February 2021 Newsletter

Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

            I want to start out by saying, I know this month’s article is longer than my normal article (okay, it is a lot longer). I know that it is not my normal writing style, but I encourage you, I plead with you to read it in its entirety. Please don’t give up part way through because at the end is some stuff we all need to hear, but that doesn’t mean just skip to the end either. Okay … here we go …

With the introduction of Covid-19 back in March, we all wondered what the future would look like and how things would change. Optimistically we thought this would all be a thing of the past by now. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

            The question now is not only what will the future hold for us, but what kind of damage has Covid-19 done? More specifically, what kind of damage has Covid-19 done to the church?

            At the January Altamont Pastor’s Conference, an essay was recommended for us to consider. The essay, written by Dr. Joel Biermann from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, is entitled “The Post-Pandemic Pew: A Reflection for Pastors.” Even though this was written primarily for pastors, the essay has so many things in it for us all to learn from. The essay looks back at what has transpired within the church since March and what it is that the church needs to do moving forward.

            Now there is no way I can cover everything here in this almost five-and-a-half-page essay, so if you want to read it in its entirety, please let us know and we will make copies of it available.

            We all know the impact this pandemic has had on our individual lives, and in some respects, we know the impact it has had on the church. Dr. Biermann says, “This impact is, I am convinced, far more profound, challenging, and damaging than it seems on the surface. In fact, any notion of a pandemic benefit to the church is, I believe, merely wishful and even reckless thinking.”

            The church, simply put is the Body of Christ – that is, all people whom the Spirit by the Means of Grace, has gathered to Christ in faith throughout the world. Dr. Biermann says, “The one thing most essential to the church’s existence … to come together as the unified body of Christ in order to receive and celebrate the gifts of Christ.”

            Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

            Habit … you may have noticed I underlined that word. Well, that’s because that is what Christians have gotten out of.  Dr. Biermann states, “there is much more about the pandemic’s impact on the church that deserves careful thought than merely debates over obedience to authority, constitutionally granted liberties, care for the neighbor, and public safety. The very nature of what it means to be church needs to be taken into account.”

            I’ve mentioned in previous newsletters how Satan has taken this pandemic as an opportunity for him to drive a wedge into the church. Well … it’s happened and it continues to happen. This pandemic has allowed people to get out of the habit of being a part of a community of fellow believers. It seemed strange and “all wrong” at first, watching the services online from a recliner in our pajamas with a cup of coffee … but now some don’t think anything of it.

            This relaxed approach to worship is only the entrance to a rabbit hole which leads to “oh I’ll watch it later”, which then leads to filling that time with something and not getting around to watching the service, which then can lead to falling away from the faith. Dr. Biermann states, “Seizing his advantage, {Satan} is waging war with the dependable weapons of apathy, distraction, comfort, and attrition. … With the help of so many willing and unwitting soldiers, Satan is winning battles in the lives of saints that would have seemed impossible only months ago.”

            So what do we do?

We need to be together in the flesh.

We need not give up meeting together.

            If the church is essentially God’s people gathered around God’s gifts … then that is what we need to do, what we need to be.

            Are we concerned about individual safety? Of course we are. We will continue to take precautions like social distancing, encouraging people to wear masks, posting signs reminding you wash your hands, etc… We don’t need to be reckless and totally carefree, but we do need to remember that as Christians, there is more to life than our earthly lives … there is the eternal life with Christ yet to come. This eternal life comes only though by having faith in Christ. If one falls away from the faith, they are giving up the eternal blessing to come.

            Simply put: The church must be the church. Dr. Biermann puts it this way, “The church must act like the church: the gathered saints of God celebrating the gifts of God, living out the story of God in all of life, and actively encouraging one another along the way.”  … “We must gather to worship together … even in the face of fear and threat.”

            The Board of Christian Education, the Board of Elders, and myself have been working on how we can do this in a way which isn’t reckless and spontaneous.  It is going to require people to step up and help, whether it be sanitizing, disinfecting, ushering, teaching, checking in on members, etc… The church needs to be the church for the sake of the souls.

            I do understand that we have faithful saints who for any number of possible reasons can’t join the gathering of people in numbers. As has always been the case, they will be served God’s gifts from their pastor, and the community of believers will find ways to surround and take care of them in their enforced distance.

            In light of all of this, I humbly ask for grace and for your forgiveness. Because of Covid-19 and trying to be obedient to what has been recommended for public safety … as well as being the sole pastor right now … things have been restricted and visitation has been extremely minimal. As a church, we will have to work together to help and support one another. I need your help in staying informed on what is happening in your lives. Visitation has not been happening like it had in the past, but I am going to try my best to be out and about more. If you would like a visit, please contact me. Moving forward, let’s be the church which God has called us to be. Let’s not forsake the gathering together.  Let’s be the saints which God has redeemed, forgiven, and strengthened to serve Him and those among us and around us.

            In Christ, Pastor Mike    

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