Concerns and Hopeful Prayers
Here is Kevin’s letter that went out to the church on March 24th, 2020:
Dear Church family,
It looks like we’re going to be walking through this trial for a season. It’s not just a physical and financial trial, but one of spiritual deprivation in not being able to meet as a church.
As the elders have talked and prayed about what this season should look like for us as a church, my heart and mind run in different directions. I wanted to share this with you in the hope that the Lord will use this to both sustain our faith and bear fruit in our perseverance.
I’ve feared for some time that many Christians have become accustomed to living with a spiritual health that’s a lot like the person who has become accustomed to living physically unfit. They don’t realize how bad they are until they finally get healthy, or until something worse happens.
I know that I see in myself a difference when I can’t gather with the church on the Lord’s Day, morning and evening. It’s not good for me. And though we might not be forsaking the assembly when we gather 2 or 3 times a month, we’re growing comfortable with an unhealthy spiritual lifestyle which doesn’t hold out the promise of spiritual flourishing, joy, and effectiveness the Lord desires. There’s a necessary and urgent call in Hebrews 10:25 to gather together for the sake of our perseverance in Christ.
My concern is that sin and Satan will take advantage of us not being able to gather with the church body. I don’t want to see anyone fall away, or drift further away than they already have been. I know that gathering together is in some sense a discipline. It certainly requires effort to get ready and come, and that’s especially true for young families. But even so, if you heard that we had to cancel church, and you felt relief, (not because of health concerns, but because you didn’t have to worry about going to church), then that’s a spiritual wake up call. Make this a time for spiritual re-commitment, not relaxation. Satan would love to lull us asleep during this hour.
Related to this concern, my heart is heavy for those who are new and not as well-connected to the church. A live stream of our service doesn’t offer anything more for these brothers and sisters than a YouTube video of a better preacher would. They need the body. If you feel isolated, then please reach out to your community group leaders, your pastors, or simply someone in the church you’ve said hi to. Our church covenant gives you a key into a meaningful conversation and relationship with any member of our church.
Related to isolation, please be diligent to fight against forming bad habits, or letting secret sin creep into your life. Be on guard. Ask for prayer. Confess quickly when you fail. Hold fast to the gospel. And devote yourself to reading scripture, praying, and taking advantage of the many resources online.
In addition to these more spiritually related concerns, I am thinking about the physical health and finances of people in our church. If you have needs, please reach out to us. We want to know you’re being taken care of. We want to pray for you, and we want to practically care for you. This is why we have a benevolence fund. I’m also concerned about the effect this could have on our church finances. We have many different kinds of financial obligations as a church for ministry here and abroad. This might not be a time of real “fruitful” giving, but I’m praying that whatever faithfulness looks like for each member of our church, we will all give unto the Lord from humble hearts full of trust in Him.
My Hopeful Prayers
I am more hopeful than I am fearful. I believe that God has prepared our church for such a time as this, and will use it to make us more mature and complete. So with great hopeful expectation, I’m praying…
- That God, in His providence, would use not being able to gather together, as a means of making every Lord’s Day indispensable and precious to every believer. That we will see with more clarity God’s gracious gift of hearing the word together in one another’s presence, seeing the response and love on one another’s faces, hearing each other’s voices give praise to God, bowing together in prayer with a sense of the Spirit’s fellowship. I’m hopeful that God will give us a keen sense of appreciation for the gift that’s being temporarily withheld from us. So I’m praying that we’ll come back as a church more faithful than we’ve ever been to keeping the command in Hebrews 10:25.
- That we will form good daily habits for our spiritual good. I’m praying that a healthy sense of godly fear will drive us towards the word and prayer more than ever. That we’ll be that much more concerned to spend time praying through the church directory. That we will use all the blessings of technology, not to try and find a substitute for a church worship service on Sunday, but to feed ourselves with truth and stay connected when space keeps us apart.
- That separation will increase our love and appreciation for each other. I’m praying that in not being able to see the whole body, we will all grow even more thankful for the unique community of brothers and sisters we have here. That a longing for one another’s presence will be felt. That this will only increase our desire to live out the church covenant with one another, and offer even more genuine heartfelt acts of service, both in word and action.
- That we will remain healthy. I’m praying for some of our older members, and those in our congregation who have underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to this disease. The missionary John Paton said that eternal life is the greatest gift that God has offered us, and that this life is the second. Let’s pray for the sick, and know that God hears our prayers.
- Finally, that we will grow through this, not just spiritually, but numerically. I pray that far from this being detrimental to the church, that Satan will receive a blow through a new spiritual openness in our communities. We might not be able to share the gospel as much right now due to isolation, but let’s be praying for future opportunities with great anticipation of how the Lord will use this for His glory. Share the gospel with joy with your neighbors and friends. Invite them to visit Grace Harbor. Wouldn’t it be amazing for our church to be even more full when we come back, because of the number of visitors that come?
What I’m Not Concerned About
The kingdom of God will continue to advance. His plan of redemption will continue to unfold. The church will remain, and we’ll get through this as brothers and sisters in Christ. His people will gather together again all over this country and world, and we’ll lift up the name of Jesus. He continues to sit on His throne forever, and He’s coming again. That’s our hope.