Our Mission is Still the Same, Coronavirus or Not

Pastor Josh checks in with everyone to let you know what’s going on in our church and to remind you that in the midst of the pandemic, we are still the CHURCH. View his video message below, or scroll down to read an edited transcription.

Pastor Josh checking in with you.

Edited transcription of video message below.

Taking a Break

I took some time off last week and wasn’t in the office from Wednesday through Sunday. I needed some time to step back and try to figure out a little bit about what’s going on. Not sure I did that. Really I just needed to spend some time in prayer, with family, and to just calm my soul a little bit. With everything that is going on—all the changes, or maybe even lack of change, a lot of the unknown—it makes everybody a little anxious. So I needed to spend time just me and the Lord, and me and my family, to prepare. I knew the governor was preparing to make an announcement on Monday and start telling people what they can and can’t do.  He did do that and it really hasn’t changed a whole lot for the church at this time.  We are glad those who wanted to get back to work will be able to in the near future. You’re still maybe scared and wondering what work will look like or what you might be exposed to—there’s a lot of unknown still out there. 

Church Update

At this point in time we are probably not going to have a Sunday morning service at least until June, maybe after that. It depends on what we’re trying to do as a state and as a country moving forward and where the virus is at. I am really trying not to make predictions, while also trying to prepare for the future.  

One of the things I spend time thinking about in my reading and in my prayer is how do we view the Church during this time? How are we supposed to move forward? What types of things are we supposed to think? I want to share with you a few thoughts as I reconnect with you in this video. I will probably repeat this in our prayer time tonight and on Sunday morning because this is really important for us as we think about the church in light of the Coronavirus and what we aren’t and are able to do. 

The Mission is the Mandate of the Church

The mission of the Church is pretty simple, right? It’s pretty clear in the New Testament that our mission is the Great Commission—to go to all the nations to disciple, teach and make sure everybody knows about Jesus Christ. To do that in a way that we are carrying out the Great Commandment that we are loving our neighbor and that we are loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. That has not changed when it comes to the Coronavirus.  We express this as a church in four different ways:

1. We Want Everybody to Know God. 

If you’ve taken our Next Steps (or what was known as our Growth Track) you know that knowing God for us and how we express that often takes place in Sunday morning service. We want to have these great services where we connect with people and we connect them with God through the worship, the teaching, the preaching, the testimonies that are shared, everything. Some of that isn’t able to happen in the way we would like it to because we’re not together.  

But I got to thinking about it and I was reminded that we do not exist as a church for the purpose of having Sunday morning services.  Sunday morning services together are wonderful and beautiful and something we will continue to have at some point in time. But we are a church who wants people to know God, wants people to have a relationship with God, wants to invite people to join us in our relationship with the Lord because it’s not something we should keep to ourselves. We should invite people into it. This is a time where I think the Lord might be inviting YOU into a deeper relationship with Him. I just want to remind you that you can go deeper during this time even if you’re struggling—like David, who struggled deeply at different times but continued to go deeper with the Lord. 

You can invite people to join us from home. You can disciple your kids from home. So just know that missions is a mandate and you can carry it out.  

2. We Want People to Belong. 

We desperately want people to belong.  One of the ways we help people do that is small groups. We try to get people together to spend time together and we can’t do that right now. We’re being told to stay apart. There may be a time we will kick off some small groups and maybe get some smaller discipleship groups. We can do that through Zoom right now. 

But we aren’t a church for small groups. We are a church of small groups so people will know they can belong to God—they do belong to God—and belong to a group of people who love them, take care of them, call them, Zoom them, text them and miss them. That has not stopped because of the Coronavirus. You can still make people feel like they belong and make them belong during this time. So reach out to them. Tell people you miss them. 

3. We Help People Live with Purpose. 

We don’t tell people the specifics of their purpose. As a church we let people know they have an overarching purpose to bring glory to God and enjoy him forever.  The specifics of your purpose is not something we tell you. It’s something you discover as you spend time with us and we help you to express that.  Coronavirus isn’t going to keep you from expressing your purpose. You can still live that out.  You are just going to have to be creative. 

4. We Spread God’s Love.

As a church we are trying to be creative with our purpose to help everybody know God, help everybody belong, help everybody live with purpose and, the last thing, spread God’s love.  God’s love does not need to quit being spread just because we aren’t meeting on Sunday mornings or just because I am not seeing you. 

I miss everybody in our church more than ever and I love everybody in our church. Love is something that flows naturally from us and so it’s not something that can be stopped. Find ways to love on other people. Go buy groceries for people and drop them off at their house.  Maybe donut bomb them. Go set something on their front porch. Buy people gifts and send it to them.  Let them know you love them. Take meals to shut-ins. Don’t get caught up in all the negativity and all the things that aren’t lovely out there right now, because there’s just a lot of it. 

Be reminded that people reach people. It’s my job to reach people. It’s your job to reach people. We have an opportunity to reach people that maybe we know we should reach. We should reach our neighbor.  Maybe you’ve never had a real conversation with your neighbor about Christ or about how you’re getting along in this crisis. This is a great time to have conversations with your neighbors because they’re outside, you’re outside. You guys have nowhere else to go. Make that happen. 

We are putting a lot of content out there on Facebook as a church. I don’t have a huge Facebook following in this area. I hadn’t been very active on Facebook and now I am. So people are seeing more of the things I’m doing. Share what we are doing as a church, not just what I’m doing.  Share what’s going on on our ministry page. It is a way for you to reach people. This is an opportunity. So use it! 

One of our initiatives we’ve tried to kick-off as a church is “Each One to Reach One” so everybody can have that one—the one—a person.  Call your person during this time. Check on him. The person who doesn’t know Christ or maybe is on the fence or has been trying to get to church. Connect with her and invite her to get through this crisis with you.  Be there for her and love on her at this time.  

This building is not the church. This building is a tool of the church that we use for Ministry.

Pastor Josh

This is something I’ve been thinking about because it’s depressing coming in the office on certain days and realizing the church is empty.  Or coming in on Sunday morning to preach to the camera and the church is empty. The truth is facilities exist to facilitate ministry. Everything I do in this office here, all the time I spend in study or prep or whatever, it exists for my Ministry. The sanctuary exists for ministry. This building exists for ministry. We are not using it like we did in the past, and that’s okay, because this building is not the church. This building is a tool of the church that we use for corporate Gatherings, that we use for groups to come in, that we use for Ministry. We are still using this building for Ministry, just differently.  We’re not able to use everything, but we’re looking at different ways we can use it in the future as different mandates are lifted. Is it safer to do a few things—maybe help people with childcare.  

What I want you to know is that we are using this as an opportunity in our church to update our technology.  We are investing in better camera equipment for Sunday mornings so when we do get back together we will be able to project a good service that’s easy to watch, easy to listen to and better than what we’re doing now.  It is a great way to reach people who are looking to potentially come to our church in the future, who are trying to view us now and see what’s going on and what we’re doing. We’re seeing this as an opportunity.  We thankfully have been responsible with our finances through the years and so we are deciding to to invest in some better cameras and equipment for evangelism and to connect with people in the future. 

Benevolence is Beautiful

I’ve gotten some of these things from an article in Christianity Today. I don’t want you to think that I’m making all these up. These help me think about how I should think about the ministry right now and not be discouraged. I’m just sharing them with you. So the next thing is benevolence is beautiful. Benevolence is beautiful. 

When we first heard kids were going to go home from school and weren’t going to have food, immediately Pastor Doug called me and said, “Josh, what can we do about this?” He said, “I’d like to go shopping and get people food.”  We said yeah, take the trailer, fill it up.  We will pay for it as a church.  So we started out immediately filling up a trailer full of food and getting it to the local school. 

Today I had Brenda write $1,500 in checks to go to other organizations who need help. We have more and as we hear needs we are going to continue to give. 

I encourage you to give.  Christian generosity is an opportunity for the church to shine and for us to be the church and help other people. So if you are in a position where you have not really been hurt financially during the coronavirus—or maybe you have and you still just want to give—you feel like the Lord is calling you to give, make sure you are giving to the church.  It looks different now. If you were a person who gave in the offering plate you now either have to send checks in or give electronically by going to our websiteBut we encourage you to continue to be generous during this time and as a congregation we will be generous as we see and hear about needs people have.  

We had a guy come in and he said, “Hey, I need work.” We took some money out of the Coronavirus Response Fund to pay him to do a little bit of work and help meet some of his needs. This is an opportunity for us to be more generous moving forward.  As we think about benevolence being beautiful, we have people serving in our church right now. We have people who are taking meals to the Jura Family. We have people calling our elderly or shut-in, those who are most vulnerable, and trying to make sure people are doing okay. As a pastor it’s really cool to see.  

I wanted to get this message out to you. I know its long, and I hope you’ve made it to the end, maybe you haven’t. But I want you to know that I love all of you. This is not something I think we should be super discouraged by right now. As a Church I think God is still at work—I know he’s still at work—and he’s going to continue to use his Church and I hope that you would just remain faithful in all that you do. Remember that we can still know God during this time, we can still make people belong during this time. I want you to know that you belong to our church.  You still belong.  You can still live out your purpose, you’re just going to have to get creative.  You can still spread God’s love. Make sure you are doing that to the best of your ability each and every day.  

If you want to connect with me at any time, send me an e-mail,  call the church.  I would be more than willing to talk with you and spend a little time with you on the phone or maybe Zoom. Love you and I hope to see you sooner rather than later. Let’s pray it’s sooner rather than later. God bless you.

Josh Deeter, Lead Pastor, First Church Tallmadge

 

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