Let me give a disclaimer as I begin: All of us are weary of Covid-19 Phases, plans, numbers and so on. I get it. I am weary of it. Yet, this video is another update. Your leadership wants to communicate well, and be clear for our church. So, if you can’t handle, hit pause, or maybe turn me off. (Or stop reading and perhaps pray a bit). And then at least read the email, so you understand our adjustments.
Your Elders convened this week to discuss the trends of rising Covid-19 cases in our State and area. While the numbers escalate, we are encouraged that rising deaths and severe cases are not climbing at the same rate of increase. Will that be the same story next week? We have no idea. So, with the increased communications from our State, local, and health leaders regarding concerns and caution in large group gatherings and more and more recommendations to wear masks, your elders have made the following adjustments to our Phase Two Plan.
- The 9:00 AM service will now require masking for ages 5 and up (Beginning THIS Sunday, June 28). When you enter, please enter with your mask, or take one that we provide upon entry. This will cause some frustration and tension among us. Please, honor Christ with whatever frustration is welling up within you. A church in our area took a huge hit to their witness for Christ when on social media, some of their members made harsh and ugly statements about their leaders’ decision to require masks. Friends, please reflect Christ whether you be in agreement or not. Our worship leaders can remove masks for speaking, preaching, and song leading due to their distance from the congregation. Parents, with children under 5, if you attend the 9 AM service, you need to be able to control the proximity of your little one to the congregation. If you absolutely cannot tolerate wearing a mask at 9, or if you have health conditions that makes wearing a mask complicated, you still have the 11:00 service option.
- Masks will remain optional for our 11:00 AM service, but we will return to our spaced seating.
Here is our rationale for these adjustments to Phase Two: If you are struggling with these changes, please read the Scriptures listed below and ask the Lord for the grace to apply these instructions from His Word.
First of all, we desire to avoid another stoppage to our corporate worship opportunities (Hebrews 10:24-25). While some of us are not concerned in the rising cases so long as severity and death are not also rising, many of our governing authorities may view these trends as making it necessary to return to some form of stay home order. If taking extra precautions may protect our church gatherings from having to disband as we did in March – May, and local businesses from having to shut down again, then we are willing to take those precautions.
Secondly, We are seeking to consider the overall interest of our entire congregation and community (Romans 12:9-18; 14:1-12; Philippians 2:1-18) In all these Scriptures, there are principles about loving, honoring, serving, and considering one another. I (Paul) am not a mask guy, but if having a 9 AM masking service protects our long-term worship options, and enables some to return who otherwise are not comfortable, I am willing to do just that.
Finally, we are seeking to balance the recommendations from local and State leaders in the midst of much confusion and a great deal of unknown (Romans 13). There is a lot of emphasis right now in our State and in the city of Greenville on being extra cautious with large group gatherings and wearing masks. There are also a lot of conflicting views and opinions. This plan seeks to provide worship opportunities that seek to take heed to our local and State leaders, while also recognizing the variety of opinions and comfort of our church and community.
Note that Community/Bible/Youth/Small group leaders can still discern convening as they and their groups are comfortable. Please note that our new air purifier system in the sanctuary changes the air every seven minutes which is a huge asset for the safety of our gatherings. Friends, may our goal continue to be the glory of God in how we navigate these things. Pray with us. Outdo one another is doing good to one another. Honor Christ. I (Paul) am on vacation as you view this. So, if you have a question or concern, please direct them to Jim Perry, Steve Wearden, or one of your Elders.
Phase Two Recommendations, Guidelines, and Restrictions:
While there will be some similarities with Phase One, we should understand that Phase Two adjustments override Phase One. Here are Phase Two Details:
- No person who is uncomfortable gathering at this time should feel any pressure to attend, nor should they feel any shame for staying home. This includes members, officers, and staff
- 65 years old and above, along with persons with underlying health conditions whose lives are more at risk due to COVID-19, should be cautious about attending. (Those who choose to come at their own risk will NOT be turned away)
- No person who feels sick should attend
- No person with a relative at home with Covid-19 should attend until they have shown no symptoms for 14 days
- If you have been exposed to someone with Covid-19 and it is conceivable that you could have been infected, please refrain from attending worship for a period of 14 days and after it is clear you are not sick
- All people should exercise wisdom and discernment for themselves regarding distancing, and physical contact and be sensitive to others
- Please practice appropriate hygiene.
- Masks are optional
- Bring your own Bible and your own printed bulletin (if you prefer that to what we print)
- There will be no food or coffee served
- No Nursery / Children’s Church
- No offering plates will be passed
- No ADS/Sunday school at this time
- Communion TBD
- Enter through main center church doors
- Individuals with handicap should be dropped off on front circle and will be assisted from there
- Exterior doors will remain open for entry and exit.
- Sanctuary doors will only be closed during preaching but opened other than that
- Bulletins will be available to pick up
- Offering plates will remain on tables for giving before or after service
- Pastor will keep singing to three songs during this phase
- People can seat and dismiss themselves
- Both wings will be available for restroom usage for 11 AM service
- In addition to the atrium, the Children’s Wing, playground, and outdoors will be open for use as parents desire and discern (Please leave those spaces as you found them)
- Deacons will administer appropriate sanitation between the services
“Don’t Be Anxious”
Uncertain times can tempt us to become anxious. Anxiety ties our stomachs in knots, puts creases on our brows and keeps us awake at night. Face it, all of us are prone to anxiety at times. It is to people like us that the apostle Paul pens the words found in Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Paul straightforwardly tells us the cure for anxiety is prayer. Notice the stark contrast in this verse: · Don’t be anxious about anything. · But in everything . . . let your requests be made known to God. Paul truly believes that we can be freed from all feverish worry if we refer all of our problems and trials to God. There is nothing too big that God can’t handle and nothing too small for his fatherly care. Because God is God, he knows all our problems and trials before we pray about them. But as we pray about these things, we are declaring our dependence on God and our trust in him to provide for us in ways that he deems best. This present COVID-19 crisis can tempt us to be anxious about many things: · Will there be enough food and supplies in the grocery stores? · Will my 401-K bounce back to where it was? · When will my children get back in school? · If I can’t go into work, how will I support my family? To be sure, these are all very real and genuine concerns. But these are also the things we must bring before the Lord, trusting in his shepherd care for us. Paul believes that when we pray about such things we can do so not out of fearful, anxious hearts, but with thanksgiving. As we look back on how faithful God has been to us in the past, our hearts will overflow with thankfulness, and so we will bring our requests not out of fear, but out of faith. Paul assures us that as we bring our requests to God, trusting in his goodness and faithfulness, we can expect one, sure and certain result: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!” He does not promise, all will work out exactly as you desire. He does not promise, your troubles will be no more. But He does promise a peace that does not even make sense in your time of trouble. Grace & Peace
“The Fear of Death and the Slavery It Brings”
All of us are deeply grieved as we hear of the mounting death toll caused by COVID-19. Who can imagine the heartache and grief of families as they experience the loss of precious loved ones who die, often isolated and alone because of the virus. Even in the midst of this pandemic, it is amazing how little thought people give to the reality of the possibility of dying. This is indeed strange since Ecclesiastes 3:11 states that God “has put eternity into man’s heart.”
Hebrews 4:15 states that Christ came to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” The truth being expressed here is not that people are enslaved to a constant, conscious fear of dying, but that they are enslaved to all kinds of ways of avoiding this fear. People busy themselves with careers, sports, hobbies, family and travel, never giving a thought to life’s one, great certainty – death.
As believers, we are not slaves to an illusionary flight of denial. We can face the undeniable reality of death without fear. The preceding verse, Hebrews 4:14, tells us why this can be so. “Since, therefore, his children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” Notice several things highlighted in this verse:
- God sent Christ to draw a people to himself who would be called his “children.”
- In order to accomplish this, the Son of God, who existed as the eternal Word, took on flesh.
- He took on flesh and blood in order to die. As the pre-incarnate Son of God, he could not die and become a suitable substitute for sinners.
- In dying, Christ destroyed (rendered powerless) the one who had power over death, the devil. Satan’s ultimate weapon against us is our own sin. In dying for us, Jesus takes away our sin, thus removing Satan’s main weapon against us.
- Thus, we no longer have to live our lives being enslaved to the fear death. Because of Christ’s atoning death, death for all who believe is now the doorway into eternal life with God. This is why the apostle Paul could say, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . . My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better”. (Philippians 1:21,23).
What good news the Gospel is! Through it, Christ frees us from the fear of death and sets us free to live to serve others in the most difficult of times. We can truly say, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.” In these difficult and trying days, let us act wisely, but let us not live in fear, totally isolating ourselves from people who need our help an
Here is our first online worship service to participate in together from home. You can watch it at the time that best suits you and your family. This will also be on our website later tonight. Thanks to JP for his hard working recording, editing, and uploading. Also to Jason and the Darnell's for their leading us in singing. I pray you will be encouraged!
Here is a link to the bulletin. Your participation will be much better if you print this out for everyone in your household.
March 22, 2020 Bulletin:
You should also be able to find the full sermon manuscript on Sunday.
Even with COVID-19, we will worship the Lord!
Grace & Peace, Pastor Paul
“Where Is Your Faith?”
Luke 8:22-25 tells us of the day that Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and said, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” Luke’s gospel tells us that the One who got into the boat with the disciples had previously healed Peter’s mother-in-law; cleansed a leper; healed a paralytic; healed a Centurion’s servant; and raised the son of the widow from Nain.
The point being that the disciples had more than enough evidence that Jesus was no ordinary man, but was the Son of God incarnate. So, when Jesus said, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake”, there was no possibility they were going to go to the middle of the lake and drown! As they made their way across the sea of Galilee, a huge storm came up and these veteran fishermen were terrified. How Jesus continued to sleep in the midst of the furious storm is a wonder in itself. In their terror, they woke Jesus screaming, “Master, Master, we are perishing.” Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and the raging water and there was instant calm. Jesus then said to his disciples, “Where is your faith?” Jesus was not implying that the disciples didn’t have faith.
Faith is simply trusting and everyone, always, is trusting in something. The thrust of Jesus’ question was, “Where is your faith directed? Is it in the circumstances surrounding you or is it in me? Because you have been with me and seen all the things I have done which demonstrate that I am the Son of God, why do you give in to fear?” What Jesus did for the disciples that day was to change the focus of their fear. One moment they feared the storm and the next they feared Jesus with a holy, reverent fear. The disciples didn’t immediately realize it, but the storm was a gift from God to deepen their faith and their trust in His power.
So, it is for us. God wants us to trust what he says rather than what we see in our immediate circumstances. The coronavirus is a powerful reminder that many of the things we put our hope and trust in are very fragile and are not worthy of our trust and dependence. God wants to use these days to ask us, “Where is your faith?” and to remind us that Jesus is enough!
Here is a short devotional video link for your encouragement. In case you are tired of looking at me, it is also in written form below. After the devotion, you will find more details on the Blood Drive Saturday at CCC to serve our community and be a good neighbor.
I am so thankful for your Staff working hard to keep us connected and encouraged! Pastor Jerry developed this devotion and JP is the man constantly behind the camera in all the videos coming out.
“Do Not Be Afraid”
With some form of rhythm, we want to send out a video with a devotional word to our folks for encouragement. The coronavirus pandemic has introduced great uncertainty, stress and fear to our world. Historically, believers, have often lived in similar situations.
For example, 2 Chronicles 20 tells the story of a vast army gathered to attack Jerusalem in the days when Jehoshaphat was the King of Judah. There was great fear among all the people. The way Jehoshaphat responded to this crisis has valuable insights for us as we face this present crisis:
· V. 3 – “He set himself to seek the Lord and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.”
· VV. 5ff – He gathered the people at the temple and reminded them of God’s greatness, sovereignty and power. Jehoshaphat prayed, “O Lord God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven, do you not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations?”
· V. 12 – He prayed, declaring the people’s absolute and compete dependence on the Lord. “For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”
· V. 15 – The prophet of the Lord, Jahaziel, conveyed God’s Word to the gathered people, “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
These are great lessons for us! Rather than being caught up in the panic and fear that is prevalent in much of our culture, we are to seek the Lord. We must preach to our hearts our belief that God is great and sovereign and powerful, and that he rules all the nations for his purposes. We must keep our eyes on the Lord, declaring our complete dependence on him alone. While your church leadership seeks to take wise and prudent steps, we want to assure all of you that “our eyes are on the Lord” and that our dependence and hope rest on Him!
To that end, let us set ourselves on seeking the Lord and fast and pray! Calvary Presbytery has called on our churches to designate Monday, April 6 as a Day of Fasting & Prayer for our churches, community and nation. Do not wait until then to pray, and perhaps fast. But make a note to set that day aside as a church.
Let us worship and remember who are God is! You will receive a video and link to our bulletin and worship service for Sunday. Set a time to worship this Lord’s Day. Invite someone who may be alone if they and you feel it is safe.
Let us recognize our need for God and fix our eyes on Jesus! And do not be afraid. God’s is with and for us!
Grace & Peace, Paul
Here are more details regarding the Blood Mobile on Saturday:
Link to schedule an appointment to donate blood. https://donate.thebloodconnection.org/donor/schedules/drive_schedule/145107
The Blood Connection (TBC), your community blood center, has an urgent need for blood donations. Since TBC is the exclusive blood supplier for ALL Upstate hospitals, the responsibility is on the community to help local hospital patients who rely on donated blood products. In the past week, TBC has experienced extremely low donor turnout and blood drive cancellations due to fears surrounding COVID-19 (coronavirus). While those fears are understandable, this community could be facing a blood shortage soon if healthy people don’t step up to donate blood. Blood cannot be manufactured or replicated; it must be donated.
TBC has taken extra preventative cleaning measures to assure that blood centers and mobiles are clean and safe places to donate. If the outbreak continues to spread, additional challenges could come up, which could potentially reduce the number of eligible donors. With heightened safety measures in place, know that you can donate blood with confidence at TBC. Now more than ever, express yourself as an upstanding community hero and be the one to answer the call for help. We need you now.
Christ Community Church will be hosting a blood drive at 700 Harrison Bridge Road Simpsonville, SC on Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 10:00AM and end at 2:00PM. I encourage donors to make an appointment ahead of time so interaction with others can be controlled. Keep in mind, Christ Community Church will have a place for donors to wait inside so there are less people on the blood mobile, for safety reasons. During the donation process, TBC will ensure that donors are as far from each other as possible.
Donating blood takes around 45 minutes. It includes answering a questionnaire and a mini physical, assuring a donor is healthy enough to give. If you are unable to make it to the blood drive, TBC has five blood donation centers throughout the Upstate: Greenville, Greenwood, Spartanburg, Easley, and Seneca. If you see a center or mobile while you are out, please consider your community and stop in to donate. You can find those center locations and a blood mobile at thebloodconnection.org<http://thebloodconnection.org>.
For more information about TBC’s response to COVID-19, visit thebloodconnection.org/covid-19<http://thebloodconnection.org/covid-19>.
Letter from Pastor Paul,
If you are new to CCC and on our distribution list, I am Pastor Paul. We desire to be an encouragement to all who receive our communications in these unusual times. Last night, our congregation-ally elected group of Elders, known as your Session, voted to suspend corporate worship indefinitely in addition to all other CCC ministries on and off campus. Our conviction is to first of all honor our local, State, and National authorities. We do not see the recommendations of our Governor as a threat to the church nor persecution of the church. If that was the case, we would conduct business as usual. We believe, though certainly in an imperfect way, our authorities are seeking the well-being of our communities and nation. Likewise, we are convicted to look out for the best interest of our neighbor, particularly those at the highest level of risk among us in relation to the COVID-19 virus.
So, what now? How do we honor the Lord’s instruction to “not forsake assembling ourselves together?” That’s a tough one. First of all, we are confident that this season in society will end. It has already lingered longer than we desire, but it will end. And our gatherings in the future will be even more joyous. Those gatherings will be even more of a taste of the great reunion we will enjoy when the Kingdom of God has come in full.
Secondly, we are going to have our service of worship available to you for the Lord’s Day and ask that all of our congregation watch and participate in the worship service from home. There will be singing, prayer, other liturgies, giving and preaching. Let’s track together as a church by uniting in our service of worship from home.
If you are alone. And desire to have some form of contact, for example, you simply want to be with others to worship the Lord and you have no place to go, nor family to gather with; Please let your Community Group leader, or Steve Wearden or me know and we will do our best to assist you. Likewise, be on the lookout for videos and emails like this one, to update you, encourage you, and to equip you.
Let me conclude by giving you the perspective of your Staff and Elders in these unusual days. We are convinced the Lord is on the move. There is not a bird of the air that falls to the ground without the Father knowing it. COVID-19 is no surprise to Him. And He has purposes. His Kingdom will not be prevailed against. We see this as an opportunity for our growth in grace like never before. We believe there are ways the Lord will encourage and equip us for Kingdom growth and ministry through this trial. We are not suggesting that this is not difficult. It is. That is why there is great opportunity; for in the fires of trial that God’s people are refined. Let’s ask for such difficult days to not be wasted, but eternally utilized.
Additional Action Steps:
- You should have seen our email earlier in the week regarding high risk folks desiring assistance in errands. Please let us know if you desire such help. We have volunteers on standby to assist those needs.
- Your Community Group leader should be making contact soon. Keep in touch with that leader as it comes to how you are doing and how they can pray for you.
- If you are not currently in a Community Group, please communicate with Pastor Jerry those needs.
- All prayer requests sent to Felicia via email by Sunday night will be gathered and sent out the following Monday. Any requests after that deadline will in most cases be delayed one more week.
- Any emergency prayer request sent after the prayer request deadline should be emailed to Pastor Paul and he will send it as soon as he is able but depending on having his office computer accessible.
- If you know of any member who has limited technology access, please let Pastor Jerry or another staff member know as soon as possible