I feel like Captain Obvious here in mentioning that it has been another hard couple of weeks in the midst of a pretty terrible year. But I want to start off by saying that we are praying for you, we love you, and most importantly, Jesus loves you. I find great comfort in Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 . . . Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. It’s reassuring to know that Jesus is for each of us just what we need Him to be—in good times and bad.
We have had quite a few people asking what we are going to do for our in-person services over the next couple of weeks. For some, the decision of in-person worship is an easy one. For us, it has not been. The layers and implications are more complex and nuanced than ever. And this is intensified by the fact that our church family has members with deeply held, polar opposite views on the pandemic and the government’s efforts to control it.
After much prayer and counsel from the elders, staff, and community members, our leadership team has decided to go on-line only for the next two weeks. Our Sunday morning services will be at 9 and 11 on mstar.live in their current format. Since it takes about 25 people to put a service together, we’ve met our limit right there!
The health—spiritual and physical—of our people and community continues to be our top priority moving forward. Because an informed church is a healthy church, and because good communication is so important, and because this issue is not black and white but in the grey area, I’d like to share our thinking with you so you’ll know why we made this decision.
First, we believe at this time we are still being called to honor governing authorities as prescribed in Scripture (Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1-3, I Peter 2:13-15, Matthew 22:15-21, and Proverbs 24:21-22). This is a complicated issue because our own governing authorities are themselves under authority—that of the Constitution, and our unique and wonderful system of government allows for recourse. We believe we have a choice in this process.
We are choosing to take this opportunity to voluntarily submit to governing authorities whether we agree with them or not. Working through, wrestling with, and learning how to lay aside our preferences is an incredibly humbling and spiritually maturing process. Could it be that through this difficult refinement, we will be able to see more clearly our own selfishness, pride, insecurities, or fear? I know I have. And then . . . and then when we see it, we have an opportunity to repent and grow. And if this happens, look out because amazing things will be in store for us and for our church!
Yes, so much has been changed and it has been exhausting, but the essentials haven’t changed. We will continue to pray, sing, read and study Scripture, teach, share our faith, worship, and gather. We will do things differently for now, and maybe, just maybe, this is exactly what we need to do for Jesus to grow His church.
Some churches will be making different decisions than we have. Scripture does provide for not abiding by orders from governing authorities when faced with the choice of obeying God or man (Acts 5:29). These churches may feel that this is the case in our current context. We love them and respect their right to choose and the convictions of their conscience. We also remember that Jesus said the world would know He is who He said He is by the love His followers have for one another (John 13:35). That is our heart toward our fellow Christians, even in areas of disagreement. We pray that in all things, Jesus will be honored and disciples made.
Second, we are commanded to put others’ interests ahead of our own. Philippians 2:4 says, Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. In regards to the interests of others, COVID cases continue to rise in Marion country at a rate that is alarming many. Our own hospital nurses and administrators have recently encouraged us to remain cautious as they shared with me that some local hospitals could be maxed within a few weeks, which would cause all sorts of concerns for anyone in our community seeking medical attention. We take these concerns very seriously, and our concern for our church and community goes way beyond the virus. We are to care for the isolated, the disconnected, the depressed, the abused, and the suicidal—and we will do this with our whole hearts and with all the wisdom and compassion God gives as we run toward those who need the love and grace of Jesus .
The church continues to have incredible opportunities to reach people with the good news of Jesus and make disciples. Let’s not waste this opportunity with unnecessary arguing and fighting with members of the community or each other. For us, arguing about the virus could become more dangerous than the virus itself. Let’s commit to keeping kindness and unity regarding the decisions we both agree and disagree with. Morning Star has been through a lot over the years, and we know how to choose the way of Christ as we lead people to pursue a Jesus-first life. Let’s do it well!