We are experiencing a time that will be recorded in history books around the entire world. People are frightened as they see the impact of an enemy that cannot be seen. For many, that which we cannot see is frightening. As believers, we have an opposite perspective. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” While the Coronavirus is real, though invisible to the naked eye, its effects can be seen and measured. The same is true for my God but in a much bigger way! Someone shared with me an acrostic this week that the letters, COVID-19, could stand for Christ Over Viruses and Infectious Diseases. Those of us with faith believe this to be true. Hebrews goes on to say in 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” This is a time when our faith may be tested. Part of growing to become a mature follower of Jesus Christ is going through a time of testing. We must remember God is not surprised by this and God has not lost control! May your faith continue to grow as you trust in the unseen God to fight against that which we cannot see but that which He does have control over.
The deacons met on March 17 to discuss our response to COVID-19. We know we are entering a time when “normal” is going to look “abnormal”. Earlier this week the state of Nebraska passed down a mandate asking organizations and businesses to limit groups to no more than 10 people. Because of this mandate, and out of compliance to Romans 13, effective immediately (for the next two weeks), Grace Church will no longer host the following ministries:
- Sunday Morning Worship
- Sunday School
- Monthly All-Committee Meetings
- Tuesday Afternoon Bible Study
We will reevaluate this the first week of April and, Lord willing, begin services again April 5. This, of course, will be dependent upon our government’s recommendation.
Here are some things that influenced our decision-making:
- As a church, we want to comply with the God-given authority that has been placed over us and honor those in that position of authority. Leadership decisions are tough and God has placed leaders over us who are charged with our safety. We want to honor those leaders and in doing so, honor God.
- This is not an issue of religious persecution. Should it become clear that the government is stepping outside the authority delegated by God to the state, we will refuse to comply. While there may be some who are using this situation to further a particular agenda, we do not believe this has come to a point where disobedience to the governing authority is biblically mandated or permissible.
- We do not want to damage the public witness or future ministry of Grace Church. If someone drives past and sees a bunch of cars in the parking lot, they could easily think “those people don’t care about the community” or “those Christians just do whatever they want and ignore guidance given for public safety and health”. While we do not make decisions based upon public opinion on matters of doctrine or truth, we also don’t want to erect unnecessary barriers to future ministry or damage the name of Christ.
These decisions were not made in fear nor were they made in complacency. They were made with the best information available, with careful application of God’s word to the best of our ability, and with a heart desiring to honor God and see others come to treasure and trust Christ.
While we have a lot of unknowns, what we do know is just because we have been told to no longer meet in groups, this does not mean we are required to stop ministry. Every week I will record a devotional and post it to our website (www.stpaulgrace.org) for you to watch on Sunday. I will also be praying for you and throughout the week I and others from Grace will call as many of you as possible to check on you and pray with you. In addition, the church office will remain open for your calls and/or visits so please contact me if you need anything at 308.754.4770.
We also want to remind you of a number of ways you can continue to support Grace financially through this time. Christians are known for their generosity, especially during times of need and I believe we are entering a period when many people in our community will face financial hardship. If you would like to give to the continued ministries of Grace and/or to our benevolence fund to meet needs in the community, here are some available options:
- You may mail a check to Grace Church, 123 9th St., St. Paul, NE 68873.
- You may deliver your check to the office of slide it through the mail slot by the north entrance. Mark the envelope “Grace Treasurer” and it will be delivered to her unopened and confidential.
- Some banks allow you to do online, free bill-pay. You can set up your account for the bank to send your gift directly to Grace.
- You may use our online giving platform – http://stpaulgrace.org/online-giving-3/. This will allow you to set up one-time or recurring gifts to Grace.
- Note: Undesignated funds will go to our general fund to keep our ministries operational. Giving for benevolence, missions or the building fund must be marked on the check or envelope.
If you have any questions about this, please let the church office know or contact our financial secretary directly at 402.613.3356 or email@example.com.
In consideration of our Missions Pledge Drive, this will be extended until we can come together as a congregation. Please continue to pray about how much you and your family could give to missions each month. You can email your pledges now to our missions treasurer (Dennis Jameson – firstname.lastname@example.org or 308.440.7692) or you can place them in the offering plate within the first two weeks of our meeting again.
Moving forward, we need to be sensitive to potential needs within our community. Some parents might need childcare now that schools are not in session; especially if those parents need to work. Some families may need groceries they can’t afford to buy. The elderly may need someone to pick up and deliver their medications and groceries. If you are willing to help with one or more of these needs, or if you know someone that needs assistance in one or more of these needs, please let us know. This is a time when we can show grace in a very real way.
In closing, the past two Sundays we have read from Matthew 28:19-20 where Jesus told His disciples to Go, Make Disciples, Baptize and Teach. Now is the time for us to live this. We have a great opportunity to use our witness for God’s glory. We can GO to our neighbors, offering assistance and hope. We can MAKE DISCIPLES by illustrating our faith to them and showing how a relationship with God can make a difference. We can even BAPTIZE them if they so desire upon their testimony of salvation. We can also TEACH them. You can take them to our website and have them watch sermons that deal with a topic they may be struggling with. You can come by the church and take them through one of our resource booklets or devotional booklets that are available. We have a lot of resources available but it starts with you GOING. Please consider how God can use you for His glory during this time.
Please call me if you have any questions, any needs, or if you just miss picking on me. In addition, the deacons are also available to listen and pray with you. You may call them at the numbers listed below:
- Zack Ireland – 435.938.8433
- Glenn Jares – 308.381.0540
- Mark Lucht – 308.750.1641
- Brain Smith – 308.754.8288
I love you all. I can’t wait until we can be together again!