fervently pursue the Lord in dependent and faithful prayer. We will return to our study of Hebrews 7, three Sunday’s from now, and then look to launch back into our continued series in the book of Genesis for the summer months.
I know that this subject is on almost everyone’s mind. It is certainly the talk of TV news. And it is definitely an ongoing conversation among the elders and ministry staff. As parts of our region begin to re-open to the public next week, and the shelter-in-place order expires for our county in two weeks, when are we planning to meet again as a congregation? I wish I had a solid answer for that; but I do not. City, county, regional, and state governing entities are beginning to roll-out guidelines for re-opening society and we are paying close attention to them. From the latest communication we are seeing, it is difficult to imagine that we will be regathering in the month of May. Of course, that could quickly change if local authorities change course, but at present, limitations to gatherings of no more than 10 are being communicated for the weeks following the conclusion of the May 15 shelter-in-place order. With that, we are looking for ways to mirror the slow roll-out of re-gathering, perhaps beginning with Growth Groups meeting together. As we learn more, we will communicate more detailed plans about our own regathering.
WHAT TO EXPECT
What should we expect when we do assemble again? Whatever it does look like, I am certain it will look and feel a bit different than the last time we all met together. Personal contact will be different, seating will need to adjust, collecting the offering will look different, distributing the elements of the Lord’s Table will change, and even what we can initially offer in childcare will be significantly different.
What does this mean? It means we all have to be patient. Patient with each other, our leaders within the church and within our society. I am certain that some in our congregation will not, and more than likely should not, return immediately due to health concerns. Parents with young children may choose to delay gathering with large groups for a time. Some may expect everyone who is present to be ready for a hug. Some will be hesitant to even shake a hand. Again, when we do begin to meet together again, we will need to exercise a humble and non-judgmental attitude toward those whose initial convictions and comforts are different than ours.
All of this will provide a perfect opportunity for us to show the sweet smelling aroma of the knowledge of Christ as society begins to emerge from the implements of the present quarantine.
Second Corinthians 2:14-15 are verses I have been using today to pray for us as a church family. Consider these words prayerfully, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
God is displaying through us, in every place we find ourselves, the sweet aroma of what it means to know Christ. The very thought of this should cause us to carefully consider our internal and external responses to the details of the quarantine and the expectations of our society re-opening. What we express needs to be the sweetness of knowing Christ, not merely our own personal convictions about any given situation. Let’s make sure that believers and unbelievers alike are seeing and experiencing from us the beauty of knowing our savior. That would mean a contented, joyful, confident, steadying trust in the goodness of God in regard to all that is going on around and within us. I am praying we all are good manifestations of God’s goodness, even as the stresses coming from the effects of this virus continue to impact us in ways we wish were otherwise. Christ needs to be seen and valued because of us during these days. May God show his glory in our responses together.
UPDATE ON SUNDAYS
We continue to provide weekly suggestions for in-home worship and the sermon by video and we plan to continue this approach the foreseeable future. We also recognize that the volume is increasing in our world about what and when re-entry to normal and in-person gatherings will look like. Our staff and elders are actively discussing and making plans for the day when we will all gather together in worship again.
As of today, our local authorities maintain a shelter-in-place order through May 15. The wisdom of Romans 13 calls us to continue to support and honor these authorities and the orders that have been issued. They have been ordained by God for our good. The restrictions are not applied to the church alone, but to the whole of our society. We want our testimony to match the Scripture’s call. It is possible that gatherings will be allowed to resume by degree (i.e., groups of 50, 100, 250). We will plan to move as slowly or quickly as our local authorities allow. Even with that, we are actively preparing for what smaller gatherings and our eventual regular church gathering will look like when they can begin again.
One of the greatest encouragements I have had through this period is to see how well people are caring for one another. A primary manner people have been connecting is through our Growth Groups. Each week, our staff reviews reports from our Group leaders about our various virtual meetings. Prayer, reflection on the application of God’s word, and tangible ministry to others is happening across our congregation through our groups in wonderful ways.
We recognize that some of our members are not yet connected to a Growth Group. Let me take this opportunity to encourage you to connect with one – and we would like to help with that. If you are not formally connected to a group, but would like to join one, please email me or Dawson Bryant and we will look to connect you as soon as possible to a group. You will benefit from the conversation, prayer, and ministry that takes place.
Today, our members Daniel and Courtney Martin were able to finalize adoption of their daughter, Alexandra. While meeting through a virtual courthouse, Alexandra has become a Martin. We are thrilled, especially in such unique days, this expression of God’s grace has been realized. Many of you have been praying for the Martins. Express to God your praise and to them your excitement.
One of our members and interns, Daniel Pentimone recently availed himself to the need for nurses in New York City. He was assigned, for 21 days, to a hospital in Brooklyn and has worked not only in the emergency room, but in ICU as well. Be sure to watch the video update above for a quick note of thanks and update from Daniel. Continue to pray for him. He is doing well and has remained healthy. In fact, he has agreed to serve for another 14 days beyond his original commitment. We are thankful for his heart to invest himself, his skills and training at this providential time of his life, during these providential days. Continue to pray for him and his ministry to others.
GRATITUDE FOR SUNDAYS
Since becoming a Christian, Sunday has always been a day I love. When it became apparent that we would not be meeting for a while, I could almost feel the creep of discouragement wrapping itself around me. I have been trying to actively fight back and work out of discouragement’s squeeze on my heart and enjoy what it is that God has ordained. I am confident, while congregational life cannot be replaced, that life in Christ can still thrive during these days. They are not ideal, but we dare not be idle in them. While not what I desire, it is still a day I love.
As our local authorities are extending our shelter-in-place order through the middle of May, God is extending the opportunity to be grateful for this unique time. Yes, we actually are actively and intentionally planning for what it will look like when we meet again, and we will communicate these plans to you as we learn more details from our local leaders. But until then, I am still grateful for what we are doing on Sundays.
IN WHAT WE ARE DOING
Few engagements in life are as life-giving to my soul than the ability to gather with you on Sunday. But, I am still grateful for what we are able to do on Sundays. Our family prays, sings, reads the word, and listens to the sermon together. We talk about the issues we are praying for, we think about the themes of the songs, we respond to what we have read, and we unpack what we have heard in Scripture. We are still meeting with our Growth Group and actively praying for and seeking ways to encourage each other. My soul needs that. Your soul is not different than mine. Let’s be grateful for what we are doing on the Lord’s Day.
IN HOW YOU ARE RESPONDING
My gratitude has flourished in recent weeks in hearing how you have been responding to these very different days. Whether in a phone call we share, an email we have traded, or a note I have read, I am deeply blessed by the intentional way you are sharing your joys in the Lord during these days. I’m not exaggerating this or merely trying to pump you up with manufactured zeal. Your responses to what we are all experiencing is having marvelous effect – especially when you take the time to share it.
IN WHAT WE ARE MISSING
The pain in my heart is real. And there is a genuine, positive impact this pain is having in my soul. Saturday evenings are not my greatest moments. After recording the sermon, I am emotionally depleted – for a variety of reasons. I go home and look to try and unwind from the high of the moment and then the inevitable begins. I begin thinking through everything I should have said, but didn’t, and what I did say, and shouldn’t have. And I have no interaction with anyone who has sat under the preaching of God’s word (except Dawson, and he is immensely gracious). There is a giant hole in my heart. And it is painful to me. It can be deeply discouraging. And that is why I take some extended time late into Saturday evening and early on Sunday morning to intentionally exhort and help my heart find hope in the word. It is God’s word, not my preaching, that accomplishes spiritual growth. And what I am missing I should miss. It is good to long for the church and the rich fellowship we have over all we do together on the Lord’s Day. What we are missing, we should miss. And perhaps the hole in my heart every Saturday is a reminder of how needed such gatherings are for us. So, in a helpfully strange way, I am even grateful for the pain in what we are missing.
Let me encourage you to stoke the fires that breed higher flames of gratitude for what we have and do on Sundays.
GRATITUDE FOR GIVING
TO THE CHURCH
We have a massively faithful congregation. You have given in ways that have literally astounded my soul. I want to thank you for being so faithful to the Lord in the face of so much uncertainty. I want to thank you for giving through the church which positions us to come alongside those who have extensive need and invest their need. And when we do it as a church, it is as if we are all participating together in the special fellowship of meeting the needs of those who are providentially experiencing a season of lack. Thank you.
TO EACH OTHER
But, what makes my soul soar are the testimonies I have been hearing of how many of you have been giving so much to so many others in these times of need. I can easily be brought to tears when hearing how needs have been met by spontaneous and extensive giving. And these are only those I have personally heard of. I am very confident more is happening among us than I could ever know. This is all the result of a people who have been deeply impacted by God’s grace and people who have been wonderfully transformed by the work of God’s Spirit through his word. You are proving the genuineness of God’s word in a life changed by the grace of Jesus.
GRATITUDE FOR FELLOWSHIP
How thankful I am to hear about how many of you are meeting for discipleship, prayer, encouragement, and unique opportunities to have fun. I am still meeting with people for counseling, questions and answers, ministry planning, small group discipleship, elders’ meetings, staff meetings, and general encouragement. The ministry of fellowship is still active, even though it is different and virtual.
Discipleship groups are still meeting online – but they are meeting. Books are being read. Scripture is being memorized. The Bible is being digested by so many of you. You are being intentional and involved. Thank you. Keep it up. Be regular in it. Take initiative. If it crosses your mind to connect with someone, do it. Just do it.
We have some unique opportunities for all of you to engage in fellowship.
FRIDAY CONGREGATIONAL Q&A
Consider joining us on a Zoom conference every Friday at 1:00 pm to engage conversation with each other. We can talk about anything on your mind. We can pray together, share, ask questions, and give encouragement.
Several of you have already participated in the previous one, but let me encourage you to think about participating in the next one, coming up this next Saturday afternoon. See our Facebook page or newsletter for more detail, or you can contact Raylene Tormanen. It is a fun and safe way to have some fun with each other. Seeing all the pictures from the last one was fantastic. I encourage you to think about participating.
Don’t forget about Titus 2 groups for women, Ironmen groups for men, Growth Groups for everyone – or any way you can connect with others to pray, confess sin, talk about the Bible, and provide persevering encouragement. If you are not involved in a group, but would be interested, send us a note and we will provide some helpful direction.
In all, just know that my heart is full even while it often feels empty during this season. The Lord has seen fit to ordain days that make us reevaluate what we value. And I can’t help but think that this will be a season of our lives that will shape us for years. Let’s make sure we are cultivating God-ward gratitude through it all as we make the most of it by the means he has provided us.
FRIDAY CONGREGATIONAL Q&A
One element of our regular Lord’s Day gathering is the opportunity to touch base with leaders in-person, ask ministry questions, express prayer concerns, and seek answers to challenging Bible Questions. Until we begin meeting in-person again, if you would like to join a Friday Q&A session with Pastor Bret and other leaders, feel free to join our weekly congregational Q&A video conference, Friday, 1:00 pm. A Zoom link to the conference will sent to the membership on Friday morning. If you are not a member and desire to attend, email Dawson Bryant for the link.
VIDEO SERMON AND IN-HOME WORSHIP SUGGESTIONS
In lieu of our regular Good Friday Gathering, we have posted suggestions for in-home worship, and a video sermon will be uploaded Friday afternoon to our web-site that you can use to remember the death of Christ and its implications.
A regular highlight of our Good Friday service is the special offering we collect for a designated ministry purpose each year. In light of the needs in our congregation and community, we are designating this year’s offering to our benevolence fund. This fund assists members and others who have unique financial needs. You can mail in a check with “benevolence” in the memo line, or use our online giving portal and choose “Good Friday Benevolence” for this special offering. All that we collect in this special offering will be used to meet the needs of others as we become aware of them. Prayerfully consider participating as the Lord has blessed you.
SERMON AND IN-HOME WORSHIP SUGGESTIONS
As we have been each week, this Resurrection Sunday, we will provide an in-home worship guide, including songs, recordings, and sheet music, as well as a video message on the resurrection account in Luke 24.
RESURRECTION SUNDAY FACEBOOK PHOTOS
Since we are unable to actually get together and see one another, we are encouraging our members to upload photos of your in-home Resurrection Sunday to our church’s main Facebook page. This will be an encouraging way for us to see each other in the setting in which we are worshiping the Lord each week while we are apart from one another.
USE SUNDAY’S VIDEO
Consider also unique ways you could use the video message from Sunday by not only sending it to a family member or friend on your heart, but plan for a follow up video or phone conversation this week to discuss it with them.
While this is the first Sunday that SWBC (as well as almost every Christian congregation) has not been able to gather on a Resurrection Sunday, it is still a special occasion to remember that our faith rests in a risen Savior who is actively involved in everything that is going on in our world, down to the very details of what is happening in your heart.
Be encouraged to pray for others, find ways to uniquely connect with and serve others, focus your heart’s affections on the Lord. This time of isolation may challenge you, but it can also helpfully confront anything and everything that we have tended to find our joy in outside of the Lord. Consider journaling through these days and chronicling some of the lessons you can be learning through this period. In the weeks to come, I will be sharing some that have come to my mind.
Know of our love for each of you and our longing to be back with you in worship, fellowship, and increased discipleship.
As we make our way toward the weekend, we wanted to update you on a few items. This week we want to give you an overview of the regular communication and resources you will find from us.
Realizing that our local shelter-at-home order continues until April 24, and the President has recommended we discontinue any gatherings until April 30 (Jackson County orders disallow meetings over 10 people until May 15), we don’t believe we should try and guess and try to communicate each week how long we will not be able to gather. Until local authorities have removed their current requirements, SWBC will not hold any public in-person gatherings. As soon as these restrictions are lifted (even if it is on a Saturday!), we plan to gather together.
MONDAY – “THINK ON THESE THINGS”
Each Monday, look for an email from us called, “Think on These Things” (Philippians 4:8). We will make a few suggestions of articles to read, songs to sing, sermons you can listen to, helps for Bible study, and links for official information about current statistics. Our greatest hope is for us all to keep our hearts filled with helpful Christ-centered content.
Look for our Mid-Week Bible study. Dalton Vansell is teaching through 2 Timothy and we will make his Bible studies available to you through our website.
GSM groups are still meeting each week to discuss the application of the word and pray for each other. We have an adult study where we will do the same. If you are interested in joining, let us know and we’ll send you the link to join the video/phone group.
Each Thursday, look for a short video providing you all of the latest ministry updates we have. Especially watch for next week as we anticipate Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. We will still aim to provide suggestions for in-home worship and video sermons for both Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.
In addition to our weekly email newsletter, we are going to try something new. As another means of biblical touchpoint, we will host an afternoon Bible Q/A chat. We’ll send out a link to our members for a video/phone call where you can ask and Pastor Bret will do his best to answer questions you have about the Bible. Feel free to send out the link each week to anyone you would want to invite into the conversation. You can also send in questions by email (email@example.com) if you like.
AWANA Parents, keep working on verses with your kids each week and keep track of their progress. Kids will still be able to receive end-of-the-year acknowledgements of their progress for the 2019-2020 AWANA season.
Also, don’t forget to use our SWBC Spotify account. It is free to use and is full of all of the songs we sing together every Lord’s Day. It is a great way to learn new songs, and sing those songs we look forward to singing out together when our gatherings resume.
Thank you all for your generosity in supporting the ministry of SWBC not only financially but also through your prayers, phone calls, video conferences, and creative ways to encourage one another. It is an honor to serve the Lord alongside each of you.
Here are a few items to consider related to SWBC ministry this week:
As a reminder, this coming Sunday, March 29, 2020, the facility will remain closed, but we will look to post a recording of the morning sermon by 9:00 am and we plan to continue our regular study of the book of Hebrews (6:13-20).
As a reminder, we have sermon study material you can download and use through the week that will take you through an inductive study of the passage in preparation for the message on Sunday.
In addition, we will continue to post suggestions for Scripture reading, songs, and prayers you can make use of in your home with your family or for personal prayer and meditation.
We encourage our Growth Groups to utilize online means (we sent instructions on using Zoom to all leaders) to meet with members to discuss the application of the message, pray, and follow up with each other on a weekly basis.
Due to the Shelter-in-place order by Jackson County, the office has been closed and the staff are all working from home until the order is lifted. We are still answering the main line (it is forwarded to us) and staff will be responding to email, phone messages, making calls and sending notes to members. You can still reach any of the staff throughout the day.
Sam Walker is communicating with our families in how to maintain progress with AWANA, as well as how to develop ongoing family discipleship and worship times. This is an excellent time to capitalize on these helpful opportunities.
Our Mid-Week Ministry of GSM and the Adult Study are cancelled this week. However, beginning next Wednesday evening, we will begin a Mid-Week Bible study, where Dalton Vansell will be teaching through the book of 2 Timothy. He has been teaching this book to the students on Wednesday evenings for the past few weeks, and we will begin to make video of this teaching available to all our church body (beginning April 1, 2020). We will provide information on how interested adults can