Dear Brothers and Sisters of Stonebrook,
We live in a strange time.
If you were to read the Bible in the original language it was written in (Greek), when you came across the word “church” you would see the word “ekklesia” – and your brain would do the same thing when we read the word “gathering” or “assembly of people.”
The church is meant to gather or assemble in person. And we can’t do that right now. And that is hard. It means in very real ways we can’t fully “be the church” or fully “do church”. And we don’t know when it will change. We know that it will, we are hopeful that it will probably be soon, but we just don’t know.
The digital measures are a stopgap, a triage measure, not a replacement. It’s good to recognize that this is not an ideal situation, and to allow ourselves to feel the grief of something that is missing. But “we do not grieve as those without hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
This verse, which in context is talking about grieving the death of loved ones applies here as well. At the same time that there is a felt loss of not being able to be together with our friends and families, there have been occasions for joy as well.
I have really enjoyed helping to put together our weekly services, our digital communications, and our zoom meetings. I have really enjoyed getting to tune in on Sunday AM to our singing and preaching. I have enjoyed tuning in to our parent & teen meetings and having great discussions. I have enjoyed our various leaders’ meetings and having to get really creative about new ways of doing things.
Jesus is still leading his church, he is still in charge of the whole world, and he knows what he is doing during this time. I’m eager to see what he is going to continue to do with this season. And I am looking forward to when we can reassemble.
What we’re doing
I wanted to offer an update about how we pastors are thinking about this time period in a few bullet points.
- We are going to continue to obey the governor’s orders. This is what the Bible commands us to do, so long as these orders do not conflict with God’s commands, which at present they do not. (Romans 13:1)
- We encourage you to follow the CDC recommendations for how to protect yourself during these times. “The prudent see danger coming and take shelter” (Proverbs 27:12). History is also replete with the church taking precaution during previous “plagues” and outbreaks.
- Right now the extreme social distancing measures are set to expire at the end of April. Nobody out there wants our society shut down for any longer than necessary. No one benefits from that.
- We urge you to be sober minded (1 Peter 1:13) about consumption of media. Very little of the media is working in our favor, from any side or viewpoint. We see hype and hysteria on one side, propaganda on another, conspiracy theories on another, and complacency in yet another. All these extremes are to be avoided.
- Regarding religious liberty, I am grateful for that abundance of counsel we have with over 350,000 churches in the USA, and the various national, regional, and local fellowships and associations we have. If the time comes for civil disobedience, we will be in good company with tens of thousands of Holy Spirit-led churches and organizations who will also recognize this. We’re not there yet, and everyone in the country is eager to get back to “business as usual” as soon as possible.
- And finally, we have no need to walk in fear. Just as we have hope in our sadness, we have courage in our caution. Ames is a relatively safe place to be. The air is not poisonous. Yes, the virus is contagious and we do not have a vaccine, but with the protection factors recommended by the CDC, we can safely operate! But above these factors, Jesus is in control, and he is a good shepherd who watches over his sheep.
What we can do
This is a time for creativity as we all seek to carry out the Great Commission of making disciples from every nation. Our usual “playbook” is not available to us, but this does not mean we are shut down. We need to look for new ways to love and serve people, and new ways to proclaim the gospel. This “all digital” season affords an interesting and unique time period. Here are a few ideas:
- Share the weekend service on your Facebook feed. You never know who might tune in as a result. Last weekend three of my high school classmates turned on the service. One sent me an email about it. Other neighbors, friends, and family members have been tuning in that haven’t been to a service of ours in the past. I know others of you have stories like this too. What a no-effort, high-return opportunity!
- Share scripture on your Facebook or Instagram feed. The Bible app has a cool way to turn a verse into an image. Let’s fill our friends’ feeds with truth.
- Record a short video of yourself with your phone. Talk about your testimony, something you’re learning from God during this time, or a way you’ve seen him work recently.
Don’t hesitate to email the pastors when a need comes up (Brad and Dave are on full-time staff for this reason.) – firstname.lastname@example.org.
We love you and continue to pray for you.
See you online!
Matt on behalf of the pastors.