Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I pray this letter finds you walking in the joy of the Lord with a heart full of gratitude for all the goodness our great God has lavished on us in Christ (Rom 5:1-11). Never forget and never get over (2 Cor 5:14-15) the incalculable riches enjoyed by all believers through the eternal gospel of God (Eph 1:3-4)! Like you, I am eagerly anticipating a time when we can all publicly regather for corporate worship as we are commanded by God and as we desperately need (Heb 10:23-25). Each week, we inch closer as a community to that hope becoming a safe, legitimate, and legal reality. While I do not agree with many of the conflicting and confusing decisions made by our governing authorities throughout this debacle, I do strongly desire to honor them as God clearly commands multiple times in His Word (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-17). Therefore, at this time, everything the elders have planned for in how BBC will move forward is in a slow, safe, and limited fashion, and will be done with a humble and patient attitude that seeks to follow those authorities God has placed over us. We understand that there may come a time when we must “obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29), but despite what some people are saying, we do not believe biblically that we have been forced into that place at this time.
Please know that your elders have been working diligently for weeks in designing a phased in regathering plan that will be implemented slowly, safely, and with limited numbers of people that will consecutively grow over time. This plan will initially begin with a limited outdoor service with a rotating schedule of attendees. This offsite service will happen simultaneously and in direct correlation with our ongoing, onsite livestream ministry, so that all of BBC is served and fed evenly, safely, and effectively no matter who or where you are. We have prayed about this for weeks seeking God’s wisdom in how to best lead our church as faithful shepherds who are patiently guided by God’s Word and not passionately driven by media hysteria, personal opinions, and emotional perspectives. We have sought outside council with many different churches, both large and small, and we have deliberated over many of the details with our faithful deacons. Therefore, in the days and weeks ahead, you will be getting more specifics regarding who, how, when, and where we will be regathering as our local officials make that possible. But for now, be encouraged that the elders believe the time is getting close to put this plan into practice, so we have begun and will continue actively testing all the logistics for making an outdoor service happen safely and effectively for the broader body of Belcroft.
Do You Know The Greatest Danger Now Facing BBC?
Now as your pastor, I want to share with you something that has been heavy on my heart for some time as I seek to humbly prepare and shepherd us through the weeks of transition that stand before us. Sadly, it is being reported that over 100,000 people have died from or in some way connected to Covid-19. This objectively proves the point that this virus is not a joke no matter the subjective opinions we all might have about it. Yet, despite that sobering reality, is the potential of someone getting infected with the Coronavirus as we prepare for regathering the greatest danger facing the Belcroft family at this time? Simply stated, what should most concern us as a church, both as individuals and as a community of Christ followers, as we prepare to move forward? Is it being infected by a rogue virus that is real and potentially deadly, or being individually controlled by sin that is far more contagious and devastating to our overall health and wellbeing as the body of Christ? Listen, I compassionately believe that this virus must be taken seriously and all appropriate measures considered as we strive to protect life and the health of one another, especially the many who are most vulnerable among us. Let there be no confusion about that! However, I am deeply convicted and pastorally concerned that we now face a greater danger that far surpasses the Coronavirus. As we prepare to move forward in regathering, we are clearly in far greater danger than any other time during this crisis. But the severest danger facing us is not the physical virus, as legitimate as that is, but the divisive and devastating spread of the spiritual plague of sin that already infects all of us!
Consider these undeniable facts. We are all naturally far more selfish, self-centered, and self-serving than most of us are willing to honestly admit (Gen 6:5; 8:21; Isa 59:1-13 cf. Rom 3:9-18, 23). Our sinful hearts and thoughts perpetually seek to deceive us and distract us from being and doing all that Christ has called us to (Jerm 17:5-10; Js 14-15). We live in and through a personal spiritual war everyday, though many of us might have forgotten that (Gal 5:16-17; Eph 6:10-20; 1 Pet 5:8). Most of us, in varied forms, have been confused, disappointed, frustrated, and maybe even rightfully agitated by all of the confusing and conflicting ideas and regulations surrounding Covid-19. Many have deeply rooted opinions on when and how we should move forward as a church. Some are deeply concerned about their physical well-being, while others are deeply concerned for the denial of their “personal rights” under the Constitution. And all of us, in our own way, are deeply longing for the public gathering of our church family so that we can worship our Lord as we should. What does all of this mean? That our church, and every church for that matter, stands at a precipice of potentially falling into personal sin and leading others in transgression that could end with deep division among us and ultimately dishonoring our Lord (1 Cor 1:10-17). Instigating discord among believers is a very serious matter and something God hates (Prov 6:16-19; Rom 16:17-18; Js 4:11). I know that none of us wants that to happen, but we all must guard our hearts, our thoughts, our actions, and our tongues going forward because all of us have the potential of promoting sin and spreading division. How easily we can become the servants of Satan and not even know it (2 Cor 11:3; Mt 16:21-23; 2 Tim 2:22-26)!
Therefore, as we prepare to slowly move forward let’s be wise and have the mind of Christ as one family united through the gospel and around God’s Word (Phil 2:1-11). Let’s remember, that our enemy the Devil is real; and while he cannot destroy Christ’s body, our adversary always looks for ways to distract, discourage, disrupt, and ultimately divide the church (1 Pet 5:8). Let’s guard ourselves against his wicked schemes (Eph 6:10-20; 2 Cor 10:4-6), and above all else, let’s deal with our greatest weakness, our sinful hearts (Dt 11:16; 1 Cor 3:18) by humbly confessing and repenting to God our personal sin (1 Jn 1:9) as we patiently trust in the Lord and not on our own understanding (Prov 3:5-8). Let’s remember that so many of the legitimate issues surrounding Coronavirus that have really bothered us have little or no eternal value (2 Cor 4:16-18; 2 Tim 2:4; 1 Jn 2:15-17). Let’s keep our eyes on faithfully following Christ (2 Cor 5:9; Phil 3:12-4:1) with humble and broken hearts (Isa 66:2) while actively seeking to kill sin daily as we joyfully pursue God-given holiness (Col 3:5-17; 2 Cor 7:1). Let’s not forget the call of our Master to be the servant of all (Mk 10:42-45) and in so doing proactively seek to outdo one another in showing honor (Rom 12:9-21). Let’s remember to look after the needs of others around us as we count them as more significant than ourselves (Phil 2:1-5). Let’s be gracious to each other in how we speak (Eph 4:29-32) and forgiving with each other in how we serve (Col 3:12-13) as we lovingly bear with one another for the sake of Christ (1 Cor 13:1-7). Please as pastor I implore you, let’s be patient with one another, including with our leaders, as we all humbly grow and mature together through this difficult season (1 Thess 5:12-18)! Patience with each other must be primary for all of us as we all will have different thoughts, opinions, and concerns about how and even when we should regather individually and/or corporately.
Your elders are not perfect, and I am confident that some of you might have ideas, as we begin moving forward that are different than ours. I pray you will graciously share any helpful thoughts you might have that would be constructive and edifying for us. But please understand that not one elder is pretending to know fully what will happen or even how all of this will eventually end with Covid-19 as these are totally unchartered waters for everyone. We humbly admit our insufficiency and inexperience in dealing with all of the crucial decisions that we are now facing. However, our confidence is not in any man or personal ingenuity but in our sovereign Lord who has all of this under His complete control. We believe, despite our inadequacy, that God has providentially chosen (Acts 20:28), according to His perfect plan, the elders we have to protect, lead, guide, feed, and guard this part of His precious church (1 Thess 5:12-13) during these most difficult days (1 Pet 5:1-11). Thus, in God’s infinite wisdom and grace, He has given us a team of men to humbly and courageously lead us forward in a manner that totally looks to Him for everything (Heb 13:7,17).
May that truth encourage and strengthen your resolve to trust the Lord as you faithfully and graciously follow your imperfect elders forward in slowly and safely preparing your heart to regather in limited numbers soon. I want to personally tell you how proud I have been in how BBC has responded thus far to this global crisis. The ongoing maturation of this church has been clearly manifested many times over the last couple months, and it has so blessed my heart. And while I am hopeful that this mature response of sacrificially serving one another like Christ with humble, gentle, and quiet spirits will persist through this potentially perilous time of transition, it is my duty as a faithful shepherd to warn us of the sinful sink holes and land mines that stand before us. May all of us, myself first and foremost, heed this warning as we remain watchful with Word centered joy, utterly grateful to and dependent on God for all has done, is doing, and will do through Christ amidst these unprecedented days of ministry.
For His Glory and Future Generations,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,