It seems we are repeatedly being told that we are entering a “new normal”. When we will actually enter this “new normal” and what new will look like are both mystifying questions. Whatever the answer to those questions, two things I pray is that it will open new doors for not-yet believers, and that the new ways of “doing church” deeply re-root the followers of Jesus into God’s unchanging Truth.
From the earliest days of this pandemic, and the “shelter-at-home” orders, our plan has been two-fold: 1) to provide some sense of normalcy, which we aimed to do through providing weekly worship and regular communications; and 2) to connect people – connect people with each other, and connect people with God. That’s pretty simple. We have not sought to overwhelm anyone with new programs, nor fill up your inbox with scores of email each week. We just wanted people to know we are here, and available; and for people to comfort and encourage one another.
As pastor I continue to be gratified by the stories we have been hearing of how the people of Grace Covenant have been reaching out to one another, caring for one another, and even caring for neighbors as opportunities arise. Further, I was elated when I heard that one of our small groups had begun to pray together every night via Zoom – and that others began joining in that prayer meeting. (This grass roots prayer meeting was a primary reason we did not develop a more centralized church prayer time. I figured if God is already at work, let’s not get in the way!) And, as I have expressed in previous notes, I have been delighted by the graciousness with which you have adapted to and received our weekly worship format.
Worship, community, prayer, discipleship, serving others…, these are among the major ingredients God prescribes for His Church. (Intentional Personal Evangelism and engagement in Global Mission are two other components that come to mind.) I hope you are as encouraged as I am to see that these elements are still evident at Grace Covenant, even while we are scattered. I believe that these are good indicators that God is clearly at work among us, in us, and through us, even during these early days of “new normal”.
While we have much to be thankful for – and I feel good about much of what we have been doing during our time being scattered – there is also more we can do; or there are things we can do better.
Earlier this week I asked Kathy to send out an e-mail to the congregation to inquire if there are those who have not heard from anyone from Grace Covenant – whether staff, church officer, or church member. I requested that inquiry because we don’t want anyone to feel on the fringes or outside the community of this church. While the responses we have received so far have been positive – people thankful for the contacts that have been made – we definitely do want to know if anyone has been neglected. So I’ll ask again: if you have not heard from anyone in the church during these past several weeks, would you please contact the church office to let us know? If you have not been contacted, chances are we don’t have correct contact info for you. Call the church (757-220-0147) or e-mail Kathy or me, or any of our Elders, Deacons, or staff, and let us know the best way to reach you. Someone will promptly reach out to you.
We have considered a variety of ideas during this time – daily devotional videos, online classes, etc. All these things are good but, whatever we offer, we want for it to be beneficial, and not just another activity. In that vein, we have found that there are some excellent resources available, most for FREE. Here are a few recommendations:
Ligonier Ministries has made all their video resources available to stream for FREE. Additionally, some resources by R.C. Sproul are available to watch for free on Amazon Prime.
Bible Project produces short-form, fully animated videos, making the Bible story accessible to anyone. And Bible Project Podcastoffers tremendous deep rich exploration of books of the Bible and biblical topics.
The Chosen is an eight episode, biblically faithful, historic drama of the life of Jesus. This series can be viewed by downloading an app, and watching on your tablet, computer, or phone, or cast to your TV screen.
For those with a subscription to Netflix, there is a series of word-for-word dramas of each of the four Gospels. While some of these films are on the longer side (3+ hours), you can always stop and pick up again wherever you left off. Check them out: Matthew (3h 10m), Mark (2h 3m), Luke (3h 25m), John (2h 41m). Maybe have your Bible open while yo watch.
One thing that we do plan to begin is a series of Q & A videos. What we would like is to receive from you, the Grace Covenant congregation, questions you have about something from the Bible, or about some theological or spiritual issue. Camper and I will then take your questions, plan a series of short videos in which we attempt to tackle them, and post them online. So, if you have any questions, please send them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org). NOTE: We have already received a couple of questions. We hope to get started on this sometime soon. Hopefully this is something that can spill over, and continue even after the quarantines have been lifted.
Finally, I want to put on your radar a church-wide event scheduled for this week. Once per quarter Grace Covenant cancels all small group activities and gathers for a Congregational Prayer Dinner. Our May prayer dinners for the past several years have been in conjunction with National Day of Prayer. We focus our prayer time interceding for our country, praying for leaders, education, issues, and the advancement of the gospel throughout our land. Well, obviously we are not able to gather for dinner. But we are going to gather – online. At 6:30pm Thursday evening, May 7, we will be hosting a meeting on Zoom to pray for our country. The meeting will follow the pattern of our regular prayer times, directed topically with breakout rooms to pray together in small groups. An invite with a link will be sent out later this week. All you need to do is sign in, and then join in.
Have a wonderful week!
Grace & Peace,
Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor