March 18, 2020
Hey Grace family,
Most of our regular gatherings and special events are suspended for the next few weeks. We think this is wise and an honoring of our civil authorities as Romans 13 tells us. The one exception is our church workday which is still planned for March 28. Since we’ll be working outside, we thought that was still a safe option. I hope you’ll come to that.
Now I want to tell you more about how we’re going to be worshipping for the next several Sundays. I know many churches are live-streaming their services, but I wanted to try something a little bit different that actually lines up better with our mission of making followers of Jesus. Starting this week, we are going to be emailing out a worship guide that looks just like the one we use on Sunday mornings. Instead of watching a service online, your family will use this guide to worship at home.
The guide will have Scripture readings, prayer times and even links to songs selected for that service. During the sermon portion of the service, we’ll include a link to our YouTube channel where you will find a video of me walking through the sermon passage for that Sunday. Instead of a formal sermon, I will lead you through the passage much like I would a Bible study, making observations, asking questions of the text and suggesting applications. I’m inviting you into the “sermon lab” so to speak to equip you on how to study the Scriptures on your own.
Why are we doing it this way? Here are some reasons:
- It’s active participation in worship, instead of passive consumption. Every member of the family can be involved, much like they would be on a Sunday morning, and you can tailor that to the make-up of your home. Groups of families can even join together if you so choose. (Be wise in your gatherings.)
- It’s discipleship. This model fits what we believe about making followers of Jesus. Disciples are made not just through listening to a message, but through training and engaging with that message.
Now, we know this is not ideal. We love to be together. We get the most out of being together. Heaven itself will be a huge, joy-filled gathering. So this is temporary. It’s also new, so we’ll have to work out some kinks. We’ll see how it goes and we’ll make adjustments along the way.
In the meantime:
- Make sure we have a good email address for you.
- You can call the office at 205-755-4150 or email us at email@example.com
- Keep your eyes on the Facebook page and our website for updates.
- You can access our YouTube channel here. Videos will be posted before Sunday at 11.
March 17, 2020
These are strange days, full of hysteria, information, misinformation and fear of the unknown. But we also want to see these as days full of opportunity as well. As we strive to love God and our neighbor during the next few weeks and months, we wanted to share with you two principles to live by and several ways you can live them out.
Pursue Peace over Panic
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus tells us that every hair on our heads is numbered by God and that we are valuable to him so we shouldn’t be afraid if we are known by Him (Luke 12:4-7).
Now, this isn’t easy, especially when there’s panic all around us. We must speak these truths to our hearts in the midst of the storm.
Pursue Self-Sacrifice over Self-preservation
Jesus says, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-25)
Likewise, each of us is to “look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
Here are just a few ideas on how to live these things out:
- We need God’s precious truth to overcome the fear in our own hearts. Fill your heart with God’s Word and other helpful resources that nourish your soul. Catch up on your Bible reading here. Read and listen to other good stuff here and here.
- Be smart and prevent transmitting the disease – wash hands, stay home if you’re sick, “social distancing. This is not self-preservation, but keeping your neighbor from getting sick.
- Support small, local businesses through gift cards and carry out. The economic impact of this event will be felt the most at the small level.
- Don’t hoard supplies that your neighbors need. Share what you’ve got.
- Check in on the elderly and immune compromised. Offer to go to the store for them, bring them meals, etc.
- Donate food to our local YMCA as they provide lunches to kids who are out of school.
- Most of us will be “watching” church services on livestream. Invite your unchurched friends over to watch with you, and talk about what they heard afterwards.
These are just a few ideas. May God’s grace and peace be yours as you seek to follow Him during this epidemic.
March 14, 2020
Since the Corona virus situation is ever-changing, so our response will evolve over time as well. We want to walk wisely, not in panic or fear. He who keeps us neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:3-4). Here’s our plan for the time being:
- Pray for the sick, for our leaders, for our healthcare providers and for this pandemic to come to an end. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7 to be anxious for nothing, but to pray and seek God’s peace.
- Pray for gospel opportunities. Pandemics and disasters reveal just how helpless we really are. What a great opportunity to share the good news of Jesus in word and deed!
- Sunday worship will continue as usual at 11 am.
We do this for God’s glory and our good. We exist to glorify God, even more so in the midst of difficult circumstances. And when we gather, God comforts us through His word and Spirit. We need that medicine for our souls more than anything else (Luke 4:4).
- We also want to exercise wisdom and love for others. If you believe it is wise to remain at home, please do so – especially if you have are already sick or have a weakened immune system. Audio recording of our sermons are already available on our website (www.graceclanton.com) and via podcast. We are working on a video solution.
- Hand sanitizer will be available throughout our building. To lower the risk of transmission we will not pass the offering plate. Deacons will be posted to receive gifts at the end of worship. Online and mobile giving are also available if that makes you more comfortable (www.graceclanton.com/giving/). We will also distribute the Lord’s Supper from the front on April 3. We’ll tell you more about that later.
- We will have Sunday School classes this week since children are still in school for the next few days. Wednesday night ministries are cancelled for March 18 and Spring Break is the following week, which gives us two weeks off. We will let you know of changes after that.
Christians have a rich history when it comes to times of cultural turmoil. Going all the way back to the days of the Roman empire, Christians have been known as those who remained to love and serve their neighbors in the face of plague and disaster, even as others fled. We rest our confidence in a good and sovereign God who numbers every hair of our heads (Matthew 10:28-30). He moved towards us in our distress at great cost to himself (Mark 10:45). This means that preserving our own lives is not our highest agenda but loving those who are suffering. Let’s look for ways to prudently demonstrate the love of God through acts of kindness.
Soli Deo Gloria,