We are very much in some “uncharted territory” right now. When I first heard about the ‘novel’ strain of corona virus that is now spreading around the globe, I didn’t pay much attention. When others began expressing their concerns of a pandemic, I thought they were overreacting. I felt that my mindset was justified when I saw reports of people foolishly hoarding supplies. I have now come to a place of recognizing that I’m not qualified to definitively say just how dangerous this virus is to our population. Some say we’re all overreacting, while others say we’ve not acted quickly enough. As a pastor, I feel a deep responsibility to protect those God has entrusted to me, both spiritually and physically.
Governor Asa Hutchinson has recently recommended that citizens of Arkansas abstain from gatherings of 50 or more, and President Trump has asked us to not even gather in groups of 10! It has also been suggested that anyone over the age of 60, those with weakened or compromised immune systems, and those displaying any symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home in a self-quarantine. This leaves every church in a point of making a tough decision.
Romans 13:1-2 states, “Let every person 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 judgment.” In our current situation, I have no reason to doubt that Governor Hutchinson or President Trump are making these requests in the best interest of the American people. Therefore, I believe we best honor God when we do not rebel against the strong recommendation of our government leaders. We will cancel all public gatherings of AWBC for the next two weeks.
This does not mean that our church will be dormant until April! In fact, I pray that this will be a time of spiritual growth for us. This can be an incredible opportunity for us to show the Love of Christ to one another and to our community. Here is an outline of Antioch West’s plan of action for the next two weeks:
- Family Worship
First, I am calling on our families, and especially our men, to step up and lead in times of family worship during this downtime. We often think we’ll get around to doing some very important things “when we get enough time.” We now have the opportunity to have enough time. Gather with your families to read Scriptures, sing or listen to Christian music, and pray together. Make this a daily priority. I praise God that we have mothers and fathers who have taught their children the love of Jesus at home. This is evidenced by the recent baptisms at AWBC. Let us use this opportunity to grow in this capacity.
- Strengthening Fellowship
While we won’t be gathering together for corporate worship or Bible study, we can still strengthen our fellowship! Take time to call and check on one another. Those over the age of 60 have been asked to stay away from public spaces as much as possible, but those who are able can offer to make grocery runs for them. We have several in our fellowship who were already treating various health problems; we should not forget to check in on them during these days. Please remember to check our Facebook prayer page for any requests your brothers and sisters in Christ are requesting prayers for. If you have a need we could pray over, please let it be known.
- Wednesday & Sunday Services
We will still dedicate our normal service times to Bible study, prayer, and worship. We will make use of Facebook Live for these events. Wednesday Nights, our regular youth and adult studies at the church will be cancelled. However, we will go live at 6:30 with a mid-week Bible study. Everyone is invited to join in from home. During this time we will give an overview of the prayer requests mentioned in our Facebook prayer page.
Our Baptist Publishing House is offering a Sunday School Live Stream at 10:00 Sunday morning. Those using the BMA literature will be able to follow along with the same lesson that was already scheduled for this coming Sunday morning. We will have a link to this on our Facebook page.
We will stream a Sunday morning worship service at 11:00. We will still have a time of worship, prayer, and preaching. Our prayer requests that were sent in via the Facebook prayer page will once again be shared during this service. Is this as good as meeting in person? Absolutely not! Will it enable us to continue to grow in our knowledge and love of the Lord until the world returns to normal? Yes. I hope that you will all join us in worship on Sunday.
- Coffee With The Pastor
I had an idea shortly after coming to AWBC of filming a series of short videos called “Coffee With the Pastor”. The idea is that I’d share a favorite verse of Scripture and talk about that in a short devotional format. I could then film these short devotionals with the people of the church, letting them share some of their favorite scriptures. This would be a great way of letting our people get to know one another better. So far, I haven’t been able to make this work. I did film a few segments with our youth group during SOAR back in July, but the quality of the video and audio was not good enough to be able to use them. I’m going to try again over the next two weeks to initiate “Coffee With the Pastor” via Facebook. Do you wonder how I came up with that name? You’ll have to watch the first episode to find out!
- Church Connect Video
Our online videos are being offered in DVD format to help those without internet access stay connected to our worship services and other activities. To request a weekly copy of these videos, call Bro. Aaron (901-3421) or request a copy by mail (2709 Chaffin Ln, Magnolia AR 71753).
- Tithes and Offerings
We have had a few questions about what we should do about our tithes and offerings during this time. Please understand that many of our church expenses continue during this time even though we are not meeting together. Also, we support many ministries and missionaries through our regular tithes and offerings. Please continue to set aside funds for the Lord’s use as you always have. You can either bring them with you when we do meet again or mail them to the following address.
Antioch West Baptist Church
C/O Treasurer Arlis Palmer
PO Box 1049
Magnolia, AR 71754
This is all very new. I’ve never been in a situation quite like this, and neither have you. I do not like the idea of staying away from others for two weeks. I don’t like saying we’re not going to meet together during this time. My heart goes out to those who are no longer able to visit their loved ones in nursing homes and other long term care facilities. I am concerned for those who are losing income over this situation. Still, some say we’ve gone too far while others say we haven’t acted quickly enough. I don’t know how all this is going to play out in the long term. I just hope we are able to press on in a way that respects the admonitions of our elected officials, displays our love of one another, and glorifies our Lord above all else. Whatever we do, may it be done out of our desire to please our Lord, Whom we love, honor, and serve.