Dear Grace Rancho Church Family,
The last 48 hours have been a tumultuous time for our nation as we are reminded again of human frailty and mortality. The coronavirus is leaving devastation in its wake and the world is reeling to figure out how to respond. Over the last 48 hours, we have been prayerfully seeking the Lord for wisdom for what we should do as a church. We do not want to respond in fear or panic, but with confidence in the revealed wisdom of God. Here are some principles that are guiding our decision regarding how to move forward.
Principle 1: God is sovereign and good, so we need not fear. He is not surprised by this, and intends to glorify himself through this. Let’s humble ourselves before our mighty God and run to him as our only refuge (Ps. 5:11). The Bible repeatedly commands us not to fear because God is sovereign.
Principle 2: God is sympathetic, so we can lament. There are two common responses to the outbreak: panic or dismissal. Christians should avoid both. We must not panic, because a good and sovereign God rules over all (Ps. 103:19). We must not dismiss it, because we are called to care about suffering in the world. A more biblical response is to lament over the brokenness over our world, cry out to God for healing and mercy, and reassert our confidence in him. We must not be ruled by fear, but faith, trusting God at all times (Ps. 62:8).
Principle 3: The gathering of the church is a weighty responsibility, so we pause. As believers we are called to gather regularly to help one another remain faithful to Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:24-25). To cancel the gathering of Christ’s people is no small decision, and should be evaluated carefully.
Principle 4: God the Holy Spirit is a wise helper, so we pray. The Holy Spirit is called a “Helper” (Jn. 14:16, 26; 15:26). We believe that as we seek him, he helps us. James encouraged us to ask for wisdom when we lack it, and he will give it (Jas. 1:5). We’ve been praying that God would guide our decision making.
Principle 5: Government is a gift from God for the good of society, we should listen. Romans 13 instructs us to be “subject to the governing authorities” because they have been “instituted by God.” It says that government is “God’s servant for your good” (v 4). Pastors and church leaders are not health experts, and must defer to those who are, trusting the God-ordained institutions God has placed over us. This is particularly relevant, since the California Department for Public Health’s statement reads, “Smaller gatherings held in venues that do not allow social distancing of six feet per person should be postponed or cancelled. This includes gatherings in crowded auditoriums, rooms or other venues.” We believe it is responsible to take this recommendation seriously.
Principle 6: Pastors must protect the flock, not only spiritually but physically. The early church sacrificed for the physical needs of one another, even if it was costly (Acts 2:45). Following their example, we must seek to care for the physical needs of our members. We must take this into consideration as we plan what’s best. In our church we have elderly, infants, and people with chronic illness. We must seek to protect them.
Principle 7: The church must act in self-sacrificing love, so we must consider what’s best for our neighbor. In making this decision, we must not only think about what’s best for our church, but what’s loving to our neighbor. We feel our decision has the potential to impact the broader community, and we would not want our gathering to damage the loving witness of our church.
What Will We Do?
We will be canceling this weekend's in-person gatherings. Our Saturday Men’s Equipping Group and Sunday morning and evening gatherings will be cancelled.
We will be livestreaming our Sunday morning service. We want families and small groups to follow and worship remotely. We’ve sent our order of service in the Grace Rancho Weekly email, and we encourage our members to tune in at our Grace Rancho Youtube Channel at 10am to worship with us. We will not all be together, but we can remain united in our praise and prayer to God. You can find lyrics for the songs we will be singing this Sunday here. As the church relies upon the generosity of our members, though we’re apart we encourage you to continue giving by either mailing in your offering to the church or giving online.
We will be providing questions for families and groups to work through together. After you participate in the livestream, we’ll provide some verses and discussion questions to work through. As difficult as it is for us to not meet in the same location, we want to make the best use of the time. You can find Sunday’s discussion questions here.
We will be praying to God for mercy and healing. If we are to be a sympathetic people, we must care about the suffering of those around us. We are calling upon all Christians to cry out to the Lord for mercy and healing. He could stop all of this with a word, let’s look to him.
We will be asking God to use this to provide open doors for the gospel. People are now being confronted with the reality that they are mortal. We are praying that this opens up doors for the gospel to be shared. We believe in the resurrection of the body, and we do not fear death. Let’s be prepared to give an account for the hope we have (1 Pet. 3:15) and pray that God gives opportunity to do so.
We are confident the Lord does all things for our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28), and we are confident this is a good decision for our church to make. We are going to evaluate one Sunday at a time, and do our best to communicate with you what we’re doing as a church and why.
Please: if there are any needs at all, please let us know. There are many people who are willing to do what they can to help you. If you are able, I would encourage you to check in with other friends and church members to see if they’re okay. Though we cannot physically gather, now is a crucial moment for us to band together in prayer and support, seeking to set an example to our community of self-sacrificial love.
Yours for Christ,
The Grace Rancho Elders