Dear Grace Family,
Your elders have made the decision to cancel all Lord’s Day ministries this coming weekend. We will meet tomorrow morning to discuss how we might best minister in lieu of our assembly. Our considerations have been guided by the direction given by Kentucky Governor Beshear on Wednesday, encouraging churches to cancel this coming weekend, President Trump’s address on Wednesday evening informing the nation of the seriousness of the threat, and the CDC recommendations regarding a right response to the spread of the disease. The rest of the day was a bit of a snowball – extending and continuing into today – God’s Word has proved a steady anchor along the way.
We immediately reacted to the short-term, least impacted decisions and cancelled the Men’s Fellowship and any scheduled committee meetings for the weekend. This decision might have preceded the governor’s announcement, as federal and local health officials had already encouraged businesses to limit small group meetings and vie for tele-conferencing and the like; allowing employees to work from home when possible.
Our Lord’s Day gathering is a more careful, and difficult decision: the result proved the same. We watched as state universities and businesses made decisions to cancel. We watched carefully as religious institutions (Boyce College and Southern Seminary in Louisville as example) followed suit and chose to cancel. Ligonier Ministries (Florida) cancelled their upcoming conference. Grace Fellowship Church in Florence, KY cancelled their ministries (we’ve attended Biblical Counseling Conferences here often). And then, following the California governor’s mandate, Grace Community Church of California (Dr. John MacArthur) cancelled all services through the month of March.
We also considered historical responses of the church – you can read below some of those which are quite helpful.
- Washington D.C. and the Spanish Influenza of 1918 … here.
- Pastor Francis Grimke – on returning to worship after the outbreak … here.
- “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague”, Martin Luther … here.
Finally, we asked for and received input from your Church Council here at Grace.
Ultimately, the decision to act in accord with the direction of health officials and state and local officials was a biblical one, and an obvious one. A refusal on our part would require us to deny the threat (which we are not in a position to do), imagine the threat doesn’t apply to Christian assemblies (which common sense and Scripture won’t allow), or to simply ignore the threat completely. For us, this decision is driven by our love for God and our love for our neighbor – which is a mandate from God to His church.
In the end, our prayer was and always is, that God would direct our feeble minds to make decisions for this flock, His church, over which we have been given oversight. Our confidence is in Him.
- All weekend ministries, including Lord’s Day Worship have been cancelled.
- We are aware that this is likely not a one-off matter, but have reserved a decision on the future to this weekend and tomorrow’s meeting of the elders.
- All small-group ministries have been cancelled until further notice.
As with any earthly interruption to our cherished Christian worship, discipleship ministry and gospel effort … no power of earth or man can overcome God’s sovereign plan. He is not surprised by these events; He planned them. Heaven is not shaken by these events; it rests on His righteous rule. He has promised to use these events for our good and His glory; His promises are true. Therefore, while we will not meet this Lord’s Day – – it is still the Lord’s Day!
There are other considerations and ministry opportunities that this opens to us.
- When we reassemble, what changes might be necessary (food, fellowship, childcare, etc.) in the short and long term?
- What will we learn and how will it direct us?
- Until we reassemble, how will we minister to those most effected, most vulnerable, and most needful of our assistance?
- The elders are already focusing attention in this area, and some in the fellowship have already offered their assistance as needed (groceries, pharmacy, etc.). Please pray about your intentional involvement in extending love to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As we continue down this God-ordained path, anchor your heart to these truths:
We belong to God!
1 Peter 2:9–10
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
All things are from Him, and for our growth in sanctification.
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
We will not worry – God is sovereign and He is good.
Matthew 6:33–34 (cf. Matthew 6:25-32)
33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
And then this as a practical matter:
We are all going to die (if the Lord tarries), but we are not likely going to die from the Coronavirus. Don’t allow this, or any other earthly demise, to diminish your confidence in the One who holds sway over both life and death. Do not fear what can kill you, but fear Who will judge you after death (Matthew 10:28). Dwell on God’s truth, not man’s 24-7 information stream. Anytime you look at your phone, open your Facebook, or peruse your Instagram, you see a new update, a new threat, a larger infection; and you force yourself to face a new feeling of doubt, anxiety and fear. God directs His children in a different direction: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things … and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8). That means read your Bible, meditate on your Bible; for there we see all that is most true, all that is worthy of highest honor, all that is most right and most pure and most lovely – – for it is there we find the One Most Excellent and greatly to be praised, Lord Jesus Christ!
Grace to us all,
Steve Wilson and the Elders at Grace