We are eagerly looking forward to the day when we can gather in person again. While this season has presented its share of opportunities, it has also come with great challenges. I have been so encouraged as I’ve watched you remain committed to Worshipping, Connecting, Growing, and Going in these strange times. I also want to thank you for your incredible generosity as our finances have remained remarkably healthy!
I wanted to share a brief update about reopening FBC and moving towards in-person services. As you know the situation continues to evolve with new information each week (day, even). The plans we lay out will have to be flexible as we prepare for a variety of scenarios. This means we aren’t at the place where we can set hard dates; however, we can speak generally of where we are headed.
First, what are the values we are committed to as we make these decisions?
- Honoring and Obeying God First
- As Christians we have the joy and commitment to obey God and worship Him as our ultimate authority. We want all that we do to glorify God, both personally and collectively. If Christianity were outlawed and churches were not allowed to meet or share the gospel because of their faith, we would have to respond like the apostles in Acts 5:29,saying “we must obey God rather than men.” Our current situation, thankfully, permits a different response.
- Honoring and Obeying Our Government
- Our call to obey the government is outlined in Scripture, notably in Romans 13. Christians must model what it looks like to be good citizens and honor those in authority, even if we do not agree with every mandate. We are to pray for those in authority and submit to them. As mentioned above, there are certainly times where we are to disobey. This, again, is not one of them.
- The Safety of Our Church
- We feel a deep responsibility to care for the well-being of our congregation. This includes not only your spiritual health, but your physical health and safety also. We want to err on the side of caution so that no one is at risk unnecessarily.
- The Call to Be Good Neighbors and Witnesses
- Jesus calls us to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). We want to be known for our love and compassion. Rather than insisting on exercising our rights, we’d instead rather lay down our rights for the good of our neighbors. We want to model what it looks like to trust those in leadership and work for the common good. We don’t want to damage our relationship with our city, or the cause of Christ, by acting in ways that appear selfish to others.
- Grace and Unity
- We realize that in a situation as complicated and difficult as this there is bound to be disagreement over how to move forward. The possibility of division and bitterness is very real. We want to lead with grace, leaving space for disagreement. Some of us will feel that our church or our city is reopening much too fast, while others will feel that things are moving much too slowly. Let’s extend grace to one another and listen well, avoiding the temptation to condemn the other side. For a great read on what posture we might embrace in this time, I encourage you to see this brief article titled: Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/church-dont-let-coronavirus-divide/
- Patience and Quality
- We do not want to rush this process by returning to our building before it is safe. We also don’t want to rush back if the quality of our services will be poor. Shuffling in quietly, wearing masks, sitting far apart, leaving without any connection or visiting time, limited or no kid’s ministry, potentially having to turn people away because of attendance limits, all could make for a less-than-ideal service.
With those values guiding our conversations we foresee a few likely stages ahead.
Stage One: Everything Online!
This is the stage we are in now. Worship services are online. Small Groups are meeting on Zoom. Our prayer meeting is online as well as our Wednesday Night Video studies. No meetings will take place in person or on campus. This stage has been exciting as we’ve worshiped in our homes and been able to reach people that may not have been willing or able to come to an in-person service.
Stage Two: Small Groups Unleashed!
It is likely that before larger gatherings return we will be able to gather in smaller groups either outdoors or in homes. Our primary Sunday worship service will remain online but small groups will now have the option to meet in person. They can do this on their usual weeknight, OR even choose to worship together on Sunday morning and watch the service together. Not every group will be ready for this step, but it could be a special season of life as “house churches.”
Stage Three: Back on Campus!
When we’re able to provide a quality in-person worship experience we will begin to hold services on our campus. We’ll need your help as we recruit people to help keep our time together clean and safe for everyone. At this point we will still offer our services online so that those who are not ready or able to join us in person can participate.
I am so excited about our future, church! This season won’t last forever, but I know that we will be able to look back and see the way God used it in our lives. Much more to come.