CORONA – Disruptions, Disconnections, and the Design of the Divine
“The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9, ESV)
How did it go for you, your family, and your church family as you experienced the second “unique” Lord’s Day during this COVID-19 pandemic? Before I share with you something I gleaned from this past Lord’s Day, I need to share with you what occurred three days earlier.
I experienced personal sadness as a direct result of this dreaded virus this past Thursday. I traveled to southwest Ohio where an Assisted Living Facility is located. My elderly mother is a resident there and I was meeting my younger sister in the facility’s parking lot.
This was not our original itinerary, but as everyone living on this planet is experiencing, schedules are very fluid these days. The doctor’s appointment that I was planning to take Mom to the next day was cancelled indefinitely due the current health crisis. The building where the doctor’s office is located is currently being transformed into a COVID-19 checkpoint facility. Even though my mother has pressing health issues, those are being set aside at this time for the “greater good.”
This “greater good” and necessary precautions also led to the governor declaring, rightfully so, that access to assisted living facilities and nursing homes by family members and the general public be discontinued at the present time. So, my sister and I stood there teary-eyed as we handed over supplies, notes, and goodies for the wonderful caregivers to deliver to our mom’s apartment. We were located approximately twenty yards from her apartment door, but it might as well have been halfway around the world.
The now teary-eyed caregiver soon returned to the entrance to give me the mail and bills that had accumulated since my last personal visit six weeks ago. She said, “Your mom said to tell you thank you for your care and that she loves you!” Wow, what a memorable moment! I know that we are all currently standing there in that kind of moment, one way or another.
Fast forward to Sunday. My personal experience caused my thoughts to focus on what it must have been like to be members of the Church in Jerusalem during the first few weeks following the rip-apart whirlwind that historically labeled as the Diaspora (“dispersing and scattering”; cf. Acts 8:1-3).
Consider this with me for a few moments. Our current disconnections will be mostly temporary in nature, while theirs were permanent. They did not have 24-hour news channels and social media to give updated information regarding their own situation, let alone the situations of the entire world population.
Their fears could not be abated by promises of national relief, nor the waning of persecution in other regions of the world where they could seek relief. They could not live stream together from their isolated locations to enjoy temporary moments of “community” and “shared worship.” There were no published articles for them to consult, neither print nor online.
There was no “cloud” located in cyberspace to access in order to find seemingly limitless sources of information. The only “clouds” that they were aware of hung over their heads in the earth’s atmosphere. Or, there the personal clouds of depression, doubt, and despair. They no doubt experienced every facet of human emotions that are normally associated with fear. Indeed, fear for them was very real and ever present.
Yet, these young-in-the-faith followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, Spirit-filled and emboldened, succumbed to a greater fear than that of the unknown. It was not a fear whose flames were fueled by panic or despair. It was the “fear of the Lord” that overwhelmed them and allowed them to react and adjust to the “new normal” of life.
Looking first unto their Lord enabled them to recognize His sovereignty with reverential awe and conviction. This secondly allowed them to not merely see the surface issues they faced, but to acknowledge there were divine movements taking place behind them all.
Viewing the situation through godly lenses allowed them to trust God’s plan with reverence and conviction regarding how these situations conform to His divine plan. Their response to the Diaspora is shared with a simple, yet compelling statement shared in Acts 8:4: “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”
This historical testimony is ironically reported by a doctor by the name of Luke. He painstakingly reports these responses like a good doctor would throughout the Book of Acts. We should give his Holy Spirit-directed and inspired commentary an even more serious hearing than we do the daily Coronavirus briefings by the wonderful medical community in our day.
SPECIAL NOTE The meetings and activities listed in this section are still planned at this point. We will be sure to share updates about these and other events as the situation warrants.
Grand Rapids Regional Association (GRARBC) Online Connection, Wednesday, April 8
The GRARBC will hold another online Zoom meeting on Wednesday, April 8, at 3:00 p.m. Pastor Jeff Burr (Forest Hills Baptist Church) will host the meeting. The forum will include a discussion of benevolence strategies during this time of economic uncertainty.
The GRARBC pastors decided during their previous online meeting to meet weekly on Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m. through May 20.
Eastern Regional Association (EMARBC) Online Connection, Tuesday, April 14
The EMARBC Council would like to invite all of you to a Zoom Meeting being offered to discuss relevant topics concerning ministry and our social-distancing reality today. Some topics that will be discussed are:
-leading a church through crisis
-new/different ministry rhythms and practices
-mercy ministries for community and church
-financial pressures and future plans
-ideas and strategies for preaching ministry
-spiritual practices for strengthening our own spiritual health
The Zoom Meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 14th at 10am.
CMARBC (Central Regional association) Leadership Forum, April 28
The quarterly CMARBC Leadership Forum will be held at First Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant on Tuesday, April 28, from 9:30-noon. The group will discuss the book “Side by Side,” by Edward T. Welch. Lunch will follow the meeting.
2020 MARBC Annual Conference, October 12-14
SAVE THE DATES! “Connected” will be the theme of the 2020 MARBC Annual Conference which will be held at Lake Ann Camp, Monday-Wednesday, October 12-14, 2020. The fall colors and weather should be beautiful, the messages impactful, and the fellowship memorable as we gather on the wonderful campus of Lake Ann Camp. Conference and registration information will be available on the website and in the Messenger this summer.
Helpful Guidance during a Difficult Season
All of us have been closely following the unfolding developments pertaining to the spread of the Coronavirus to the point of being labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization. My inbox has been inundated by letters from specialized businesses, retail establishments, restaurants, etc. addressing the practical issues relating to this pandemic as it impacts their realms of influence.
As our president and national leaders, state and local authorities seek to fulfill their God ordained responsibilities (1 Timothy 2:1-2), the church is also ordained by God to use each moment as an opportunity to point others to the hope and peace that is available to everyone who embraces the glorious gospel of God’s grace (1 Timothy 2:3-6).
Pray for the impact of this pandemic upon missionary families, missions endeavors, and those who are involved in areas greatly impacted by the spread of the virus. Churches may want to consider paying some missions support in advance to assist foreign missionaries during these days of additional expenses and difficulties. Remember those who are ill or shut-in, especially the elderly, who may have limited contact with family members and guests due to restrictions regarding visits. Phone calls, mailed cards (they do still print these), and special gift packages will be a source of encouragement during these days which especially impact those who are infirm and/or isolated.
Finally, and most importantly, let us all remember that the spread of the gospel knows no boundaries as we pray for one another and the opportunities that God will allow “for such a time as this.” Let us join together in prayer for our world at this critical, attention-capturing moment. The Church of Jesus Christ has a wonderful opportunity to point others to Christ and to demonstrate compassion and godly love to those around us. Embrace this admonition shared by the Apostle Peter:
“[Let us] turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:11-17 ESV)
Financial Assistance for Churches and Ministries is available through the CARES Act 2020 or the Employee Retention Credit
Applications for the Payroll Protection Program through the Small Business Administration are scheduled to be accepted as early as this Friday, April 3.
Contact your church’s bank ASAP to see if they are accepting applications. If they are not, the Small Business Administration has a search engine to assist you in finding a participating bank in your area.
Several ministries are giving step-by-step guidance and sample forms to show how to calculate your church’s application.
Regular Baptist Ministries has posted a helpful article on their website (www.garbc.org) regarding this opportunity, as well as the potential of a tax refund via the Employee Retention Credit. It is a wise investment of your time to read through this information.
As one MARBC pastor has observed, “Most churches should simply do the simple payroll calculation that is available on the simple application. Most of our churches would receive minimal “loans” from this program and should weigh the cost/benefit in large part based on the analysis of that number.” Be sure to use the Loan Calculator available on the GARBC CARES Act article on the GARBC home page to determine if your church or ministry would be best served by applying for a loan via the Payroll Protection Program or a refund via the Employee Retention Credit.
Let’s continue to pray for one another as we seek to honor Christ, declare the glorious gospel of God’s grace, and encourage others, as we recognize God’s plan in placing us in our communities “for such a time as this.”
Praying for you fervently,