Dear St Andrew Baptist Church,
I would like to share three things with you today. We find ourselves in a unique time.
One that I’ve never experienced before. It is possible that some of you have seen or lived through a time when there was an illness that seemed to be particularly difficult on the community. I can’t imagine the feelings that might have troubled some in 1957 when the Asian flu outbreak killed 70,000 before it was eradicated.
But, there is something that I do know. We have lived through and managed to respond well to epic events and horrible disruptions to our community and to our church in the past. Consider September 11 or the economic crisis that hit in 2008. And we don't need much of a memory to recall Hurricane Michael. That event alone has shown me that God working in us, we can rise above any crisis.
Many of you may recall that following 9/11, our houses of worship were full. During the economic crisis of 2008, St Andrew Baptist Church decided that Now is the Time to build two new buildings for our children and youth. Following Hurricane Michael, we were the church to many in Bay County as we sent out work teams and worked under a huge white tent to serve our community with food, water, and supplies. What we do, in the name of Jesus, defines who we are to those around us.
Here is what I know:
1. Our sovereign God is still on His throne and in control. He loves us!
God is our refuge and strength, a VERY PRESENT HELP in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear! Ps. 46:1-2a
2. Regardless of what we hear on the news, with God’s help, this too shall pass.
3. This event gives us yet another chance to show the love of Jesus through how we respond and how we act during this time of social-distancing.
What are some things that we can do to insure that our community sees and feels the love of Jesus during these times?
1. Our church is going to cooperate with the request of President Trump and the recommendations of the CDC in canceling our group gatherings, at least for the rest of March. We will be posting a worship service on the St. Andrew Baptist Church Facebook page every Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. and hope that you will join us there. We will not attempt to duplicate either our Band Led or Choir Led services. We will continue those when we can come back together again. Following that, we will add the worship service to our website for continued viewing where there will also be a link for a “Small Group Bible Study Experience” for adults and youth. We will have Bible lesson materials available for children and preschoolers this week, and we will keep you updated on other things we can make available in the future. Youth will meet via an online platform on Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. You can access any and all of these through our website, sabc.org, or on our St Andrew Baptist Church Facebook page.
2. For your own sake, the sake of your family, and for the sake of people you do not even know, stay home as much as possible. If you are sick, with certainty and without exception, stay home and call your health professional and go where he/she tells you for medical assistance. If you need non-medical help, call the church office. Our Deacons will be calling our widows and offering assistance to them. Many in our Women’s Ministry have expressed a loving desire to help those who are in the high-risk groups stay safe by staying home and away from large groups. They have offered to help with shopping for groceries, picking up pharmaceuticals, and even helping with child-care.
3. While our community seems to be in a fearful state of fear and uncertainty, we need to respond with hope and confidence in our loving and sovereign God. We know how to do this. We’ve done it before. We must respond boldly during this time of uncertainty with a certain and sure confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ. What He has done in the past, He will do in the future. Pray for opportunities to share Jesus with others.
4. Look for ways to help your neighbors and those you know who are older and in need of help. Our neighbors may have seen us go to church on Sunday. Now let’s let them see our loving response during this crisis. Perhaps this will give us the opportunity to share our faith with them. Lend a hand and ask for nothing in return.
5. Support St. Andrew Baptist Church. While we may not all gather in one spot for worship and small groups, we will still have opportunity to build the kingdom. Your treasures, just like in the days following Hurricane Michael, are needed to help formulate a community response. While we don’t know exactly what all of that response will be, we have always responded as a church to needs in our community. Give online at https://www.sabc.org/acsaccess--giving.html. Use your giving envelopes and mail your offering to the church (3010 W. 15th St., Panama City, FL 32401). Our ministries and our missionaries still need support through this season of irregular meetings at St Andrew Baptist Church. We are still in need of faithful stewards who will walk through this time with us.
6. March 22 was to be the Sunday that we collected our Helping Hands offering. It looks as if our Helping Hands will be needed more than ever now. Our Helping Hands fund will be the platform to use to help our members during a crisis. You can give to this fund in the same way that you give to the general fund. Just mark it as a special gift to Helping Hands. That can be done online or by mail.
7. In the coming days, as we move to a completely digital service, be intentional about staying connected to your small group by phone and through social media. We build community in our small groups and will need to work harder to do that if we are not meeting face-to-face on a weekly basis.
8. Pray. Pray that God will hear our cries and heal our land from this Coronavirus. Pray that God will use this crisis to draw all of us closer to Himself and many who are lost to faith in Jesus. Pray that God shows mercy on those who have Coronavirus and that they quickly recover. Pray that God strengthens His church to respond well during this crisis. Pray that God gives our leaders wisdom and discernment to help and not to hurt. Pray that God protects our missionaries and their families around the globe. Pray that God opens our eyes to opportunities around us to show His love in our response.
9. You will be hearing from me more often by email and social media in the days to come! I hope you will read the things I will have to share with you.
I love you, St Andrew Baptist,