The COVID-19 virus impacts gatherings of people. Being the church necessitates the gathering of people. Because of this, I have been heavily invested in listening to all sides of discussion regarding the COVID-19 virus. I have a responsibility to steward this church’s ministry, and that involves people. That involves you.
I don’t believe every theory that is postulated by every talking head. Yes, there are some people who are declaring that the sky is falling. There are others who feel this virus is something that has been made up to scare us or corral us. Those are opposite ends of the pendulum, and I tend to fall in the middle. I don’t believe this is the end of the world, but I also don’t believe this is something that’s been imagined just to scare us.
Part of our responsibility as followers of Christ is to respect and listen to our governing authorities. We have systems in place in our country in which experts look at facts and make recommendations. We have an obligation as citizens to follow their leadership so long as they do not violate God’s commands.
Our leaders are making recommendations and offering guidelines based on the information they are provided by experts in the medical field. Their intent is not to cause us to cower in fear, but to respond in a way that protects our citizenry, especially the most vulnerable among us.
Yesterday our President issued new guidelines for our nation as we deal with COVID-19. One of those guidelines is related to the gathering of people, which again, is something the church values and practices on a weekly basis. Specifically, our President has issued the guideline to avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people. The reason for this, as stated in his guidelines, is to “slow the spread of the coronavirus.”
As followers of Christ, we’re told that the greatest commandments are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Helping to “slow the spread of the coronavirus” is one way that we can love our neighbor.
Therefore, the way we worship and minister is going to look a bit different for the coming week. This Sunday, March 22nd, we will worship off campus. Instead of gathering as one collective group, we will be the church scattered among hundreds of homes. There will be no on campus service this Sunday. Instead, we will provide a live stream of our service online at 10:30 AM. This is not a cancelation of our service, as we will still have one. Rather, this is a movement of our service from a centralized spot to your home.
You may join us online this Sunday, March 22nd, at 10:30 AM by viewing our livestream at http://www.fbcmilton.org/media/live. It’s as simple as going to that website. This will be a “live” service in the sense that Kenneth will lead in music, and I will preach a message in real time, behind the pulpit at First Baptist Church. You’ll be able to sing along with us, open your Bible, take notes, and respond. You are also able to give online, which we encourage you to do, at http://www.fbcmilton.org/giving.
Scripture makes it clear that the church is not a building, but a body. As a body, we come together to worship, but our worship is not centered on a building. During this unprecedented time, God has provided a means for us to continue to worship through technology.
Also note that all activities on campus, including the Wednesday night meal and Bible studies, are canceled for March 25th.
Let me be open and honest with you. I fully realize that this decision will not be liked by all. I know that some people will view this as a sign of weakness. Some will even say that it’s a step of compromise. For some, your view of me will be lessened. I have to learn to be okay with that. I do answer to you as a congregation, and I ultimately answer to God for how I pastor this congregation.
Listen, the very last thing a pastor wants to do is cancel an onsite meeting. Outside of pulling weeds and working for a watermelon farmer in the sticks of south Arkansas, preaching to a congregation has been the ONLY “job” I’ve ever had. To not have a congregation to which to preach is the last thing I want to experience.
And I know some of the ramifications of not meeting onsite. I fully expect our giving to take a hit and decrease. I fully expect to have some folks get “comfortable” being online and ponder moving “offline” and drop out of church. I fully expect to get an email or a call that expresses displeasure.
I say that to say this: I didn’t make this decision lightly, nor did your staff. However, we feel it’s in the best interest of our church membership and our neighbors to adopt this method for the short-term so that we can be unimpeded in ministry in the long-term. This method allows us to worship with our church family from a distance, while loving our neighbors at the same time.
I hope that you’ll join me and others in our church family in worship online at http://www.fbcmilton.org/media/live this Sunday morning at 10:30 AM! We will continue to provide updates and service plans as we navigate through this weird and unprecedented time.