Dear Fellow Disciples,
This month marks our return to congregational worship after a long and sometimes difficult period. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused our world to shut-down for some time, but we are coming out of the isolation of “sheltering-in.” Thanks to all of you for being patient, being prayerful, and for being persistent in your support of our efforts to continue to preach and teach and worship through Facebook live.
Consider the words of Paul to the Romans, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (1:11-12 ESV). To say that it has been strange to exercise my calling to preach in front of 8-9 fellow servants and a camera hopefully reaching others, is putting it mildly. Because of your feedback I am encouraged that you are there, and you are listening. Like Paul, I long to see you all face to face, as soon as possible. Your presence in worship on Sundays and in study on Wednesdays means so much to me and I hope it is encouraging to you as well.
While there have been many public and private debates about the essential nature of church in culture, there is no doubt to the faithful that church assembly is essential to the encouragement of faithfulness in everyday life. The source of much of the debate has come from Hebrews 10:25, but let’s look at it along with verse 24, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (ESV) Notice that the motivation for the author to encourage the recipients of this letter was not religious obedience to a legal requirement of law. The encouragement to gather stems from the collective building up of those who participate and the resultant desire to participate in good works and loving, as well as the continued encouragement for one-another. Being together in the presence of God and fellow believers, who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord is encouraging. We are encouraged to love each other as well as demonstrating our love for those who need Jesus through good works. Meeting together is essential for all of us to exercise our spiritual gifts and to share in the love we all have for the Lord and our spiritual family.
While God surely knew this day was coming, I cannot imagine the writer of Hebrews could. Never in a million years would someone of that time be able to think of the technological advances that have allowed us to gather around our computers and “do church.” But, we do not do church, we are the church. There is no benefit to avoiding the congregation of the delivered in Jesus Name! If you are hurting there is healing, if you are anxious there is comfort, if you are needing there is provision, if you are fallen there is grace to help you up, if you are lonely there is true love, the church is the present manifestation of the presence of God. And, where God is, there is provision for every need! Thank you Jesus that we can know God through His sacrifice!
As we look to being together on June 7, there is a ministry team that is working to prepare us all for that day. We are continuing to voluntarily comply with certain requirements as well as promote those measures that will provide us all with as safe an experience as is possible. Billy Siefers, Anita Starling, Cindy Smith, and Kathy Hersom are serving as our Reopening Ministry Team. You should have already received an email from them outlining the opportunities to assist in this effort. If you feel lead to be a part of that team, please contact one of them directly to express your interest. I am excited to see you soon!
In the bond of Peace,
Michael C. Smith