AN UPDATE ON TRINITY FELLOWSHIP’S RESPONSE

TO THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)

TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2020


 

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalms 27:1 ESV

With a firm faith in God’s goodness, strength, and care for us, we want to update you all on our continued responses to the coronavirus situation. This briefing will include:

  1. Changes we are making to our scheduled services and ministries.
  2. A primer of how to think through what we are facing from a biblical perspective.
  3. Opportunities that we see available to us, even within the restrictions on gathering in person.
  4. Resources that we want to make sure you can access for such a time as this.

 

CHANGES WE ARE MAKING TO OUR SCHEDULED SERVICES AND MINISTRIES.

Since the governor’s mandate as of yesterday, we are not to hold gatherings of more than 50 people.  The President and Center for Disease Control recommended that we forgo gatherings of more than 10 people.  We have been strongly urged to avoid any gatherings for at least the next almost 3 weeks, seeking to deal with the multiplying growth of the epidemic. 

Therefore, we will not have any gatherings for public worship at either campus through at least April 5.  We will offer online worship and teaching, as well as interaction (see “Opportunities” below).  Listening carefully to the various officials, we are thinking about what we will do if these restrictions continue for two months.  It is too soon to make final decisions, but we are preparing ourselves for the reality that perhaps even Easter worship will need to be virtual.

We will also not have other gatherings, such as PowerHouse Student Ministries and Women’s Events.  We are recommending that Small Groups suspend meeting in person, especially for the next three weeks.  Since this is the end of our semester, this should not be too inconvenient for most. 

Other meetings and gatherings should certainly submit to the mandate of being under 50 people and should target being no more than 10 folks.  If it is possible to postpone, please do so.  For example, the Memorial Service for Rick Bearden scheduled for this coming Saturday has been postponed.  If you are considering gathering anyway, please remember to practice good hygiene.  If you are especially vulnerable due to your age or health, please stay home.

 

A PRIMER OF HOW TO THINK THROUGH WHAT WE ARE FACING FROM A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE.

During times of stress, especially when facing the unknown, it is very important to take every thought captive to obey Christ.[1]  It is easy to let our minds go down the wrong paths.  We can stray into abject fear and withdrawal, thinking it is up to us to somehow control the course of events.  Others may veer off into treating the situation flippantly, saying they have great faith. 

As we consider how to stay on the biblical path, we realize that we are called to submit to the government authorities.[2] Our governor has given us a clear mandate that prevents us from gathering in groups larger than 50 folks.  Our president recommends an even lower number.  Since they are not commanding us to sin, we have a biblical obligation to submit to them.  But that only addresses the restrictions of our actions, not the direction of our thoughts.

God has not given us a spirit of fear.[3]  We must not allow our thoughts to run away from us.  We must remain sober-minded, especially for the sake of our prayers.[4]  If our fear keeps us from serving God and those He directs us to, then we have taken the wrong path.  Those of us who are leaders (elders, pastors, small group leaders, government leaders, physicians, nurses, etc.), dare not abandon the sheep entrusted to our care.  Especially those in spiritual leadership must seek to be like our Good Shepherd who was willing to lay down His life for the sheep.[5] Fear can cause us to miss the opportunities God is giving us to minister His grace to others.

The other wayward path could be described as a flippant faith.  These extremists would declare that their faith means they can disregard any practical precautions or responses.  They might even make fun of those who “don’t have enough faith and so they flee.”  But Jesus Himself spoke of fleeing to save lives when He told of the persecution that was coming in the Olivet Discourse.[6] 

In the same way, it is true that a believer should no longer fear death.  But that does not mean that death is not the final enemy.[7] Taking advantage of the opportunities and resources God has provided, that is, working together with Him, is not being faith-less.  And to not use them could be deemed “suicidal.”

This is another example of the common tension between the absolute sovereignty of God and the real responsibility of humankind.  Considering our text for this Sunday, we see the example of Paul’s thorn in the flesh being called “a messenger from Satan” that was “given” by God.[8]  We must avail ourselves of the means and wisdom to help mitigate this epidemic (the “thorn”), while maintaining our trust in God that He will work through this painful challenge for good in our lives.  His grace is sufficient![9]

Our response must be one of wise-faith.  May the Lord grant us His wisdom so we can act prudently, while finding our rest and peace because we have faith in His faithfulness.  Let us respond with thoughts that are better than just protecting ourselves.  Rather, let us consider how we can make the most of the opportunities this crisis presents.  We have often prayed for revival.  Perhaps these challenging days will soften hearts and our witness of peace through wise-faith will lead many to a robust faith in Jesus.

 

OPPORTUNITIES THAT WE SEE AVAILABLE TO US.

Here are a few of the ideas that wise-faith has stirred within us as staff and elders.  Please be sure to share other thoughts the Lord lays on your hearts.

  • The new platform for streaming the worship services will allow for engagement with each other. We may see an increase in participatory worship, even when we can’t be together.
  • The elders are creating a list of the most vulnerable among us and they plan to call folks to make sure they are doing well.
  • Small groups can help hold each other accountable by sending emails to each other on Sundays, sharing how God spoke to them through the worship and teaching. Telling each other our “take-aways” will help us engage with each other even when we can’t be together.
  • Families can make this a special time of spiritual growth together. Fathers can step up and perhaps lead their families in Bible reading a prayer for the first time.  This time could revolutionize families!
  • We can make more time to engage with those the Lord lays on our hearts. Phone calls are a start.  We also can be attentive to those who may need us to buy their groceries for them.
  • As this season of restrictions drag on, there will be many who won’t be working. May the Spirit help us to make sure we reach out and care for them, both within our body of believers and those in our other communities.
  • We will be exploring having some chatrooms available to discuss the sermon with some of the staff.

We are looking at offering online training so that this becomes a time of growth and not lethargy.

 

RESOURCES THAT WE WANT TO MAKE SURE YOU CAN ACCESS.

We want to give you OPTIONS, that is, alternatives to just hunkering down.  Here are some to start with.  It is our hope to send more to you in the weeks ahead.

  • The new online streaming platform is available at https://trinityinfo.org/live We will be using this one, which allows for more interaction, while continuing to post the service using Facebook Live.
  • Use the resources page at our website to get connected with Right Now Media. 
  • A great TV series is The Chosen.  You can watch episode 1 for free and then buy the DVD set and get the rights to the rest of season 1 (8 episodes in total), which you can stream.
  • If your small group wants to have video chats or conference calls, Mandy Goetz is willing to set those up for those who don’t think they can handle the tech.  Actually, if you just do phone calls, it is super easy.  We can still stay connected to our small groups.
  • Pastor Trevor will be posting daily “Options” for PowerHouse students on Facebook and Instagram.  These will be good ideas for more than just our youth. 
  • We will be sharing other links with you of other web-based resources and books you can order. 
  • If you need to get a hold of us, please either call and leave a message at 231.796.2600.  You can also text the office at 231.527.9580.  Would you please leave your name with either of these options, as well as how we can help you?

 

By God’s grace, as we respond in faith and prayer, this can be a momentous moment for His glory.

Gerhard (Gary) deBock

 

P.S. Here’s a link to a post from a doctor who attends a church in Waco, Texas.  It gives a good summary of what we can do and why.

 

[1] See 2 Corinthians 10:5 [2] See 1 Peter 2:13-14 [3] 2 Timothy 1:6-7 [4] 1 Peter 4:7-8 [5] John 10:11 [6] Matthew 24:15-20 [7] 1 Corinthians 15:26 [8] 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 [9] 2 Corinthians 12:9