With the government announcement this week that physical church gatherings will be possible from the 4th July, we wanted to offer an update on where we are up to at Elim Christian Centre Glossop. The decision to lockdown was a difficult one and the idea of completely stopping our physical services and moving online was inconceivable only a few months ago. However, if the decision to lockdown was difficult, the decision to re-enter physical gatherings with Covid-19 still present in society is going to be even more complex.
So I want to guide you through our decision making process, the principles that will guide our decisions and the decisions we as an eldership have currently made. The wise Mick Price (one of our elders here at ECCG) said recently “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”. That’s what we want to do, we want to break things down into manageable steps. So here’s our first bite of the elephant.
TRAFFIC LIGHT SYSTEM
First we want to remind you of our traffic light system.
Red light – Government give the go ahead for physical gatherings to recommence.
Amber light – Elim’s National Leadership Team give Elim Christian Centre Glossop express permission to gather physically.
Green light – Our eldership confirm the reopening of our physical church services.
At the moment we are still on the red light phase.
Before we get to any decisions we want to be clear about the rationale behind the decisions we make. This is important because the leadership at Elim Christian Centre Glossop value transparency, accountability and vulnerability and want to do our best to uphold those values. We also want to make our decision based on the values and principles of the Kingdom of heaven.
As such here are some of the scriptural principles that will be guiding our thoughts and prayers as we seek to make wise decisions in this season.
- BIAS TOWARD THE VULNERABLE
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus clearly states that “Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.” He is particularly speaking about the marginalised and the vulnerable. How we treat them is a direct reflection of how we love Him. We could also quote James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Psalm 82:3 “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed.”
I could go on. But let me state clearly the quality of our community will be measured by the level of our concern and practical care for the vulnerable among us.
We do not want to make any decisions that will marginalise or exclude the vulnerable from our church family.
let me state clearly the quality of our community will be measured by the level of our concern and practical care for the vulnerable among us.
- SUBJECT TO THE GOVERNING AUTHORITIES
We will seek to honour and respect the government as long as it does not conflict with our call to honour and submit to Jesus. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement.” Romans 13:1-2
It must be said that there is a place for resistance, the apostles resisted the command of the authorities not to preach the gospel, but they did submit to the consequences of their resistance. This however, is not the book of Acts, this is not a moment of persecution but protection. As such we will seek to honour and respect government guidance.
- NOT DRIVEN BY SELF-INTEREST
Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others.”
Our personal desire to gather together is important, but it does not supersede our call to love our neighbour and care for the vulnerable, as such it cannot be the driving force behind the decision to gather physically.
- GATHERING PHYSICALLY MATTERS
Hebrews 10:25 “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
We will prioritise meeting together and we believe that while online gatherings have been a gift to us during this season, physical gatherings are absolutely important and we do not want to dilute the value and importance of being together to worship God and enjoy His goodness and to receive ministry from Him, in the same place at the same time.
- EVERY CHURCH MEMBER MATTERS
Acts 20:28 says “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
We recognise the sacred responsibility entrusted to us, to care for each and every one of you, you all are sacred to God and as such we will be taking our time to make the best decision for the whole flock.
- RISK IS VALUABLE, RECKLESSNESS IS WASTEFUL
As followers of Jesus we are not called to a life of safety and comfort, risk should not be something that is avoided in our lives but embraced as a real part of Jesus’ way. Life with Him involves steps of faith, it’s an adventure that continually stretches us to trust God more fully with the things that matter most. However, trust in God doesn’t mean we start needlessly dancing on cliff-edges, we don’t honour God by taking unnecessary risks with the lives he’s given to us – just look at the final temptation of Jesus in the wilderness in Luke 4 v 12 “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
We want to advocate for taking risks (or steps of faith) for the Kingdom of Heaven, but we do not want to advocate for taking unnecessary risks, we will not be reckless with the lives of people entrusted into our care.
- THE TERRAIN HAS CHANGED BUT THE GOAL POSTS HAVEN’T
The greatest commandment – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
The great commission – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20
There are some things that even COVID-19 can’t touch, some things that won’t change and haven’t changed and we shouldn’t seek to change. The goal of the church is still the same, to worship Jesus and to make disciples, it’s just the landscape we are doing it in now looks very different. The most important question we are asking as a leadership right now is not, “how do we get back into our building?” but rather “What is the most effective way to disciple people in this season?”
So now to the decisions:
NOT YET I’m sure like us you can’t wait to meet together again in person. Our first decision however is that we do not want to rush anything but to make sure we are making the best decision for the people entrusted into our care. As such, we will not be gathering in our building during July. We will revisit this again regularly and keep you informed. We want to ensure that any kind of decision to reopen will be based on the values we’ve stated above. We are not satisfied that by opening our building in July we will be able ensure that this is the case.
INFORMED – we commit to walking through this process with transparency, accountability and vulnerability. As such we commit to regular communication to keep you informed whether you are tech savvy or not we want to ensure you get all the information necessary.
LISTENING – we commit to listening well during this season, to the Holy Spirit, to the scriptures and to one another. We are releasing a survey to all church members to hear your concerns and questions around returning to physical gatherings as your thoughts and reflections will help us in making better decisions.
PASTORAL CARE – An exciting announcement however, is that with the loosening of restrictions, we will be stepping up our pastoral care within the life of the church. It has been incredible to see how God has stirred us to care for one another so well during this season with overwhelming generosity and kindness. We want to increase this further in this season. As such we will be looking to create some kind of visitation ministry over the summer where each person will have the opportunity for personal bible study, communion and prayer. More information will be coming shortly.
WHAT ARE WE DOING? We just want to reassure you all that behind the scenes we are working hard to get ready for when we do meet together. We’ve already submitted a risk assessment for our services to Elim Headquarters and we are also investigating how we could possibly continue our online ministry alongside returning to physical gatherings so no one is left behind.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- PRAYER As part of our church family the first thing you can do is pray for us, pray for wisdom, for the Holy Spirit to guide us and that we would make the best decision for the future health of this church.
- PATIENCE – Paul’s first description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 is that love is patient. What the leadership of our church needs right now is for your patience, to lovingly and prayerfully wait for the right time to gather physically.
- PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY – we need you to take care of yourselves, emotionally, care for your mental health, phone someone up if you are struggling, don’t go through it alone, physically, don’t let bad habits creep in that increase lethargy and apathy in your life or burnout, spiritually – take personal responsibility for your relationship with Jesus, pray, meditate on scripture, minister to those you are able to.
- PARTICIPATION – Stay connected to the life of the church as you already are, keep connecting to our online gatherings, fill out the survey, pray regularly for the church, phone around folk to listen and pray.
Praying that we may grow in the confidence of the steadfast, unwavering presence of God, His love toward us and His absolute capacity to build His church in His way and in His time!
Tim Cooling on behalf of the Eldership of Elim Christian Centre Glossop.