April 1, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,

Another week has gone by and it is clear that we are entering into a strong upward curve in the number of COVID-19 cases here in the United States. People in positions of authority are telling us this will likely be a challenging set of weeks ahead. I remain hopeful that a turning point is not too far down the road but I am very eager that we remain firmly grounded in God and in his good purposes during these days.  His faithfulness is as reliable as the rising sun so make it a point to thank him every morning for his steadfast love for a new day.

I want to share with you a bit about being a church together when we’re not regularly gathering together.  We’ve encouraged you to “engage with the body” but how do we do that when we’re all sheltering at home?  Especially, how do we do the things we would normally do together?  I’m not going to try to cover everything here but let me share about four different things.

Rhythms of Worship and Family Life

Over the past three weeks we’ve encouraged you to set aside some time and plug into the website on Sunday morning to watch videos to be led in worship and to hear a message from God’s Word.  We all recognize it’s not the same as what we normally have on Sunday morning but I’ve been so encouraged by your responsive engagement.  We will continue to do that, or something very similar, until we can meet together in the building again.  I do think there is something good in all of us knowing that while we are watching those videos large numbers of our brothers and sisters in Christ from CrossWay are doing the same thing.

We also want to encourage you to continue to connect on a smaller scale. We desperately need community to live the Christian life well. God has designed a weekly large gathering for us all but his Word also encourages there to be a lot of “one-anothering” and that happens best on a smaller scale.  So maintain good connection with your Gospel Communities. Make that a regular, ideally weekly, rhythm.  If you are not in a Gospel Community and don’t have some other form of biblical fellowship take advantage of the opportunity to connect with others virtually.

Another very important part of family life is clear and consistent communication.  We will continue this rhythm of mid-week letters and Friday information updates via email.  Please do your best to keep current with them.

Giving

Many have asked about what to do about giving during these weeks when we are not gathering on Sundays.  Some are mailing their offering to the church office.  An increasing number of people are giving online. (See Friday’s email for further instructions on how best to do this).  I suspect that many are, in the spirit of I Corinthians 16:2, carefully setting aside their offerings for the day when we are together on Sunday again. We want you to know that we are not in any pinch financially. That is because of the faithful giving of this church body over the years. But we want to make sure we are faithfully supporting those to whom we have commitments, particularly our mission partners.  Also, in the months ahead, there will likely be needs for financial assistance in our own church family and we want to be in a position to help with those needs. So, we do want to encourage you to be faithful in this area of giving. Thank you for the faithfulness you have already so clearly demonstrated.

Communion

I have been asked if we will observe communion somehow during this time when we are apart. I found myself so encouraged by that question and I trust it reflects a longing in many of our hearts. Observing the Lord’s Supper together is such an important part of our life as a church family. At this point, my best sense is that we should take our cue from I Corinthians 11:17ff which instructs us that we should observe the Lord’s Supper “when we come together.” That time is to be such a clear visual reminder of our unity in the Lord that it calls for us to be there side-by side. One of the things I hope happens during this extended period of being apart is that we all find a renewed hunger growing in our hearts to be together around the Lord’s Table again. Think in terms of being with your family over a meal once again after having been away for an extended time. I am particularly eager for us to have communion together again on the first day we regather.

Praying Together

While I think we often take it for granted, one of the very important things we do when we come together is pray. We are led in prayer, we often pray with others and, hopefully, there is much prayer going on in our hearts throughout the time we are gathered. So how can we do this when we’re apart?  As your pastors we’ve been wondering about providing an opportunity to have some form of corporate prayer together. Right now we’re thinking about uniting that with a Good Friday online service. In preparation for that possibility we would like to encourage you to think about a time of focused prayer and fasting next Friday, April 10, which is Good Friday. We see in God’s Word that fasting has many possible purposes but unifying them all is an intentional focusing of our attention on God.  We should seek God every day, in good times and in challenging times. But any time something gets the entire world’s attention, like our current situation has done, is a time that should move us to seek God in a focused way.

I am very reluctant to interpret what is going on in our world as some direct act of God’s judgment. I am far more inclined to see our present situation as part of the mix of a world subjected to frustration and futility (Romans 8:18-22). Nonetheless, when something gets our attention like this it is good for us to very purposefully turn our attention to God, to do some self-assessment in light of his Word, to seek to align our lives with Him, to pray for unbelievers to turn to him, and to ask him for his mercy toward us all. One of the ways the Bible tells us to do that is through fasting and focused prayer.

We will speak more of this next week but for now we would like to call you to begin to prepare your heart for a time of fasting and prayer next Friday. Likely, what we will encourage you to do is plan to skip a meal or two on Friday and dedicate that time to praying and then join together online as a church Friday evening for a time of corporate prayer. We will give more instruction regarding this in next week’s mid-week letter.

Obviously there are more parts to our life together as a family than these. But would you carefully consider your engagement in each of these four areas. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for my church family these days. Strangely, God has given me a new depth of gratitude and love for you all during this time that I have not been with you. I know so many of you feel the same.

With great affection,

Pastor Mike (for all the elders and pastors)