Dear Church Family,
I am writing to let you know that the Oakhurst EV Free elder board has decided to heed the guidelines from both local and national government in regards to their attempts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and temporarily cease our Lord’s Day services and all church activities through the end of March and possibly longer depending on the guidance of our local and national leaders.
We as a church take seriously God’s command to not neglect our assembly with one another in Hebrews 10:24-25. However, we understand that we do not violate this Scripture due to our inability from being sick at home or in the hospital. Our situation now is not due to our internal inability to gather but our external inability based on the guidance from our governing authorities.
We recognize the importance of these authorities as those who have been instituted by God (Romans 13:1). While we recognize that these authorities can use their power for the persecution of the church, the evidence of their restricting all public gatherings and not just church gatherings shows that their intention is for the preservation of human life, which we also desire out of our love for our neighbor (Mark 12:31). If the government in the future routinely requires us to cease from gathering, we will reevaluate our response. However, recognizing that this is the first time in over 100 years that our government has given such a wide-spread mandate (since the 1918 outbreak of the Spanish Flu) we believe it right to follow their guidelines for gathering.
As believers we realize we have nothing to fear in the face of sickness and death. As we so often sing, “No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me.” However, we do earnestly love and fear for our neighbors and those in our communities who do not know Christ and we want to wisely take precautions to not needlessly and unintentionally proliferate the spreading of this virus.
While we are apart from each other, we will be posting our worship service each Sunday morning on our church YouTube page (https://www.youtube.com/user/OEFCSermons1) which can also be accessed through our church website (https://www.oakhurstevfree.org/). However, when you watch and feel the insufficiency of this as a replacement of our gathering, this is a right feeling. The church is the “gathering” or the “assembly” of the saints and cannot be replaced by a video. We believe this is a helpful tool to continue to feed and encourage us as a church as we sing the same songs together and hear the same message from God’s Word, but we know this will not feed us in the same was as when we are gathered together. Let us embrace this rightful longing for our time of assembling together and look forward for that day when we will again gather together, sing to one another, and partake of the Word and the fellowship in a way that can be only done together as a church body.
In the meantime, what can we be doing as a church?
- Pray! Pray for God in His mercy to stop this pandemic. Pray for President Trump and our government leaders to guide us with wisdom. Pray for the sick and the medical professionals. Pray for our church that we would use this as an opportunity to share the hope we have right now with those who have no hope. Pray for wisdom for our elders and church leaders to wisely lead our church through this difficult time. Pray for our missionaries around the world, for their protection and for their fruitful ministry in this season. Pray! Pray! Pray!
- Engage in the Midst of our Disengagement. Just because we are separated from one another, that doesn’t mean we need to stop loving and encouraging one another. Our church leaders are looking at ways to creatively minister and promote fellowship even during our time of separation, from phone calls to newsletters to videos and service opportunities. But you can also take the initiative by just calling others from church, encouraging them, letting them encourage you, and praying for each other.
- Don’t Quarantine the Great Commission. Even though we are not gathering together, our ministry to our church body and around the world still continues. We ask that you continue to give financially to what the Lord is doing in and through the mission of our church. You are able to give online through our church website (https://www.oakhurstevfree.org/contributions/), you can mail your offering to the church, or you can stop by when the church is open on weekdays from 1pm-4pm and drop it off in the offering box that will be placed by the front doors.
- Don’t Waste Your Isolation. Let us use this time of an absence of gathering as an opportunity from God’s sovereign hand to reflect on our life, to reflect on our church and on our longing to be together again, to reengage in prayer and devotion to God’s Word, to devote time to the spiritual growth of your marriage and family for those who have them, and to reach out to those in our lives who don’t know Christ and need the hope of the Gospel in these chaotic times.
Along with the rest of the elders, I am praying for you during this time when we are apart. If there is any way our church can care for you during this time, don’t hesitate to contact any of the elders or call the church office.
By His Strength and For His Glory,