Dear church family,
Thank you. I personally am so blessed and encouraged. What I’m talking about is the love and faithfulness of our church family. Later in this e-mail we talk a little bit about giving, but I just want to start out with thanks for being the body of Christ: So many have worked so hard to re-orient their ministries during these days. So often I hear about phone calls, yard visits, and cards sent out. Or about loving and sacrificial works of service. I’m just honored and grateful to be a part of a church family.
Several times a week I experience this is when I get the church mail. Inevitably there is one, usually several, handwritten envelopes. Somebody’s taken the time to get out the checkbook, address an envelope, lick a stamp and send an offering on its way. Others have dropped it off, or made the effort to sign up for online giving. It’s not the money that matters — I don’t even know the amount of the gift. All I know is that in the midst of all the upheaval, another person clearly loves the church family, is thinking of it, and is supporting it. And I’m grateful to the Lord for you.
“When do we re-open?”
On Tuesday the Elders met and that question was a major topic of our discussion. At this point there are still so many unknowns that we can’t give definite answers to most questions, but we’re looking at creative and wise ways to move in that direction.
One thing we discussed is the need for grace towards each other in these decisions. Have you noticed that there are a lot of strong opinions out there? And worship is something that is dear to our hearts and a cherished freedom, so the emotions can get particularly strong. Please remember, both in personal interactions in general as well as in the question of when and how we worship together again, to “let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt.” Recognize that your godly and wise brother or sister might think differently than you and still be godly and wise! None of us has all the answers, but for questions of church ministry we trust in the Holy Spirit’s guidance for our pastors and Elders, who are doing the very best they can with all the information that’s out there. So, please pray that as we navigate this situation, we all will have the mind of Christ.
By now everyone is talking about the three-phase plan that North Carolina is following and that begins tomorrow at 5pm. While we’re in phase 1 we do want to recognize that small groups (of 10 or less) can gather at home or in parks, while practicing social distancing and sanitary practices, if that is what the group would like to do. If your group decides to move in that direction, please remember that outside is better, and please also provide some means to allow anyone who would like to Zoom in. Because of the need for deep cleaning whenever someone uses the church facility, we won’t be opening it for group meetings during phase 1. As for further down the road, we’re currently concentrating on plans and procedures specifically to begin worship services in early June, if the Lord so leads, with other church ministries further down the road.
In the meantime, as different as this situation is from what we’ve experienced before, please also remember that throughout history, for various reasons, the church scattered has still been the church. The building does not define us. What a blessing, that we have to be able to “gather” through technology; but even without that opportunity, “where two or three are gathered” Christ is still there among them, we can still love God with our whole being and our neighbor as ourselves, and we can still make disciples of every nation.
“The matter of giving and receiving”
Speaking of making disciples of every nation, the Alliance is still out there doing what it does best. Our National Church president, John Stumbo, recently shared that “our teams are positioned in places where we have the plow of COVID virus coming through hard soils, and the Gospel is being received in new ways – people are listening with greater attentiveness.” You can see and read more of the great things going on at www.cmalliance.org and can watch encouraging reports like this. There’s a whole lot of great material out there if you search social media using the hashtag #caringinchaos.
As you know, your giving to the Great Commission Fund is the means of financial support for Alliance ministries around the world. Sadly, throughout the Alliance giving to the GCF has dropped precipitously. Already all workers, both in the national office and overseas, have taken a 10% cut in support. Other ministry cut-backs have taken place and more will likely be needed. Although our Missions Festival and giving focus on this ministry takes place at a different time of year, we want to highlight Alliance missions now and direct your attention to it, encouraging you to consider giving to the GCF, even sacrificially, during this time of need. You can do so either by indicating a portion of your church offering for the GCF, or by giving directly to the Alliance.
As for local needs, we have been blessed. Our Deacons’ Fund, which mainly helps church families in need, is still fully funded; and although Cary Alliance general fund giving has run slightly below average over the last two months, we are still ahead of budget on the year. Thank you for your amazing, continuing faithfulness in this expression of love for the Lord and His church.
Grace and Peace,