We have all watched the events unfold over these past few weeks with increasing speed and intensity. These are uncharted waters in many ways as we journey through. Yet we are not without guidance from our Lord. How should we respond as the church of God?
I’d like to put several Biblical principles before you that will help us think through a proper response. First, we all have a mandate to do all that we do for the glory of God, seeking to live for the advantage of those around us that they might be saved (1 Cor 10:31-33). We often describe this as loving God and loving others (Mat 22:23-40). It is seen in the network of care that God set up in the church as shepherds care for the flock (1 Pet 5:1-5), deacons minister faithfully (Acts 6:2-7), and the church as a body is made strong through mutual ministry (Acts 2:42-47). Second, this church must interact well with the government, praying for them (1 Tim 2:1-5) and submitting to them (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-17). Third, the saints care for those who are not yet saved, most importantly by introducing them to Jesus (which we see throughout Scripture), but also through a desire for the common good (Gal 6:9-10; Jer 29:7).
We want to act on these principles. Accordingly, we will follow the advice from our County Executive as he declared a State of Emergency on Friday 13, and the advice from Governor Cuomo in his mandate on Friday 20. One point that especially affects us is “suspending all large social and community gatherings.” Yes, this does include church gatherings. Furthermore, in his address on Thursday 12 he specified “large” as any group over 20 people.
This means that church will look a bit different for the foreseeable future. We will not assemble as a large church body for the foreseeable future. We have cancelled all our midweek services such as Monday night basketball outreach, Wednesday night AWANA, and Friday night Launch Youth Group.
While there is much talk regarding the length of time this will be, wisdom dictates that we be prepared for something both longer and more grim. The last thing we want to do is to take a physical problem and compound it with the spiritual problem of withholding Christian community. We can continue in fellowship in a couple of ways.
First, we will have an online presence. Many of you have already come to enjoy the audio sermons on our website. We will now also have a video presentation for you to watch. You can locate this on our website at tabernacle-baptist.com. Or, if you prefer, just go directly to our YouTube channel by entering “Tabernacle Baptist Church PKNY” in the YouTube search bar. It will be an honor to walk with you through this time of trouble. The goal is to run something of a shell service on Sunday morning at 10:45 that you, your family, and your friends can gather around. Yes, consider spending time in musical worship at your home. Yes, spend time in prayer together at your home. As you worship the Lord in giving, just mail in the offering to the church building. We will strive to have online giving as an option for you in the near future. Each week I will provide a brief outline of the message and a few discussion questions. Afterwards, discuss the message with your friends.
This leads directly to the second point, maintain connections with your small group, or consider joining one. As of Sunday 22 our small groups will no longer physically meet together in compliance with the governor’s orders. However, we will continue to virtually do so through platforms such as zoom (several tutorials here) or google hangouts or facebook live. Call or text each other regularly. You may want to reach out to one of our established groups. We have added a new group to the list. Which one is right for you?
Now, pause. Take a breath. Even with all of this swirling around us, our God remains the same. He is love (1 Jn 4:7-11). He hears our prayers (Ps 116:1-2). He knows how to comfort His people (Isa 40:1-8). He is able to lead us well (Ps 23). And in His leading He has placed you exactly where you are for such a time as this (Est 4:14). How will you demonstrate the love of God to a watching world that is filled with questions?
We want to care for you through our small group ministry and deacon care ministry. If you have not yet received a call from one of these leaders, please call me so we can best minister to you.
We will continue to monitor this situation and remain nimble in response to the changing demands.
Be in prayer. Be wise. Perfect love casts out fear (1 Jn 4:18).
Pastor Paul Sand
Tabernacle Baptist Church
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
Cell: (313) 319-0266 Study: (845) 454-2790