Immediate Changes To Our Current Church Structure
Dear Church Family,
As you are aware, the COVID-19 virus has become a serious threat to our country. It has already affected our economy and way of life for what could potentially be quite some time. Because of the threat to public health and the response of our government and communities, I feel led to make some changes to our church structure for the time being. I gave a more thorough explanation of these changes in our service on Wednesday, March 18. I encourage you to listen to that on our website at https://eastsidesf.com/media/sermons/ or by subscribing to our Podcast (links are on the website page as well).
The primary question I've been asked is, "How long will this last?" I wish I knew, but I don't. President Trump asked for Americans to limit gatherings to ten people for two weeks, so my initial timeline is roughly that long (through Wednesday, April 1), but I would not be surprised if that's an optimistic time frame. We should prepare as if this will last longer than that while praying that it's much shorter. If it ends quickly we will all rejoice, but we must prepare for the possibility that these changes could last the next several months.
WHY THESE ADJUSTMENTS?
I. Because of our respect for authority. (Romans 13:1-7)
While I agree that there has been overhyped reaction and overpoliticized motivations, we cannot ignore two things, 1) There is a public threat, and 2) Our government is an authority instituted by God. They are in place because of a system He established. We have to trust that structure because it is God-ordained. In the matters of our country we have a responsibility to submit to their leadership. These restrictions are not desirable. I may not even agree with all of them. But the government has not targeted churches. They are asking every establishment to submit to the same guidelines they’ve asked of us. We are told to submit to, respect, and pray for our authorities and I believe this is a time to do that. Now, if it gets to the place that we are asked to submit to their mandates before we submit to God’s Word, we obey God rather than men. But at this time I believe it’s wise to submit to our leadership and the God that they ultimately answer to.
II. Because we have a testimony to consider in this community. (Matthew 5:16, I Peter 2:12, 15)
If we continue to meet, we could be responsible for the acceleration of the spread of this virus. The chances of that are low, I realize, but we have to acknowledge that it's a possibility. Our community is fearful and people generally look for the person to blame when something goes wrong. We do not want that target. We are called to be responsible citizens just as much as anyone. We have to keep that in mind.
III. Because we love others. (Mark 12:31)
We love God first, but we are also called to love our neighbors and each other. Our love for others means we do not want to put anyone at risk. We already know it's possible to be a carrier and show no symptoms, so we could expose others and not even realize it. We don’t want to see people we love or people we don't know catch this. It would be nearly too much for this Pastor to bear if our gathering together costs someone else dearly.
WHAT WILL THE ADJUSTMENTS LOOK LIKE?
I. We will move to an online video format for our services for at least the next two weeks, through April 1.
II. Online Service Schedule
- Sunday Mornings at 10:45 a.m.
- Wednesday Evenings at 7:00 p.m.
III. You can access these services multiple ways.
- Go to eastsidesf.com and click on the big "View Messages" on the home page. This will take you to a YouTube link.
- Go to YouTube and search for "Eastside Baptist Church Sioux Falls." Please subscribe to the channel once you find it.
- If you are listening to the service later, you can still listen on the website or through the podcast.
IV. Watch the services during the service times.
- We don't have Live Streaming capabilities yet, so for now we will be recording the services and posting them at the time of each service.
- We are asking that every family watches the service at the service times (10:45 Sunday mornings, 7:00 Wednesday evenings). The temptation will be to watch it at your convenience, but I believe that keeping the routine as close as possible to what we've already done is essential.
- Prepare for it like you're going to church. Get dressed, stop what you're doing, turn everything else off, and sit and listen together.
- This is very important: Have other families over while you watch the services. This accountability will be extremely important to the process. If you know of someone who does not have internet or streaming capabilities, invite them over for the service. Invest in others and build relationships during this adjustment period.
- Spend the time watching the service, not socializing. While you are encouraged to fellowship after, be serious about a spirit of attention and reverence during the service.
- Watch our church's video. This is not to say you shouldn't watch another church's, but God in His sovereignty placed you in this local assembly here and now. Stay connected to your local church first.
- We may add other things later (Youth or Adult Classes), but for now we will focus on our corporate services. As things are added or changed, you will be communicated with through email.
I. We must continue to be faithful to God in our giving during this time.
- You are a generous and giving church, for which I'm thankful. But we can't lose sight of our obligations to invest in God's work even though we're not meeting together.
- We still have bills and obligations to preserve what we've blessed with. Our building and staff are dependent on your giving. Continue to seek first the kingdom of God and trust Him to provide for our needs.
- Our missionaries are strongly dependent on our support. We must faithfully continue for their sakes as well.
III. One of the ways we can give is to go to www.eastsidesf.com and click on the top right button that says, “Give.” Follow that link and you can continue to give even if we’re not meeting.
IV. You are more than welcome to mail your offerings to the church as well:
Eastside Baptist Church
6101 E. 49th Street
Sioux Falls, SD 57110
V. You may also bring your offerings by the church during the week. The church office will be open Tuesday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m.
VI. The option that I'm asking you to consider above the rest is to give in person on Sunday Evenings.
- We will call this our Giving and Prayer time. For now, the plan is that the church sanctuary will be open between 5:00-7:00 p.m. on Sunday evenings. (Be mindful of the precautions like hand-washing and avoiding physical contact. Try to avoid close gatherings of more than 10).
- When you come in, the offering plates will be on the platform at the front of the sanctuary.
- I encourage you to bring your family and take some time to thank God for His provision, as well as seek His mercy and blessing in what will potentially be challenging times ahead.
- After giving, it would be great for every family to stop, kneel and pray for our church during this present situation. Seek God's face and favor, because we need Him greatly right now.
VII. We can’t let fear or neglect affect our giving. The impact will be felt on our building payment obligations, missionaries, and staff.
PRAYER AND FASTING
I. When you come for the Giving and Prayer time, please sign up on the sheet in the foyer and select the same time slot every week for your family to pray for the church.
- We are hoping to have the vast majority of the week covered by the prayer of God's people.
- You are welcome to pray at the church. Please let Pastor know if you'd like to have the building open during a certain time slot.
- If not, simply stop what you're doing and pray as a family for God's provision, protection and guidance during this time.We are facing a serious crisis and our dependence on God must be our most significant response.
- Prayer Requests: I encourage you to continue to send prayer requests to Judy Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be posting current prayer lists weekly so you can have access to them on the website. Just because we’re not meeting doesn’t mean we don’t have to be concerned about bearing one another’s burdens through prayer.
II. I am asking every family to consider making a plan for weekly fasting.
- Take a meal, a time slot, a day, a period of days, or whatever you feel God lead you to do.
- It’s not easy. It’s not convenient, but we need God more than we need food, especially right now.
- Fasting is a sign to God that His people are serious about seeking His face or having a need met. Utilize this important spiritual opportunity.
I. Don’t lose touch with each other. We need God desperately right now. But we also need each other.
- As long as gatherings under ten people are still allowed, do what you can to enjoy fellowship and in-person accountability.
- There's never been a more important time to fellowship. Families, spend time with other families. Teachers, invest in your class members. Consider those with needs and reach out to them.
- Have weekly times with other church members (or guests that have been coming) where you can fellowship together. Our culture is latching on to this idea of social isolation. If that becomes pervasive enough, our churches are going to seriously suffer. We need to somehow convey that we see the value in maintaining human connection.
- Make use of outdoor spaces. As the weather gets better, meet outside where the restrictions aren’t as tight.
II. Don’t forget our senior saints, widows and shut-ins.
- Do what you can to be a blessing. They are often the loneliest segment of our church congregation.
- Have your kids write cards to different ones each week. Take them something to be a blessing. Call or write a note.
- Encourage those who need it most.
WHAT SHOULD WE KEEP IN MIND?
I. We are still a church.
We are making temporary changes in our church life, but that doesn’t mean we lose sight of what matters the most. We are a church family. There is a very real possibility that some churches don’t survive this. I don’t want Eastside Baptist to be among that number. It primarily depends on the commitment of church members. Participate in everything possible. Bring your family by the church for giving and prayer. Don’t let isolation alter your relationship with your church. Refuse to let go of what God has blessed us with.
II. Guard against subtle change.
Temporary changes can become permanent changes if we’re not diligent. What was normal two months ago may feel like an inconvenience when things get back to the new normal. Satan desires to have you that he may sift you as wheat. He’s a roaring lion and he wants to break the routines and convictions of committed believers. You will not survive if you don’t guard against it. Keep the routines. That’s why I encourage you to watch the service together at the times given. That’s why we maintain prayer and giving. Don’t lose the routine of the Lord’s Day and church services.
III. Treat the Lord’s Day with the same respect.
You are much more likely to remain standing if you’ll treat the Lord’s Day as close to normal as possible. This would include same service times, worship, reverence, etc.
IV. Fellowship is still biblical.
Get together with other members. Social isolation might become the norm in our country, if it isn’t already. We can’t contribute to that. Don’t become an island. Interact, fellowship, and encourage others.
V. Our plan is fluid.
Circumstances may change. Guidelines may tighten or loosen up. As things change, we will alter the plan as needed. We may find that certain things don’t work as well. We’ll adjust it. None of us have ever been this way before. View this as a starting point for facing something that none of us have faced before. Things will inevitably change and hopefully improve.
VI. Don’t be a stranger.
The offices will be open during our regular hours of 9am-4pm, Tuesday through Friday. There will often be someone here on Saturdays as well, but if you want to just come to the church and pray or simply walk around and see it, don’t hesitate to ask. Stay connected with this place because it is special to us.
I. GOD IS IN CONTROL
We serve a God who never changes. In the midst of what is so unsettling, He’s neither surprised or overwhelmed. And He doesn’t want us to be either. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Trust in His resources right now. He can handle this.
II. GREAT OBSTACLES CAN BECOME GREAT OPPORTUNITIES
We have an opportunity that no one has ever had before. We can shine God’s light in circumstances that have never been exactly like this. I once heard someone say that the greater the darkness, the brighter a light can shine. We’re facing darkness because it’s unclear what lies ahead. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Now is not the time to hide our lights in a bushel. We can show the world the effects that a relationship with God can have on a person who trusts Him in the darkest times.
III. MY MESSAGE TO YOU
I love you, Eastside Baptist Church. I want nothing more than to be in your presence again as soon as possible. I feel like the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians in 2:17, "But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire." He was dealing with circumstances that took him away from people he loved, but he was with them in heart until he could see them face to face again. I anticipate the moment that this season passes and we can fully be together again. My challenge to you is to stay connected on a heart level so that our reunion as a church is anticipated now and sweet when it happens. I believe when we come back together we'll have a greater love for each other and a better appreciation for the church family with which God has blessed us.
With Christ's Love,