August 26, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,

I think you will understand the weight I feel in writing this email.  Yes, I feel, as we all do, the dismay and sadness over what is happening in and to our city.  People’s lives have been forever changed.  Fires burning.  Businesses boarded up.  People having to evacuate their homes.  Most of us live here.  Many of us grew up here.  We love this place.  There is such a great weight of grief we feel over all that is happening.  But I am also feeling the weight of responsibility to speak and to provide some direction.  But what does one say?  What does one think one could possibly say in the face of this apparently uncontrolled civic unraveling?  It almost feels more appropriate for us to be on our faces with our mouths in the dust.

Yet, I know that any clarity we gain in our thinking and in our relating is going to be the product of careful, patient, and extended work that will rely on reasonable discourse.  I certainly don’t profess to have perfect understanding myself but I am burdened that we as Christians, and particularly that we as a church, reflect the heart and mind of God as we process what is going on in our community.  So, I want to share with you a few things that I’ve been thinking and I’m praying that they will be helpful to you.

1.  We must insist that our own thinking and acting will be shaped by the truths and values presented in God’s Word.  We must be committed, in our own thinking, to the truth and reality that all people, every single human being, is created by God in His image and therefore has eternal value and has an eternal future at stake every day.  And, as a result of that, we have a responsibility before God toward every individual we encounter no matter who they are.  And we must be committed, in our own thinking, to the truth and reality that sin is pervasive in the human heart and produces all kinds of evil and senselessness.  And we must especially be committed, in our own thinking, to the truth and reality that only in Jesus Christ is there any real redemption, both for individual human beings and for the human race.  These are fundamental truths and realities that cannot be compromised by pressure from any direction.  We must be grounded in biblical truth and we must apply biblical truth to every single facet of life.

2.  We must not give up on reasonableness and the importance of getting to the truth of the matter.  One of the most distressing things about what takes place in the midst of these crises is the reductionism that can happen and is so evidently happening.  Things are overly simplified and we can rush to judgments.  We may think, “Why seven shots?”  We may think, “Why didn’t he just stop and turn around?”  There are many factors in a shooting incident like what has happened here, factors that exist on multiple levels.  All those factors need to be taken into consideration and given their proper weight.  Each of us knows the temptation to take a complicated situation and simplify it until it tells the story we want it to tell.  We highlight certain details and dismiss others.  But as Christians we are committed to truth.  The whole picture must be taken into account giving each part the weight it deserves, and that takes time and careful consideration.  The quickness to draw conclusions and to assign blame without due process does not help to move toward lasting solutions.  Reasonable discourse will require great patience and humility.  It will require people actually responding to truth and adjusting their thinking.  But this is what will bear the fruit of rightness and peace, and when I see it actually happening, in myself and in others, it gives me such hope.

Along these lines I believe it is important for us to exercise a wise discernment in our judging of other people.  There are those who are seeking to be heard, trying to communicate that their situation is hard and has been hard.  I’m speaking here of African-Americans who are asking us to listen.  Based on who I am or my life experience I might be tempted to be dismissive but that is something we absolutely cannot do.  There are things being said by them that we need to hear and consider.  Room must be given for voices to be heard and for peaceful protest to be voiced.  Think of our own history, both religious and national, and the right protestations that have been made in the face of wrong and the good that has come of that protest.  But then, totally apart from the legitimate desire to be heard on the part of some, the wanton burning and destruction, as well as the taking of justice into one’s own hands, cannot be condoned.  It is wrong and it is senseless and that wrongfulness and senselessness must be named.

3We must actively pursue explicitly Christian virtue.  I heard a friend say recently when commenting on what is happening in our city, “Most news we get we can’t do much about, but this is happening in our town and we can play a role.”  There are, and will be, opportunities for us to serve and to very concretely reach out to and care for others around us.  That could take a hundred shapes.  It could be volunteering to help clean up when that time comes.  It could be simply reaching out with some expression of concern and solidarity to someone you know who has been particularly affected.  It could be getting on your knees and purposefully praying for Jacob Blake and his family, for the police officers involved in the incident and their families, for our state and local leaders, for our police and firemen, for families displaced by the violence, for healing in our community.  All it requires is a heart of love and some attention.  Pray that God would open our eyes and give us hearts of compassion and readiness. 

And as I think about Christian virtue I think about how we speak—both directly and on social media.  It is so easy to voice our opinions and the effect of our words can be so harmful.  Yet, thank God, the effect of our words can also be so helpful.  There is a right time and a right place and a right way to speak.  Let us purpose to speak not just civilly, but with words that are full of grace, apt, and edifying.

4We must not, under any circumstance in this life, lose hope.  God has made great promises both for this life and the next.  Yet, I can feel weary and discouraged at times.  I have felt a deep sadness these days.  Tears well up at times.  This is my hometown. I hesitate a bit to share this with you.  My purpose is not to draw focus to myself or to garner pity.  I simply am communicating my sadness over the persistence and the devastation of sin.  It makes me long for heaven.  It really does.  I want to be faithful here, all the way through.  I want that for all of us.  But I have put my hope in the promise that all will be well someday.  The prophet Isaiah said, “Tell the righteous it shall be well with them” (3:10).  Or, I think of that passage many of us have known from our youth in John 14—“Let not your hearts be troubled . . . I go to prepare a place for you and I will come again and will take you to myself that where I am you may be also.”  So many times this promise gets spoken in our Bibles and there is no question that God does that for a reason.  He wants us to hear it and believe it and he knows that in this world we will have great need to know it and believe it.  How we long for that day!  How our hearts should long for that time when there will be no more strife or tension or sin of any kind.  So, I want to say to you, “Christian, it shall be well with you.”  Do not put your hope in this world—in politicians, governments, material security, your own wisdom or wealth or strength.  Put your hope in God.  And set your hope on things above.  Yes, in this world labor to think and live rightly for God’s glory now and for the good of those around us.  But set your hope out ahead.  God has promised.  You will not be disappointed.  We all know that in this world there will be grievous things but we should never lose hope. 

There are more things I want to say, specifically about the content of the issues facing us—issues of racial tension and justice—and the unique perspective and promise of the Gospel.  Those we will address in opportunities in the coming weeks.  For now it is these things I’ve shared that are on my heart and as your pastor I wanted to share them with you and ask you to consider them and to present your own heart before God after the manner of David in Psalm 139:  “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

With both trepidation and confidence, and with much love,

Pastor Mike


August 25, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,

I woke up yesterday morning and heard the news and my heart sank, as I’m sure did yours.  I just instinctively cried out in my heart, “O, Lord, not more!  We’re already dealing with so much heavy stuff.”

I was deeply grieved by what I saw.  I was deeply grieved for the irrevocable consequences in people’s lives.  And throughout the day I was grieved by the quickness and depth of the polarization between two sides.  Again.

We will not likely know the full story of what happened on Sunday evening between Jacob Blake and the Kenosha police officers until the Department of Justice’s report is given but not having the full picture doesn’t stop us from grieving over what has happened and what continues to happen in our city.

I’ve found myself praying throughout the day yesterday and again today, “O Lord, help Christians throughout our community to speak and act in a way that glorifies you and puts you on display for others to see.  Help us to be salt and light in the midst of all that is going on.”  I do not want us as Christians to lose one ounce of our hope and my prayer is that others will see it.

As Christians we want to both think well and act well in the midst of this crisis.  I want to try to speak to this more fully in a longer email tomorrow, in a focused message on Sunday morning, and in already scheduled meetings in the days immediately ahead.  We are already investigating ways we as a church might be able to serve our city and we will keep you posted as those opportunities become clearer.  For now, please pray.  Pray for our community.  Pray for peace.  And please pray for us as pastors and elders as we seek to navigate and lead our church.

I will do my best to send out a longer email tomorrow.  We just thought it would be good to at least send a brief word today—to make contact, to call us to pray, and to encourage us to stay grounded in the only thing that doesn’t move, our unshakeable Rock and Redeemer.

With both sorrow and hope in my heart,

Pastor Mike (for all the pastors and elders) 


June 24, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,

What a joy it was to begin regathering this past Sunday! To be together, even with some of the limitations we faced, was deeply encouraging. To see one another, and hear one another, and sense one another near is a big part of why God calls us to this rhythm of gathering. And we heard from those who were not able to be present that there was a sense of feeling connected with those who had gathered through the video recording. As I reflect back on this past Sunday, I find myself so very grateful for the people that God has formed together as CrossWay Community Church.

We do want to continue to move forward, step by step, toward greater and greater normalcy. We learned some things this past week that will help us take another step or two in that direction. We will continue to need your help, so let me say once again, thank you for both your patience and your eagerness. I believe both of those are pleasing to the Lord.

If you’re planning to join us in person this Sunday, please remember to RSVP to let us know which service you’ll be attending. And if this will be your first Sunday back, please watch this video to orient you to some of the changes you’ll notice.

For those who are continuing to worship from home, we are happy to say that after a successful test run this past Sunday, we will now be livestreaming the second service each Sunday at 9:45am. Though the livestream may not be a permanent part of our life as a church, we hope that for right now it will serve those who want to be here on Sundays but for one reason or another are not yet able to regather. You will be able to access the livestream from the homepage of our website. We will be thinking of you as we gather and will be glad to know that you’re at home singing and praying and listening to God’s Word right along with us. Even during this time when we’re not all together, we are one body, and happily so. If you are not able to join us online at 9:45am, the recording will be available later in the day on our sermons page, along with our usual sermon application questions.

We give thanks to God for you, CrossWay, and we can’t wait to be with you again this Sunday.

With much love,

Pastor Mike and Pastor Brett (for all the pastors and elders)

June 17, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,

“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” (Psalm 122:1)

We hope there is something in your hearts this week like what the psalmist expresses here—a gladness in anticipating gathering with God’s people. The Bible tells us that we, the church, are God’s living temple, “a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). When we gather, God himself is among us—and that is something to look forward to with great gladness. It has been more than three months since we experienced the fullness of that reality, and even though this Sunday won’t be exactly like what we remember from early March, we can expect God to wonderfully meet us as we come together.

If you haven’t already RSVP’d to let us know which service you’re planning to come to, please do that here. We’ve been working to maximize the seating of our auditorium (while keeping 6-foot distancing), and we’ve been able to open more seats for both the 8:00am and 9:45am services.

And if you’re not planning to join us this weekend, please know that you are loved and will be missed as we gather together. We eagerly look forward to the time when everyone is able to regather. One of the services will be recorded so you can participate from home, and you can look for more details on that in our regular Friday email.

If you’re coming, we want to orient you to how Sunday morning will look. Please plan to come 10-20 minutes before the service begins. We want to avoid a mad rush through the front doors right as the service begins. Please come through the north lobby doors, the doors closer to the restrooms. As you come in, there will be hand sanitizer available, and you’ll be able to pick up a mask if you’re not bringing your own. We’ll have both disposable masks and cloth masks you can take home and reuse. You’ll also see boxes where you can deposit your offering—we won’t be passing baskets. As you enter the auditorium, please look for a group of seats that fits your family size. Greeters will be there to assist you.

Once you’re seated, you can take off your masks. We’ll let you know when to put them back on. We’ll be singing (as we’re all excited to do), but we’ll be singing less than we’re used to and raising our voices to God in other ways, like reading Scripture aloud together.  At the end of the service, one of our greeters will dismiss you, and you’ll exit through the south doors into the lobby, nearer the kids ministry wing. From there you can head outside, where you should feel free to take off your masks (if you’re comfortable) and catch up with brothers and sisters you haven’t seen in months. We know this can sound like a lot, but we want to serve you by preparing you as best we can.

Those are the practical items you need to know, but there’s another side to this we want to call your attention to. This regathering presents many opportunities to show love by being mindful of one another, by in humility thinking of others rather than thinking of ourselves. If your group has three people, you might be tempted to take a group of five seats a little closer to the front—but please leave those for a family of five. In the absence of nursery and children’s classes, children will be in the service, and there will be an opportunity for us to love them and their parents by extending them grace (and a smile) when they’re a little restless or noisy, rather than being annoyed. At the same time, parents, please be mindful of those around you, and make use (if you need to) of Rooms 101 and 103, which will be set up to serve families with kids who need a little room to move around and will have audio of the service. You may have a friend you know is coming alone on Sunday—if both you and they are comfortable, invite them to sit with you. You might have friends you know will be worshiping from home; maybe send them a quick text message before the service to let them know you’re thinking of them. You might be sitting in a different part of the auditorium than usual, and you might not know the people sitting around you—make the first move and introduce yourself, and through getting to know them seek to communicate the love and welcome of God.

This Sunday we will gather as the dwelling place of God by his Spirit. What a marvel. It has always been true, but there’s an additional sweetness after being apart for so long. Let’s be in prayer for God to bless our gathering, to accomplish his good work through his Word, and to draw us closer to him.

See you Sunday.

With great affection,

Pastor Brett and Pastor Mike (for all the pastors and elders)

June 11, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,

There are two things I want to talk with you about in this letter. One is an issue that we, as a country, have been made much aware of in recent weeks. The other is the practical matter of our regathering as a church.

There is both a need, and a growing desire on my part, to think carefully together and to speak carefully together about the issue of racial tension and what responsibility Christians bear to help alleviate it and how this all relates to the Gospel that we treasure and want to protect.

I find myself increasingly wanting to address this for three reasons. The most immediate reason is that I am aware of the effect the current situation is having on many of us in the church. We are weighed down by this and grieving and wondering how to think and act, and in some cases, wondering if the church sees and hears. So I have a purely pastoral concern to care for those particularly affected and I want us as a church to be really good at bearing one another’s burdens.

A second reason I want to speak to this issue is because of the theological significance of the issue itself. We love to talk about Gospel-centrality here at CrossWay. We believe the Gospel is in fact central to the entirety of our lives as Christians. In other words, we believe the Gospel is connected to everything. And if the Gospel is going to have a functioning centrality in our lives we need to understand exactly how it relates to the significant matters in our lives, like how we spend our money, and how we parent our children, and how we relate to our spouses, and how we engage in entertainment, and how we use social media, and how we think about and relate to people who have a different skin color. The Gospel we’ve experienced as Christians is a gospel of peace, peace with God that then makes us people who are eager to be at peace with people, and eager for justice for all.

A third reason I feel a desire to address this is that as I become aware of how people are speaking and thinking I regularly observe some basic mistakes and confusions in how we are conducting our conversations. I’m convinced that getting clarity on a handful of issues of communication and reasoning would go a long way in helping us talk productively about this very weighty and significant issue. I am not, by any means, suggesting that I perfectly understand everything related to this, or that my reasoning is always flawless, but I do want to help us engage well with the issue and with one another.

So, I am planning, sometime in the near future, likely in the venue of a Friday Forum, to address the issue of “Racial Reconciliation and the Gospel.”  Stay tuned for more details and please pray that God would give me unusual wisdom as I, along with the elders, seek to lead us in this important area.


Now, to matters of our regathering. In exactly ten days we will begin to regather as a church. While there is a good and natural excitement we feel about this, our regathering is not going to be without its challenges. And while the obvious challenges are the ones having to do with logistics, the more significant challenges are the ones having to do with our hearts.

We all have opinions on how this should happen. From a purely mathematical perspective, most of us will be in some way bothered by the inconvenience or irritation of some of the precautions we are asking all to take. Every one of us is going to need to exercise a set of fundamental Christian virtues.  Ephesians 4:2-3 comes to mind:  “. . . with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” May I, as your pastor, ask you to please be purposeful to not set your personal preferences above your commitment to the unity and the life of our church. Every one of us needs to be, not just willing, but actively ready to lay down preferences, even in some cases, our strongly held personal opinions, in favor of far more important Christian values. And let us not pass judgment on one another. A careful rereading of Romans 14 might help us all here.

The elders are not, by any means, thinking we’ve got everything figured out just perfectly but we are asking for you to participate in a certain course of action that reflects our best understanding as a whole at this point. Despite some difference of opinion amongst us, we have chosen to be unified in recommending this course of action and we are humbly asking you to follow our lead. 

We will do our best to give clear instructions. We’ll spell them out in these upcoming days. It will require all of us to stay plugged in so please keep a lookout for communication coming from us. And we will continue to do our best to care for every single member of this church family.

I am so looking forward to seeing you again soon!

With much love,

Pastor Mike (for all the pastors and elders)

P.S.  If you have not yet responded to the survey that was sent out yesterday please do so HERE.

June 3, 2020

 
Dear CrossWay Family,

We watch the news, in some cases we look out our windows, and it can seem like the world is falling apart. My original intention for this letter was to give more detailed information regarding our reopening as a church and I will still do that, but to speak only of that when our nation is occupied as it is would be myopic at best, and more likely, a sign of a kind of blindness.

We are all deeply grieved by what happened in Minneapolis last week—the life of a man ended by the deliberate and wrongful action of another man whose job it was to protect against the very kind of thing he did. And we are also all deeply grieved by the subsequent senseless destruction and stealing. For me, some of the saddest parts of all of this are the effect on the vast majority of African-Americans in our country who are faithful citizens who will have to live with the constant shadow of this incident, and what it represents, over their lives for the foreseeable future, and the effect on the vast majority of police officers who do their work faithfully, and carefully, and well, day after day—we owe them our gratitude—and who are now faced with the task of rebuilding trust once again. And overshadowing both of these sad effects is the ongoing racial tension that exists in our country. It can feel like this issue will never go away. And yet we know that is not true. And so we pray, “Lord, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” And we pray, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

There are families that are grieving both loss and a sense of injustice today. We should pray for them, that they might turn to Christ and find the comfort only he can give. And we should pray that justice is carried out. There are business and property owners who are devastated today.  We should pray for them, that they might turn to Christ and find real peace in the midst of their loss. And again, that justice is carried out. There are those who are hired to protect the peace of our communities, several of them in our own church family, who are dealing with situations of unusual tension. We should pray for them, that they would faithfully do their work without inordinate fear. There are leaders—community, state, national—who are in very difficult places of decision and communication. We should pray for them, that they would stand unswervingly for truth and that they would act based on truth. There is a nation, a world for that matter, in ongoing unrest and alienation from God. We should pray for it, that those, of any race, who hate and are bitter would turn from hostility and embrace Christ who alone can bring any real healing.

And while this is all happening around us, our little church family continues to look forward to being together again. And the world as it is makes us want that all the more. So we need to speak about plans and practical matters if we are going to move wisely and rightly toward regathering.

As I mentioned in this past Sunday’s video message, we are currently aiming to begin regathering as a church family on June 21. That is our target. It is not a stake in the ground. It’s a target, but it’s a real target. The reason why we’re aiming out a few weeks is that we want enough time to do this well, putting in place all the procedures for this adjusted reality and making sure we can communicate effectively. We want to continue to watch a few key health metrics to ensure that trends continue to indicate that we can responsibly resume gathering. Specifically, we want to make sure that the percentage of positive tests in Kenosha County continues its downward trend. If we begin to see indicators that it is unwise to resume gathering we are willing to push back our first gathering.

Some may wonder why we’re gathering while the county health department is still recommending smaller gatherings. We value the work the health department is doing and we have benefitted from the guidelines they have put together. We do not intend our decision to communicate that we are not taking seriously the present risk to public health. At the same time, it is important to remember that the health department has one main responsibility—to guard public health. We feel a responsibility for that as well, which is why we are seeking to minimize risk as best we can (more on that in a moment), but we also have a responsibility to cultivate the spiritual well-being of the people of CrossWay, and Sunday gatherings are an important part of that. We plan to honor the county guidelines but not let them be the sole determiner of our way forward. After praying, discussing, consulting with health guidelines and medical professionals, we believe we can responsibly move forward with certain key precautions.

So, what will our regathering look like? We haven’t decided yet whether we’ll have two or three services but we’ll decide that based on the need to accommodate six-foot spacing between households. Clearly our gatherings will be somewhat smaller. The services will likely be a little shorter. There will need to be some sort of RSVP system to make sure the services are balanced well. There will not be children’s ministry. We recognize this will create some challenge for families but we will do everything we can to ease that. At this point our best sense is that we will ask that everyone wear a mask, though there may be times when we’re all seated that they can be removed. As the situation improves, and these precautions are no longer necessary, we will gladly set them aside. Our desire is to gather on Sundays as normally as possible as soon as it is wise to do so.

We will be sending more concrete guidelines as our regathering gets closer but we want to give you a realistic sense of what it will be like so you can plan. We know that some will feel these precautions are inconvenient and unnecessary, but this is a concrete way we can communicate to one another that the good and unity of the whole body is more important that any one person’s sense of what is reasonable. It might be helpful to know, there were differences on some of these matters among the elders but we are unified in our moving forward.

If you are unable or unready to physically join together on June 21, please do not feel any undue pressure.  We will continue to provide a way for you to engage via video with the Sunday morning service and we will continue to work hard to stay connected and to communicate in every way that we can that you are a highly valued part of our church family.

Please keep in mind that, even though we are excited to be making plans and moving forward, we need to be ready for the possibility that things could change. There is new information every week and we will continue to pay attention as we look forward to June 21.

You have been patient. We have tried to be faithful. We know God has been absolutely faithful. Let’s move forward, as we always should, entrusting ourselves to his sovereign and tender care.

With deep gratitude and joy in the privilege of being your pastors,

Pastor Mike (for all the pastors and elders)
                                                                                                                                     

May 27, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,   

                                                                   
One of my favorite persons in the Bible is Samuel. As a boy I loved the story of Samuel as a boy, especially that time when he first heard God speaking to him and, after receiving some wise counsel from Eli, responded by saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (I Samuel 3). But as I’ve gotten older I have come more to love the character, the actions, and the commitments of the man. 

Samuel was, among other things, a man devoted to prayer. I think that is captured powerfully in his words to the people of Israel: “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way” (I Samuel 12:23).

I am deeply aware of what feels to me like the weakness of my prayer life. But I want you to know that I am absolutely committed to praying for you. Every morning, after praying carefully for my family and for the events of the coming day, insofar as I know them, I spend some time praying for you, the people who are CrossWay Community Church. I pray for a wide variety of things, depending on circumstances and on what God is laying on my heart, but it often comes down to this: “Lord, protect them, provide for them, guide them, and surround them with your favor.” I feel both a deep sense of responsibility to do this, and a deep sense of privilege in doing it. And I am not alone. One of the most important things we do as pastors and elders when we meet, perhaps the most important, is pray for you. As pastors and elders we together carry a burden for you and one of the main ways we carry it is by praying.

But we also need your prayers. In fact, my main reason for writing this letter is to ask you for your prayers. Tomorrow evening we will be in very focused discussion and deliberation about the timing and manner of our reopening for our Sunday public worship and for the other gathering points of our church body. I’m sure you are aware of some of the things that are in tension and some of the things we will need to weigh. It could go without saying, but we will need much wisdom. We know from the book of James that God is ready and eager to give wisdom to those who need it but it is no insignificant thing that James tells us to ask. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). We will certainly be asking for that as we gather as elders. We’re asking you to ask with us.

The Psalms are full of reminders that God hears our prayers and that he delights to respond to our prayers.  He is, of course, not obligated by our often misguided requests. But in God’s mysterious ways, our prayers get factored into the working out of his will. So he invites us to pray.  And those prayers have meaning, and God delights in them.

So, will you pray. Pray throughout the day tomorrow. But then, tomorrow evening would you, maybe as a family before the evening meal, maybe on your own, pray for us. And then let’s together expect God’s protection, provision, guidance, and favor on our dear church.

We will be eager to communicate with you the outcome of our thinking. I hope to be able to do some of that, at least briefly, as soon as in this coming Sunday’s video message. But we will give a full update on where we are in next week’s letter.

We are grateful for both your patience with us and for your perseverance through these days. And let me encourage us all to be full of grace toward one another as we move forward. No matter what gets decided there will be members of our church family who disagree with or are disappointed in the decision. So let me encourage us, once again, to fully embrace the instructions of the opening verses of Ephesians 4. We can all move forward together in the confidence that what is talked about there is pleasing to God. In fact, what is found there would be good lines along which to pray.

With much love,

Pastor Mike (for all the pastors and elders)

May 20, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family, 

We know that many of you are wondering how recent changes to the state Safer-at-Home order will affect our life as a church. While our main agenda in this email is to give a particular encouragement to families, before we do that, I (Pastor Brett) want to give you a quick sketch of how we as a leadership team are processing last week’s events.

Although the Safer-at-Home order has been removed, local government and health officials have issued recommendations about how best to reopen Kenosha County in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Under the Kenosha County Kickstart, a draft of which was released on Friday, churches are encouraged to proceed through three phases as the county meets certain health criteria: in Phase One, gatherings should be limited to ten or fewer people; in Phase Two, fifty or fewer; for Phase Three the maximum size has not yet been set. The county is currently in Phase One.

We are working diligently to chart a way forward for CrossWay in light of these changes, and our desire is to do so using wisdom, love, and the careful application of Scripture. There are multiple values we want to hold firmly to as we think about when and how to begin gathering again. We love the grace God gives his people when they gather to sing, serve one another, and sit under his Word—we don’t want to neglect that grace by waiting too long to regather. At the same time, we value our corporate witness to our community and don’t want to jeopardize that by regathering too soon. We know that some in our congregation are very eager to gather, while others are reluctant or even medically unable, and we want to proceed in a way that prizes unity. We also want to guard as best we can the health of our church family and our neighbors. We know there is a way to do this well, to honor all these values, and we are seeking God’s guidance and help to find the way and walk in it.

The staff team has begun discussing how best to resume gathering, and we will give it close attention at our next elder meeting on May 28, after which we will give you an update on our thinking. Please be praying for us over the next few weeks. For now, we will continue to worship together virtually.

And now, I (Pastor Bruce) would like to offer a brief word of encouragement. This is specifically directed at parents with children in the home, but it applies broadly to us all.

Can I ask you a personal question? What one word best describes the current state of your heart? Do you have a word in mind? Is that word “weary?”

I was recently talking with a couple of CrossWay dads. Both were grateful that the COVID quarantine had resulted in more time together as a family. They each shared examples of sweet conversations with their kids, more time playing games as a family, and lingering over evening meals. Yet, both admitted there was a downside to all this family togetherness. Each had dealt with a significant discipline issue the day before. One dad described the state of his household this way, “Stress levels are up, arguments have increased, and everyone is in need of a little ‘social distancing’ from each other.” Can you relate? Does that sound like your home?

Over the years, the verse that’s probably strengthened me most in my own parenting is Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” While this passage is not specifically about parenting, there’s a principle here about trusting God and not growing weary that we need as dads and moms.

I like this verse because one of the great temptations of parents is to “grow weary of doing good.” The kind of weariness I have in mind is not as much physical as it is emotional. You see, when it comes to sin, our kids (like us!) are repeat offenders, which means we end up correcting them for the same things again and again. Over time, we begin to wonder if they are ever going to change, if our instruction and correction is having any effect. Perhaps, we wonder if we will ever change. Will we ever be free from our own anger, impatience or sarcasm? Emotional weariness sets in. We feel like giving up because we start to believe there will be no harvest, no good fruit from our labors.

But God tells us otherwise. God says, “In due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” There will be a harvest! God will use our efforts to accomplish his purposes in the lives of our kids. If I’m honest, often my goal for home and family is to be a place of peace and comfort for me. But God’s primary goal is growth, not my comfort. Dealing with discipline and correction, forgiveness and reconciliation, is tiring. These things feel like annoying interruptions, but in fact they are the very things God uses to grow us and our children!

The illustration of the farmer is helpful. It’s the farmer’s job to break up the soil and plant the seeds. At first, it looks like nothing is happening. But deep under the earth, God causes the seed to grow and the plants begin to inch their way upward. When they sprout, the farmer continues to tend the young plants, battling weeds and insects. God brings the sun and the rains and the growth. A joyful harvest comes at just the right time. 

As parents, we know our harvest will take a lot longer than the typical growing season. We don’t know when our “due season” will come. But we know “we will reap.” God is using our efforts in the lives of our children. The Holy Spirit is at work, even when we don’t see immediate results. You are not responsible for creating the good fruit. Your job is to sow and cultivate. Don’t give up! Keep on lovingly instructing and correcting, showing compassion, being quick to forgive. God is so patient with us. Let’s ask him for grace to be patient with our kids and with ourselves.

Where are you most tempted to give up because you haven’t seen good fruit from your efforts and prayers? Let me encourage you to memorize Galatians 6:9. Cry out to God in prayer. Ask him to strengthen your faith in the midst of trials. Affirm your trust in his ability to produce a harvest in the lives of your children. Let’s trust him to do his heart-work both in us and in our kids.

With deep affection,

Pastor Bruce and Pastor Brett (for all the pastors and elders)

May 13, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,   

                                                                   
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). 

For some reason, I have been very aware of the truth of that verse these past several weeks.  Maybe it has something to do with the different pace of these weeks. Maybe it’s just the coming of spring. Whatever the reason, I’ve noticed things more. The skies have been beautiful. The rains have been a blessing to the earth. Things are starting to bud and flower.  At one point, standing in my orchard yesterday, I saw a Cardinal, a Baltimore Oriole, an Orchard Oriole (how appropriate), and a Common Yellowthroat—all at once and all spectacularly beautiful birds! There has been a “fullness” it seems. It makes me think of another verse: “How manifold are thy works, O Lord! In wisdom you have made them all” (Psalm 104:24). Certainly, the world God made is full of beauty and I am so thankful he has given us eyes to see it.

Back at the beginning of January of this year, I sat down and wrote out some goals for the coming year. I try to do this every year. One of my goals for this year was to memorize a small handful of psalms. So the first thing I did was to begin to read through Psalms, slowly and carefully, looking for and noting particular psalms that I thought it might be good for me to commit to memory. I ended up with a list of twenty-four. Clearly that was more than I originally intended. So I went back over my list and chose my top dozen or so. I then sent that list to a friend with whom I’ve memorized Scripture before. We’ll pick one to get started and see how many we might do this year. I’ll be happy if I can hide two or three new psalms in my heart.

But reading through Psalms this way made me see again that there is a “fullness” to the Book of Psalms. And it’s not just the Psalms, of course. There is a fullness to God’s Word as a whole. The Old Testament books of history are full of God in all his majesty and providential care. I love the prayer of Moses: “Show me your ways, that I may know you” (Exodus 33:13). The Old Testament books of history show us God’s ways so that we might know him. The books of the prophets are full of God’s character—his love, and his justice, and his mercy, and his patience, all regularly put on full display. The Bible is full of the beauty and power of Jesus, most clearly in four beautifully rich Gospels where we encounter the fullness of a perfect life, a sacrificial death, and a glorious resurrection. There is a fullness of moral instruction in God’s Word, from clear life-saving commands, to the ethical guidance of Proverbs, to prophetic words of warning, to the apostolic and pastoral words in all the letters of Paul, Peter, John, James, Jude, and whoever wrote Hebrews. And it all ends with the brilliant, and highly charged, and wonderfully hope-giving book of Revelation. What a “fullness” we have in God’s Word! Each day, as I spend some time in God’s Word, I hold my Bible in my hands and my heart knows, “This Word is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”

Let me encourage you, sometime this week, to sit and quietly read Psalm 19 and meditate for a while on both the fullness of the world and the fullness of the Word. Sit quietly with your Bible and let the truths of this beautiful psalm sink deeply in. Sit quietly and read, and reread. And then pray and thank God for something. Let there be a fullness of gratitude to reflect the fullness of God’s making himself known to us. Enjoy a little time of communion with your God.

Let me close this letter with just a brief word regarding looking forward. I anticipate that there will be much to share with you in this regard in the coming weeks. We are right now watching closely the developments in our state government and are eager to see what steps it will take. We are hopeful that we might soon be able to take our own steps toward regathering as a church even though we know that will involve some new behaviors and some new patience on all our parts. We will keep you as current as we possibly can.  Know that we hold you in our hearts and in our prayers. We still feel so strongly knit to you and count it a joy to be your shepherds.

With great affection and eagerness,

Pastor Mike (for all the pastors and elders)

May 6, 2020

I’m sitting here at my desk looking out at a perfectly beautiful blue sky and wishing I was outside but, nonetheless, thanking God for his faithfulness that is both new and steady every day. I hope your heart is in a similar place.

We continue on in this strange season that is now approaching two months, but there are signals that we are moving toward a gradual reopening of more normal social, economic, and religious life. I’m sure that is producing an eagerness in every one of us.

In light of these signals, as a pastoral team we have begun to have conversations about what it might look like to begin gathering together again as a church family. We realize there are many pieces that we need to be thinking about with lots of details to be taken into consideration. But, perhaps most importantly, we realize that we probably all need to temper our expectations for what things are going to look like for a while once we are given the green light to reconvene. If you are like me, you’ve cherished this idea of us all being together on that first Sunday morning, exactly like we were before the coronavirus hit—warmly greeting one another, singing our hearts out together, observing the Lord’s Supper as one body, and just enjoying all being in the same place after being apart for so long. It’s been hard for me to let that go, but I need to. We all need to. The fact is things will be different for some time. There will be some things we can’t do. There will be some things we need to do differently. There will be some awkwardness. There will be some disappointment. I believe it’s important that we begin to absorb that reality now. 

I want to walk through three steps in this letter. First, let me share with you what we know. Second, I’ll share with you some of our thoughts at this point. Then, third, let me just call all of us to a certain, I trust, God-pleasing way to be thinking about this.

What We Know at This Point

As part of our processing as a pastoral team we’ve been trying to familiarize ourselves with and keep current on the Badger Bounce Back, which is our state’s guidance on reopening the economy and society. It lays out three phases. In Phase 1, groups of ten or fewer people can gather, provided they maintain the required distancing. In Phase 2, groups of fifty or fewer people can gather, provided they maintain the required distancing. That would enable us to restart several of our smaller regular meetings, most of which happen mid-week. In Phase 3, groups of any number may gather without any requirement of distancing. Each of these phases requires the meeting of certain criteria, and we have no way of knowing how quickly the state will meet the criteria for each phase. Obviously that limits our ability to make firm decisions about the time or manner in which we’ll be able to resume our Sunday morning gatherings.

Some of Our Current Thinking as a Pastoral Team

We are beginning to think about all sorts of things—children’s ministry, observing Communion in a new way, receiving our offerings, bathroom use, greeting—the list of things that need to be considered is long. But the main thing we are thinking about is when will be the right time to regather that will get us together as soon as possible but will honor and protect the unity of our church family. I love the clear and straightforward instruction of Ephesians 4:3—“[be] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  There will be two opposing pressures here. We are all eager to be back together as soon as possible, but, the fact is, not all of us will be able to be back together at the same time. So what’s the right time? I confess, there is a part of me that doesn’t want to regather until all of us can regather. I so want that to be a time of joyous celebration for us all, and not a time of caution. But that is simply not realistic. So we need to find the right balance between freedom and wisdom.

The reality is, the first time you worship again at CrossWay there will be significantly fewer people here than you’re used to. Chairs will be spread out further. You probably won’t be able to give hugs or handshakes. We will have to be more intentional and measured about seating and dismissing. Kid’s ministry may not resume at the same time our large gathering does. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper will be different.

One thing we do recognize is that there will be a group within our church family for whom regathering will take longer. We want, as a church, to care for them well. We want, as I shared earlier, to do everything we can to maintain the unity of our church body. One of the ways we will serve this group is by continuing to make available some form of video of our Sunday morning worship and teaching. We certainly don’t want that to be an excuse for people to not come who can, but we do want to care well for those who, for whatever reason, are not able to be with us.

How I Hope We Will All Think About This

I think the virtues of the day will be patience and graciousness.  What an opportunity we will have to really love one another!   Some will naturally be more cautious. Some will naturally be more relaxed.  Let’s all consider one another. Let’s be eager to do good to one another. Let’s refrain from all uncharitable judgment.  Just think of how pleasing to God it will be if when we move into and through this time of regathering we are purposefully “looking to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). It would not be good if in our rush to reconvene we unnecessarily jeopardize even one person’s health. Far worse, if in our rush to reconvene we jeopardize the unity of our body.

One other thing in this regard. Let’s not be so focused on regathering that we miss what God is doing in our lives right now. There are many things God is likely doing throughout our church family during these days but there is one thing I’m sure he is doing – highlighting the importance of attending to our spiritual lives. So, may I urge you to listen to God’s Spirit. Spend some time each day focusing closely on your life in God, especially by hearing from his Word. And make it your aim each day to please the Lord. Desire to hear his voice at the end of each day saying to you, “Well done today.”

We are diligently preparing for the days when we can be together again so that when they arrive we’re ready with wisdom and with care. We hope it is not too much longer. We are fully confident in God’s promise to provide wisdom. We trust you are as well. Please continue to pray for us.  And pray for one another—for both physical and spiritual health.

We love you dearly,

Pastor Mike (for all the pastors and elders)

Coronavirus Updates

April 29, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,

All of us have been largely focused on our local and national situation for the last eight weeks. But just as the coronavirus has upended our daily lives, it has also changed life and ministry for every one of our Mission Partners. As we have had contact, it has been eye-opening hearing about the various conditions they are facing. At the same time we have been encouraged by their Christ-like examples. Let us share just a few stories.

Philippines – Arcy Caampued and her son, Paul, serve with the Pastoral Training Center (PTC) and its team of about ten pastors who normally travel the country teaching other pastors in grassroots communities who have no access to formal training. Not being able to travel right now, they focused on serving their congregations and community. Many in the surrounding villages are day laborers, living on what they make each day. With a general stay-at-home order in effect, many families were quickly running out of food. The PTC team quickly organized a “rice relief” plan, giving away rice stores the PTC had on hand. When the PTC rice reserves were running out, a CrossWay member started a social media fundraiser to buy more rice and allow the relief to continue. Their service to  the vulnerable in their community with their time and possessions is a great display of the generosity of Christ.

Albania – A similar story is unfolding with our Mission Partners in Albania where the quarantine is quite strict. Citizens must get approval from the government even to go to the grocery store. Travel by car is highly restricted. Jeff and Meredith realized their community needed help with food. With some funds from supporters like CrossWay they are helping their local church set up a food bank to meet the need.  They also saw that some church members cannot afford a data plan to watch the church’s livestreamed worship service. Our Partners are setting up a way to fund those families and bring the church together. Expressing need and receiving help is very counter-cultural there. They see the Lord breaking down walls and building loving connections in the church through this difficult time.

North Africa – Our Partners reported whole clinics being shut down and lots of doctors being in quarantine as the virus spread in their country. Borders were closed, yet their visa required them to exit the county to be officially renewed this month. After talking with friends and ministry associates for counsel, they decided to get a last-minute State Department flight back to the US. With kids in tow they endured 19 hours of travel by airplane, drove a car from Washington DC, and fulfilled their 14-day quarantine in the Midwest. Grandparents greeted them from the windows and brought them groceries. Interestingly, having church in the living room has been a normal routine of theirs for several years, regularly listening to our recorded sermons. Now they are overjoyed to have video too! As good as it is in some ways to be in the US, they long to return to their spiritual family and community in North Africa.

Our Mission Partners are asking for our prayers too:

Kenya – Online church is not an option for many churches and church members in Kenya. Many families are struggling financially without work. Paul and Rhoda Mbandi asked us to pray Psalm 91 with them for their vulnerable country. Enoch and Virginia Okode reminded us of Romans 12:12 “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer”.  They asked us to pray for their trust in God and for the ongoing health of Scott Christian University where they teach.

Brazil – The Salvianos asked prayer for Nelson’s wife, Marcia, and daughter, Camila, who both work at a hospital. There is much work to do, and they request our prayers for their health and safety.

Montreal, Parkside, Lebanon, Virginia, Budapest, Asia, NYC, Papua New Guinea, Madison, Strasbourg, Missourithe Middle East – Each one has an interesting story to tell. Each is facing various troubles and seeing new opportunities for the gospel in their communities.  From college students to a New Guinea tribe to French Canadians, let’s pray that God would open hearts to the good news of Jesus in a fresh way.  Could we challenge each one of you to adopt one Mission Partner or Grant Partner and pray faithfully for them and their ministry in the month of May?

One other thing we want to share with you.  In recent days we’ve heard much in the news about various states beginning to “re-open.”  Our Governor’s current orders have our state continuing in a “safer-at-home” mode until May 26.  There is a possibility that could change in either direction, but in any case we need to be thinking about what it will look like when we are able to gather again. The “re-opening” will happen in stages and there will still need to be certain practices in place for a time so we’ll need to think through matters of distancing and size of gatherings.  There will be a host of smaller things we’ll need to consider as well, like communion, greeting, passing offering plates, how children’s ministry will happen, what about other mid-week gatherings, etc.  At this point we simply want you to know that the pastors and elders are giving focused attention to these questions.  Although it will necessarily be provisional, we plan to share with you the current status of our thinking and planning in next week’s letter.  We want to care for you well and we know this is very much on all of our minds.

We continue to pray for the peace of Christ to rule in all of our hearts.

With great affection,

Pastor Mike and Pastor Steve (for all the pastors and elders)

April 22, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,

With the “Safer-at-Home” orders extended and the immediate future uncertain it is going to be easy for us in these coming weeks to grow impatient or worried or even angry. I’m finding that this situation is testing us all in one way or another. Some are dealing with loneliness. Some are dealing with fatigue.  Some are dealing with discouragement. Some are dealing with temptations in increased ways. Some are dealing with job reduction or loss. Some are dealing with the sadness of missing graduations and spring sports and friends. All of us, I’m pretty sure, are dealing with frustration at some level. We are all discovering there are some bright sides to all this but there is no doubt that this ongoing situation is testing us all in one way or another. And what can add to the challenge is when there are differences of perspective and opinion on decisions being made and how things are being handled. This presents a temptation for us all.

I’m really glad the Bible talks about times like this. It’s one of the things I appreciate most about God’s Word—its realism. Among the many things the Bible says about times of testing there are two that I want to focus on here.

First, the Bible talks about times of testing as producing really good things in us. James has the nerve to say, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3-4). That catches my interest. Or, I think about what Paul says in Romans 5—“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (vv. 3-4) which are things I really want to characterize my life. And I’d love for endurance, character, and hope to characterize our church as well.

So, times of testing, like what we are in right now, produce good things in us. Hasn’t God promised as much?  In all things God is working for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). I know we can reference that verse a lot but it still means what it says.

There is a second thing the Bible says about testing that is good for us to remember. Times of testing call for the exercise of specific Christian virtues. And these virtues can be especially needed when the differences of opinion I mentioned earlier arise. I’m thinking of specifically Christ-like virtues like kindness (I Corinthians 13:4), and forbearance (Ephesians 4:2), and courtesy (Titus 3:2), and self-restraint (Proverbs 18:2 and Titus 3:2 again), and honor (I Peter 2:17). These virtues need to be directed toward our governing officials, whether we voted for them or not. But I am especially eager that these virtues be directed toward one another in our church family.

One of the things I love about real Christianity is that it is endlessly interesting. There are few formulas.  Living the Christian life calls for the exercise of wisdom and virtue in the moment. So let us pursue wisdom and virtue and let us pursue them on purpose, and with our whole hearts. We will need to do this in our interactions with each other but, I think we all know, the real battle is in our hearts. So let us not indulge in rancor in our hearts and then try to have a pleasing exterior. This is a time to diligently guard our hearts! We want to be very careful because we all know that our natures are such that it is very difficult for there to be an experience of disagreement without some strain being introduced into relationship. Even if we are not of one mind on everything we must still be of one heart. Our identity in Christ and our unity as brothers and sisters is a greater reality than our position relative to some governmental decision. We may, and do, have differing opinions on things. But there is, for Christians, something that supersedes that reality, which is so counter to a culture that elevates personal rights above just about everything. Jesus, and our life in him, is our true bond of unity.

So let us guard our hearts, our thoughts, and our speech. Let us be particularly careful with mediated conversation where there is so much potential for careless and divisive words.

One more thing. Let me encourage you to have a good measure of patience and understanding for those making decisions. With so many different voices and so much data, can you imagine how difficult a time this must be for every state governor to know how long is long enough? Even when we disagree with a decision we are called to honor those in authority. And, the Bible calls us to pray for them. More than ever, let’s do that. And let’s continue to keep our eyes open for opportunities to do good to those around us.

With deep gratitude for the goodness of God toward us,

Pastor Mike (for the pastors and elders)

April 15, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,

Jesus is the light of the world and our victory over the grave! It was so good to worship the Lord and reflect on the cross and resurrection this past weekend. I’m sure we all go through our emotional ups and downs due to isolation, financial concerns, limitations, or simply change. To bring the shining light of the gospel into each up and each down is the glorious privilege of every follower of Jesus. I hope you too experienced the Lord ministering the light of the gospel to you at Good Friday and Easter. What a Savior!

With Pastor Bullmore taking a few days off, I (Pastor Moore) am updating you this week.  As a pastoral team we continue to think about how to do ministry and church life, while respecting the wise and neighbor-loving limits put in place by government leaders. While we don’t like being scattered and isolated, one of the most encouraging things we hear about is the growing number of ways the body of Christ is serving, both one another and the larger community.  Let me share a few examples.

  


This past week we heard about several people sewing masks for hospitals, neighbors, and friends. One of those efforts got started when a CrossWay member was asked by a neighbor to help make medical-grade masks.  The member agreed and contacted several other CrossWay women, men, and youth to get involved, working as a team with others in Kenosha.  Some carefully cut the special N-95 material into the needed parts. Others sat over their sewing machines to do the time-intensive stitching. The masks were cooked in an oven to sanitize, individually packaged, and donated to smaller hospitals in our area who were grateful and humbly asked for more.  In one week, 174 medical-grade masks were created and more are underway. 

We heard about other CrossWay seamstresses who are making masks and going out of their way to deliver them to friends and health-care workers. Some of you were grateful recipients of those. Others donated store-bought masks to the deacons to be given to church members who are at-risk or need to make safe hospital visits. What an expression of kindness and care toward one another.

CrossWay members are finding other ways to do good.

  • Grocery runs on behalf of Gospel Community members and neighbors who cannot or should not go out.
  • Meals dropped off at the homes of the sick and isolated.
  • Easter food shared with Gospel Community friends as a way of connecting.
  • Cards sent and coronavirus care packages dropped off.
  • Offers of financial assistance to the needy.
  • Several of you have called up people you don’t normally talk to on the phone simply out of concern for their well-being. One Gospel Community is calling all the kids who have been part of the Wilson tutoring ministry.
  • One person shared their salvation testimony on social media during Easter.  Others have invited non-Christian friends and family to view our worship services online. 

Maybe you’re like me: you read those bullet points and think, “What good have I done?”  But let’s rejoice at hearing the good works God’s people are doing. And let’s allow our eyes to be lifted to see with faith the opportunities God is putting in front of us.  For all of us there are countless unseen acts of kindness that will never be noted in a church update or posted on Facebook – simple kindnesses between family members, a text to check on a friend, an extra friendly greeting to a neighbor passing by, faithfully working from home when no one is checking up on us.  God sees those things.

By the way, our website is positioned to connect our needs with those willing to meet needs. On our newly-designed front page, you’ll see a place called “I Need Help” and “I’m Ready to Help”.  You can also email our deacons regarding both needs and a desire to help.

Christians aren’t, of course, the only ones doing good to the community (thankfully!) but we have a sacred call and motivation to do so. Far beyond our deserving we have experienced the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Remember God’s generosity to us described in Ephesians 2:8-9:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Though we did not deserve it, God gave us the greatest gift – new life in Jesus.  And part of his purpose for saving us is what verse 10 talks about:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” 

We can be sure that God has planned many of those good works to be done by his people in this time of community crisis.  May we have the grace to think not only of ourselves, but to serve others as we have been served in Jesus.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Steve Moore

April 8, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,

What an important and very special week this is! Every year, for 2,000 years now, Christians have come to this week with their minds and hearts focused on remembering the death of Jesus and then, three days later, joyfully celebrating his resurrection. It truly is a special, “holy” week, set aside for dedicated attention to our Risen Lord. And here we are, unable to gather to celebrate this most important and wonderful reality. So strong is the tradition of gathering that several state officials requested earlier this week that Governor Evers temporarily suspend his orders and allow churches to gather in person for this weekend. The Governor denied that request. I believe that was the right decision. As much as we might wish it was different, church gatherings are not exempt from the realities of infection and we want to continue to do our part to help protect the health of people all around us. But, O, how we will miss being together this Sunday!

However, we have planned some other ways for us to connect as a church family. I have already found myself so thankful for the prayer guide that several of our pastors worked on together to provide some direction for us this week. That is serving my own family as we spend some time together after the evening meal reading the appointed Psalm and praying along the suggested lines. That is preparing our hearts for Good Friday.

For Friday itself, we are encouraging our entire church family to engage in some form of fasting in preparation for an evening opportunity to pray together. Why fast? Well, simply put, fasting is a way to acknowledge our weakness and our dependence on God and to look to him for help and support. It is a means by which we can strengthen and sharpen our trust in God. At one point some of John the Baptist’s disciples came to Jesus and asked him, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Mark 9:14-15). We are in those “days”. Ever since Jesus returned to heaven and until he returns for us we will be in a place of walking by faith that will require purposefulness about cultivating our reliance on him. Fasting helps us do that, and there are certain times that particularly call for fasting. We see God’s people fasting in the Bible in times of repentance, in times of sorrow, in times of need, in times of bewilderment, and in times of trial and temptation. In all these times we fast to show our need for and our longing for God.  

So, we as your pastors and elders are calling us as a church to purpose to fast on Friday. We would recommend that you choose to skip some meal on that day and spend that time in prayer, either alone or with someone else in your house. Have some simple plan for how you will spend that time. If there is a medical reason for you to not fast from food simply spend some focused time in prayer at some point in the day.

Then, in the evening we would encourage you to join together as we have our Good Friday service online. Jared Compton will lead us in a meditation on the death of Christ and then lead us through a time of praying. The service will last an hour. You can watch the Good Friday service online here. The service will start at 7:00 p.m.

Then, for Sunday, let me encourage you to once again tune in to a time of Easter greetings, worship, and time in the Word via video available through the church website. Aim for 10:00 Sunday morning and think of your brothers and sisters in Christ who are missing you as you are missing them. But, even though we will be apart, we are still a church, worshipping our Risen Lord.

One last note. Next week we intend to share in this mid-week letter some of the ways that our church family has been able to reach out in love to others during this time of social distancing. We have heard many great stories of people doing good to others but, of course, we wonder “Are there things happening that we’re not seeing?” If you are aware of some specific act of someone doing good to others, either within our church, or in the community, please share that in a brief email and send it to mari.werth@cwc.church

May the Lord bless you CrossWay. I regularly find myself thinking, “You know, I haven’t seen so-and-so for a little while” and then I’m reminded of the reason for that. I can’t wait to see you all again.

With much love,

Pastor Mike (for all the pastors and elders)              

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)

March 25, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,

We are now in our third week of what obviously have become greatly adjusted circumstances for us all.  Yesterday our Governor issued his “Safer at Home” order in which we were called to “all do our part to cease non-essential travel, business, and social interactions.”  I want to encourage you, both as an act of honoring our governing authorities and of caring for others, to cooperate fully with our Governor’s order.

Let me share with you a little update regarding church functions and life as well as a brief pastoral word.

An Information Update

Life in the church office is changing a bit more in light of the Governor’s order.  The office will be open only on a limited schedule.  There are essential things that need to be done on site and typically we will try to do those on Tuesday morning.   We will continue to have our staff meetings on Tuesday mornings although most of the pastors will participate remotely.  The administrative staff will rotate being here but for the most part they will work from home.  All pastors and administrative staff will be working their normally scheduled hours through this time, either from home or at the office.  Pastors working from home will have their office phones forwarded to their personal phones and their emails will be notified of any voicemail.  Administrative assistants will have an app on their computer at home that allows them to answer the office phone live and transfer those calls to other office extensions.

All this to say that the “office” will remain open.  If there is some emergency we want to encourage you to contact a pastor or elder directly.  We want you to know that it is our desire to be as readily available to you as the situation allows.

I also want to make you aware, if you are not already, of a new page that is up and running on the website.  It is simply labeled Engage and it provides an opportunity for you to communicate a need you might have as well as your ability to help meet some need.  Don’t let this page keep you from just reaching out directly when you are aware of a need.  That is already happening in some very encouraging ways and we want that to keep happening.  But do be quick to use that page if there are things you need.

A Pastoral Word 

Let me share with you now just a brief, and what I hope is a helpful, pastoral word.  There are several things that are circling in my mind and heart these days as I think about you and our present circumstance but I want to zero in on something I raised in my letter to you last week.  I encouraged you last week to be careful not to coast spiritually during these days but, instead, to engage, and the first way I encouraged you to be intentional about engaging was in your own relationship with God.  Remember, I encouraged you to “read your Bible quietly, prayerfully, daily.  Spend time in prayer, perhaps in a newly focused way.”  I don’t want those to be just words on a page.  I want us to purposefully step into these things.

Let me just expand on this a bit.  This current situation we are facing affects each of us in a different way.  However, some things are the same for us all.  We need God.  We need others.  But mostly, we need God.  That is true all the time but times like this tend to sharpen our awareness of our need.  In light of this, a good and right response is to very consciously look to him.  My very best understanding of how to do that is through prayerfully meditating on his Word.

God hasn’t changed.  He is the same God as he was before the coronavirus emerged on the scene and he will be the same God after this epidemic is over.  That makes me really want to be connected to him!  I want to be closely connected to the God of Psalm 90—“Lord you have been our dwelling place in all generations . . . from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.”

So how do we do that?  How do we connect to and have real communion with this God?  Simply by letting him talk to us by prayerfully meditating on his Word.

Let me just share a little example.  I’m reading these days the last chapters of Exodus and also systematically through the Psalms.  On Monday, as part of my devotional time, I read Psalm 86.  It’s a beautiful and deeply meaningful psalm and as I read it again I noticed, again, the repeated phrase “your steadfast love” (vv. 5, 13, 15).  So I just spent a little time focusing in there, thinking about those words, meditating on them.  And I saw, in each case, that something could be true in my life because of the steadfast love of the Lord.  I saw that I could have gladness of soul (and who isn’t interested in that these days?) “for” the Lord is “abounding in steadfast love”.  I saw that I could have gratitude in my heart (v. 12) “for great is the Lord’s steadfast love toward me.”  And I saw that I could have protection over my life (v.14-15) because “the Lord is abounding in steadfast love.”  Now, those can either be just words on a page or highly relevant and precious truth.

The observation of, and then meditation on, those truths led me to pray.  “God give me this gladness of soul.  God give me this gratitude in my heart.  And, yes, God watch over my life and protect it from harm.”  And what I prayed for myself I also prayed for my family, and for you.  “God give the people of CrossWay this gladness of soul.  Give us this gratitude in our hearts.  Give us this protection over our lives.”  I want you to notice that the way all this came about was through a very simple practice—focusing on and thinking about what you read and then allowing that to lead you into prayer.  I experienced what I did not because I’m brilliant.  It’s because God’s Word is brilliant and the Holy Spirit really is a Helper who leads us into truth.

We are right now exposed to such anxiety-producing news on all sides.  We need to find refuge in the Lord and his steadfast love for us and we need to do that freshly every day.  I believe the best way to do that is through prayerful meditation on his Word.  I know that will look different for each of us but this is a really good time to set some rhythms in place that will result in a feasting on God’s word and a deep abiding in Christ during these unusual weeks, and beyond.

In the weeks and months ahead our lives could well change in ways we cannot imagine right now.  But it is also true that our faith may grow during this time in ways we could not have imagined.  If that happens I believe your time in God’s Word will have had much to do with it. 

Thanks for hearing my heart.  I greatly miss being with you.  Look for a video posted on the website sometime Saturday evening.  Let me encourage you again to gather as a household and receive God’s Word and worship together around 10:00 on Sunday morning.

O Crossway, put your hope in God, for we shall again praise him, our salvation and our God.

With much affection.

Pastor Mike (for all the Pastors and Elders of CrossWay)

March 18, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,  

This is the second in what I suspect will be a series of emails that I will send over the coming weeks.  I know we all are doing our best to keep track of the government recommendations as new information comes in on the extent of the impact of this Coronavirus.  We want to keep you very current on what we are doing as a church during these days. 

Our Communication Plan
There will be three major lines of communication.  First, a weekly email in which I’ll keep you up-to-date on our status as a church and share with you, as your pastor, some thoughts about how we should be as a church during this time.  That email will be sent out mid-week.  Second, we will continue to send out a weekly email on Fridays, as we have in the past, that will contain more specific church-life information.  Third, we will have some form of a message from God’s Word, like the video we posted this past weekend.  We may add some other worship components to that to help you as you gather as families or in small groups of friends to maintain a rhythm of regular worship.  We will post that on the website, typically on Saturday, but at least by Sunday mornings at 10:00.  Other areas of ministry—youth, children’s, Age of Opportunity, Thrive—will be communicating along their regular lines.

Our Current Cancellation Plan
We are wanting to cooperate to the fullest extent with our government’s recommendations regarding public gatherings.  This past week the CDC extended its restrictions on public gatherings out to the next eight weeks.  In light of that we have decided, for now, to cancel our services and all church meetings through the end of April.  We will know much more at that point and can extend that time appropriately as needed.  We can also adjust along the way if there is some possibility of regathering sooner.  We could potentially make this a week-by-week decision but we believe it will help us all to adjust to this new norm and enter more readily into a new rhythm if we have a plan for a set of weeks.  We also want to be wise and heed good counsel from our government in doing everything we can to help protect our community and so want to pay close attention to the timeline they are setting forth.

The Challenge and Sadness of This Time
I know I am expressing the thoughts of us all when I say there is something sad and disappointing about not being able to gather together as we normally do.  We sense the loss of something that is normal and fruitful in our lives.  Our gatherings are a means of strengthening our faith.  We are upheld by these regular rhythms of being together and we are more vulnerable without them.  At CrossWay we regularly teach from God’s Word on the importance of our gathering together, but we see the truth of that, at least a bit more clearly, when we don’t have it and we are feeling a longing for it to be restored.  I’m already looking forward to the Sunday when we can be together again.  I think that will be a special day of celebration and joy.  I’m guessing you’re feeling that way too.  Let’s let this situation sharpen our appreciation for our times together and let’s let this teach us not to take our times together for granted.  And let’s pray that God would restore our gatherings soon.

The Opportunity of This Time
In the meantime, let’s not miss the opportunity this strange and unusual time affords.  I really want to encourage you to pay attention to what doors might be opening here.  I think the clearest and most urgent thing I want to say to you right now is this:  Be aware of the temptation to spiritually just drift or coast during this time and, instead, purpose to engage. 

Engage in more intentional connection with God. 

Read your Bible quietly, prayerfully, daily.  Spend time in prayer, perhaps in a newly focused way.  Use this as a time of spiritual refreshment, of slowing down, of resting.  Our days are typically so filled with projects and meetings and tasks to be done, that we can lose ourselves in the midst of our busy lives.  Take advantage of this time to refresh your life in God.

Engage in more intentional connection as a family.  

Don’t just go off each to your own rooms and just do your own thing.  Purpose to make time and space to be together.  Parents, draw your children in.  Children, draw your parents in.   Put real boundaries on technology use.  Spending too much time on screens could be a real temptation these days.  Instead, think about the kinds of things you can do now that you have more time together.  Simply put, be attentive to one another in your homes. 

Engage with your church family.  

Obviously this will be more challenging but there will be wonderful opportunities to encourage one another these days. We are encouraging all Gospel Communities to meet virtually. In addition, rediscover the power of a phone call and experience the joy of hearing someone else’s voice.  Think about those who might have special needs created by this situation we’re in.  We’ve already had many people inquiring of us how they can be of help.  That’s great.  But don’t be afraid to contact people who you know who might have needs.  Think particularly of the elderly, those who have health needs, and those whose jobs have been affected.

Engage with your neighbors. 

Obviously there are limits here and we want to honor what is being recommended about social distancing.  But we also want to be light in the darkness and salt in a time of need.  People are afraid.  Point them to Jesus.  People have needs.  Meet them when you can.  Be ready with hope and with sacrificial love.

Dear ones, our tendency could easily be toward isolation, self-absorption, and fear.  Let’s instead make it a point to engage.  Let’s move toward connection, refreshment, and sacrificial love.  I have no doubt that God has something good for us during this time.  What his larger purposes are for these days I don’t pretend to know, but I do know that he has promised good for his people, in all things, based on his unfailing steadfast love.  “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

A Few Miscellaneous Details
We will keep the church office open although we are trying to minimize traffic in the office.  There will be pastors and office administrators here for phone calls and for necessary meetings.  Some pastors will be working, when they can, from home.  If you have practical needs please contact the church office.  Don’t hesitate to do that.
Look for a video posted on the website this weekend.   I’ll be sharing from another Psalm.  I thought it would be good for us these days to look at some Psalms to steady our hearts.  I’d encourage you to gather as a family Sunday morning around 10:00.  Watch the video and then spend some time praying.

With much love,
Pastor Mike (for the elders and pastors)


March 13, 2020 @ 1:00 PM

Dear CrossWay Family,

Much has happened in our world this week.  Even in the past 24 hours there have been some public health decisions made that are unprecedented, at least in recent memory.  Yesterday both state and local government officials issued statements urging practices aimed at slowing the spread of the Coronavirus and protecting those in our community who are most at risk.  One of the things both state and local government are strongly urging is the cancellation of public gatherings of 50 or more people.  As a church we want to be subject to the governing authorities as God’s Word instructs us to be.  We also want to be acting in love toward our neighbors.  In light of this we have decided to cancel our services for this weekend (3/15) as well as other gatherings that were scheduled for this weekend and this coming week (3/13-21).

It is likely that the measures the government is recommending will need to continue for some time, potentially a period of several weeks.  At this point we have cancelled meetings only for this coming weekend and next week.  We will be meeting again early next week as a pastoral team to carefully look over the church calendar and further attend to the developing situation and the government’s recommendations.  We don’t think it will be best to make decisions week-by-week but at this point we feel we need a fuller picture, especially as it relates to a likely time period.  So, for now, we are cancelling just the gatherings from today, March 13, through Saturday, March 21.  We will communicate with you next week regarding what action we will be taking going forward.

We recognize this is a significant decision and in light of this significance we want to encourage you along several lines.  We want to continue to be a faithful and vibrant church during this time.  So, what are we encouraging you to do?

Continue to Worship and Receive the Word on Sunday mornings.
This situation will provide an opportunity for us to be the church in a different way.  Set aside time as a family or with a few friends on Sunday mornings.  Perhaps gather as a Gospel Community.  Have God’s Word open.  Maybe sing a song or two.  We will continue to provide a sermon online and, depending on how long this situation lasts, we will look into other delivery options.  Look for a video with a brief devotional and pastoral word that will be posted on the church website by 10:00 this Sunday morning.

Continue to meet in your Gospel Communities. 
Smaller gatherings in homes will become even more important in our life together. More guidance will be sent out later today to Gospel Community leaders. We would encourage those healthy and able to gather.   

Care for those in our church body who may be in need.
Let’s be in touch by phone and email and text.  Let’s pay special attention to those who might not be able to get out due to age or physical weakness.  Maybe offer to get groceries or simply make a call of encouragement.  If you have particular needs please call the church office and let us know.  And let’s pay attention to opportunities to serve our neighbors as well.  Christians have a long history of being ministers of mercy in their communities during times of public health strain.  Let’s continue the tradition.

Pray.
There is obviously much to pray about.  Pray for our government and especially our medical officials.  They have important decisions to make.  Pray that the measures our government has taken will have the intended effect.   Pray for our missionaries who are in situations more tenuous than ours.  Pray for one another.  This is a great time to be focused in prayer.

Continue to live faithful lives as followers of Jesus.
We want to be doing this all the time, of course, but situations like this provide an opportunity to let your light shine.  To not be afraid.  To live out and speak of the hope you have in Christ.  We have the only lasting good news in the midst of a fallen and vulnerable world.  In times of tension and strain the world needs steady people who are strengthened by God’s grace.

And, yes, let’s continue to take wise practical steps.
Wash your hands.  A lot.  Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.  Be content to not shake hands for awhile.  Stay home if you’re sick.

Dear ones, I believe God has good for us in these days—likely good that we do not expect.  So let’s trust him and continue to be faithful in the responsibilities he has given each of us to do. 

We will be in regular communication in the coming days via email and the church website (cwc.church/coronavirus).  I’m already looking forward to when we will be together again.  Until then, steady on.

With much affection in Christ,
Pastor Mike
For the Elders of CrossWay


March 13, 2020 @ 10:30 AM

Dear CrossWay,

The elders met last night to discuss and pray for the church and to find a way forward as we all watch public health events unfold. In a desire to honor God through supporting our local government leaders and to love our community, including those who are most at risk, we want to do our part in slowing the spread of this virus in our area. 

The elders have decided that CrossWay will be canceling all services and church events this coming week, including March 15th Sunday services, the Student Ministry Lock-In, Discipleship Training classes, and Men’s and Women’s meetings.   

We are planning to post a sermon from Mike on the website on Sunday morning and there will be an e-mail later today which will contain more information and greater specificity.  We also recognize that this whole situation is very fluid 

Please reach out to your friends and family who may not receive this email to let them know about this decision.  If you have questions, or if there are ways that we can be praying for you, please contact your Gospel Community Leader, or the church office (262-857-4488).  We especially want to know if you are sick, feel alone, or need help. 

In Christ together 

Pastor Bill Nye on behalf of the Elders