First of all, we want to encourage you.
I was listening to a podcast with a couple influential pastors who often have the opportunity to talk with hundreds of pastors. He said that he’s seeing more pastors quit than ever before - largely because of the difficulty of the last several months. It’s easy to see why. There are so many issues swirling around the church, and opinions are held with great tenacity. Emotions run high - and pastors are getting barraged with questions about these things:
Pastor, why aren’t you speaking up?
Pastor, why did you speak up?
Pastor, why are you being a coward?
Pastor, why are you being a rebel?
Pastor, why were you so soft?
Pastor, why are you being so black and white?
Pastor, have you seen what this church is doing - do that!
Pastor, why are you doing what that church is doing?
Pastor, stop making us wear masks!
Pastor, make sure everyone wears masks!
In other words, the last several months have put us in a pressure cooker. Pastors and elders in churches are facing extraordinary pressure - and in some churches, the members are exacerbating the pressure and attacking their own pastors or fellow church members.
By God’s grace, this has not been happening at Grace Rancho. On behalf of the elders, I can say that pastoring you has been an absolute joy this season. It is a privilege to serve a church that values the word of God, works for unity, prays for fruit, and labors for the advance of the gospel. Paul asks the church in Thessalonica to “respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord” and to “esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12-13). We feel respected, honored, and loved. Thank you, Grace Rancho.
From my perspective, we’re enjoying a great unity in the church. Not uniformity - there are differing opinions on some of these matters. But there’s been a joyful unity through this.
I’m reminded of Paul’s letter to the Philippians when he urges them: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…” (1:27). According to Paul, the gospel-shaped life includes standing firm in unity, and striving side by side for the gospel. By God’s grace, Grace Rancho is doing that. Not only is there a high level of unity, there’s a high level of gospel-advancing ministry taking place. Praise the Lord for that!
Second, we want to inform you.
There have been a couple questions we’ve been hearing and we thought it’d be good to answer:
- Why are we still submitting to government regulations?
- What are we going to be doing when the weather changes?
First, why are we still submitting to government regulations?
There are two main reasons for this, and they’re both simple. First, we believe submission to our government is obedient to God. Romans 13:1-7 makes this clear. Paul writes: “Be subject to the governing authorities” (vs 1), reminds us that resisting government is resisting God (vs 2), implores us to “do what is good” (vs 3), and concludes, “Therefore, one must be in subjection” (vs 5). These commands are so clear that we believe the only time to disobey the government is when it requires what God forbids or forbids what God requires. Whether the authority is Nero or Newsom, we honor God by submitting to the God-ordained institutions.
Secondly, we believe that submission to the government aids the mission of the church. This is Peter’s point in 1 Peter 2:11-17. He urges the church to keep their conduct honorable among the Gentiles because it will bring them to glorify God on the day of visitation (2:12). We could ask: “What must I do to keep my conduct honorable to outsiders?” Peter’s answer to that question is found in verse 13: “Be subject to the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” To press this point further, he writes, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” If we want to reach unbelievers with the gospel, we need to live honorable lives, and one important feature of an honorable life is one that humbly submits to the governing authorities. In this way, submission to governing authorities aids the mission of the church.
The second question is: What are we going to be doing when the weather changes?
Governor Newsom has issued a tier-system for determining when California will be able to reopen. Purple means we can’t do anything indoor. Red means we can use 25% of our building capacity (which is around 50 people). If we get to orange, we could do 100 people inside. If we get to Yellow, we will still only be able to do 100 people.
We’re in purple. Newsom introduced this in August, and we’re still in purple. According to our best estimates, it’s going to take months to get to yellow, and even when we’re there, we can still only meet with 100 people.
So we’ve been meeting outside. But What happens when it gets cold, rainy, and windy?
- We are planning on getting a tent.
This will enable us to be sheltered from any potential rain. It enables us to have certainty every Sunday as to what we’ll be doing. And it will, Lord willing, be something that can be usable even after California is completely reopened.
- We don’t plan on going back to multi-service indoor gatherings, even if allowed.
We have a strong conviction that the whole church ought to meet together at the same time and the same place. So even if we could do multiple indoor services (100 or so at a time), we would rather meet all together in the tent.
- We’re working on getting a modified, somewhat limited childcare ready for by the end of this month.
There are protocols in place for childcare to be done even now. Lord willing, by November 1st we’ll have a form of childcare available to aid parents of toddler and younger children.
- Continue growth groups and Bible studies
We believe that one of the essential ways the church cares for each other is by physical presence and hospitality in homes. This is something we’ve committed to do in our affirmations.
We’ve decided to handle this by allowing groups to decide how they meet. Though we’ve encouraged groups to meet outside - we understand cold and rain is coming. We are deferring to leaders to make these calls and communicate with their groups.
We are thankful for you, Grace Rancho. Let’s “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13).