The circumstance with Coronavirus seemingly changes daily, and we are having to adapt to it and make changes as we go. We are trying to think ahead and cover all eventualities with all that we are doing, but are struggling to anticipate everything. So here are a few more changes that you need to be aware of for the coming days.
First, thank you for all of you who are being faithful to continue to give to the church ministry during these days. We are doing what we can to minimize expenditures (changing thermostats, not spending for budgeted items that are non-essential, etc.), but there are many fixed costs that can’t be changed (insurance, missionary, staff, and utilities expenses, for instance). So your generosity at this time is helpful and encouraging.
At this time, the secretaries will generally be working from home, so there will not always be someone in the church building to let you in to drop off a check, so the most reliable options for giving might be to either mail the check or use your bank’s bill pay service to send a check. You may also make a contribution through the Breeze app, but remember that donations made through Breeze will be reduced by 2-3% for bank handling charges.
Breeze is also a very helpful tool for us in other ways:
You can use it on Sunday morning to “check-in” to the worship service, like the registration card in the pews. You can even leave prayer requests in Breeze that are not public and seen only by the elders and staff. (You can also “register” your Sunday morning attendance through the email link on the live-stream page.)
Breeze also contains all the info about our members and attenders, so all our up-to-date contact information is listed there. You can even email or text directly from the app. Use the app to contact people, and use it to pray consecutively through our entire church membership.
When contacting people, ask at least two things: 1) how are they doing spiritually? 2) do they have any spiritual or physical needs (shopping, medication pick-up, help at home, etc.)? If they have needs that are beyond your ability to meet, please contact the church office, your home group leader, or one of the elders so that we can minister to those who have needs.
Tutorials for how to use the app will be sent out in a separate email.
Another change this week is the office hours of the church. Lacey and Nancy will be working from home primarily. One of them will be available at the office on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, but please call first to make sure someone will be in the building to receive you. All phone calls are being forwarded to the secretaries, so if you call the church number (682-498-3014) someone will answer, if she is available. They will also be checking email throughout the day, so you can always email them.
We are also wanting to resume as many ministries as we can this week. We will facilitate most of our “gathering” meetings (Sunday School, home groups, counseling, Sunday morning fellowship…) by the Zoom app. More information and tutorials for using the app will be sent out shortly, but for now, you can download the app to your phone, or tablet, or find the Zoom website so that you will be ready for it when we send instructions.
Speaking of sending instructions, it is vital that you read all emails and texts that are sent to you. That is the primary way that we will be able to communicate with one another. We will work to send only vital and pertinent information, so please be attentive to read all our correspondence.
Finally, we want to do additional things to encourage you through the week, so at least twice a week we will be posting short (5-8 minute) video devotionals on the web site from the elders or one of our teachers to encourage you spiritually during this season of crisis and question. We trust they will be another means of equipping you these days.
With gratitude and love for you,
Terry, for the elders
Elder Update March 18, 2020
Our dear church body —
We are living in remarkable days. None of us has ever experienced the kinds of closures and imposed and voluntary quarantines that we are now seeing routinely around the world. And no pastor or elder, at least in the United States, has ever had to consider what ministry in the church looks like under these circumstances. We are going to learn together, as one body, how to apply biblical wisdom to this pandemic.
It is a certainty that mankind is created and designed by God for fellowship. The church exists for the purpose of bringing glory to God by being with one another to worship, instruct, fellowship, and equip each other (Acts 2:43-47; Eph. 4:11-13). The church is designed for mutual fellowship. At GBC we always stress being with one another. One of our core values is the ministry of presence — being with each other. We love the hug of fellowship and love.
And now we are being told by the government and medical officials that we need to create social distance from one another. As I heard several times this past Sunday morning, “it just feels so wrong.” I said the same thing. Do avoid contact and fellowship goes against what we were re-created as Christians to be and do.
At the same time, the imposition of these restrictions by the government are entirely in line with what the government was designed to do — to protect us (Rom. 13:1-7). So it is our joy to comply with these admonitions as a means of loving and serving other members of our community — and each other.
Consequently, ministry at GBC is going to look different for the next few weeks (and months?). In keeping with current recommendations and anticipating additional changes, we are establishing a policy for the duration of the Coronavirus that there will be no formal ministries of the church larger than 10 people. Here is an overview of some of the changes at GBC and how we will also sustain the ministries of worship, instruction, and equipping:
Worship service: The Sunday worship service will be live-stream only, at 11:00 a.m. There will be no congregational participation for corporate worship on the church campus until further notice.
We will attempt to make the worship service as normal as possible, so there will be calls to worship, prayer, Scripture reading, music (either recorded by our musicians or live), and preaching. Because these are extraordinary times, we are also working on a sermon series to help us think through a variety of important doctrines and truths and how they relate to our circumstances. These will also be good services to invite your unsaved friends and family to either stream themselves or participate with you in your home (more on that below).
Sunday School: All children’s and youth Sunday School classes are suspended. There will be no adult Sunday School class this Sunday (March 22). We are considering options for having one or both of the adult Sunday School classes either recorded or live streamed for future Sundays.
AWANA and Wednesday night activities: All these activities are suspended immediately and for the duration of the Coronavirus.
Home groups: Because most of our home groups exceed the number of 10, we are advising that the groups meet virtually, through Google Hangout (instruction on how to do that will be sent to the home group leaders and then sent to all the members). This will allow us to stay connected to each other and even allow us to see each other. We are also suggesting that the groups meet weekly to maintain increased contact with each other, to pray well for each other, and to serve each other as needs become known. (Aside: if you have a financial or other need, especially because of the impact of the Coronavirus, please contact your home group leader so that the group can function to help each other.)
Counseling: The counseling ministry will continue to function — if you have needs, our counseling staff are available to help you, either through counseling in the office or by video (Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout, etc.). Please call the church office to set an appointment if you have a need, and feel free to recommend the counseling ministry to your friends and neighbors who are unchurched.
Giving: While we are not meeting, the church continues to have financial obligations: monthly bills that need to be paid, missionaries and staff that need to be paid, and benevolence requests to fulfill. So please continue to give as freely and generously as you always do. You may drop off a check in the giving box during our business hours, mail a check to the church, use your bank bill-pay to send a check, or use the online giving on our church website or through your Breeze app (please note that those gifts are reduced by 2-3% for bank fees; give here or select “give now” on your app).
Office hours: Staff will continue to be present at the office during regular business hours (9-4, M-F) to answer the phone, email, and grant you access to the facility for any needs you might have. We will maintain that schedule as long as we can. Drop by and say “hi” and share an elbow bump!
We have also thought about a number of ways that you might be able to encourage one another. To borrow John Piper’s phrase, “We don’t want to waste our Coronavirus.” So here are some suggestions for things you might consider doing in a number of areas of life and ministry:
Personal spiritual growth:
Renew spiritual disciplines. Because many will have increased time at home, this is an appropriate time to:
catch up on your daily Bible reading plan
do a Bible study you’ve been wanting to do
read a book (a theology, counseling, spiritual growth, or biographical book, for instance)
create a thank list (1-3 items of gratitude each day) and pray through the list every day
Don’t waste your additional time with by binge-watching another series on Netflix, but invest it in renewing your mind with biblical truth.
Invest in family time. Couples often say that they don’t have enough time with each other. Now they may have more time than they’ve had in years since formal church ministries and sports leagues and so many other things have been suspended. So,
go for a walk together
cook a family meal and eat leisurely dinners together with each other
read books together as a family
memorize Bible verses together
play board games, or assemble puzzles
Be intentional to use this time to build each other up in your personal family.
Ministry to one another (in the church body). While we are limiting formal ministry to groups of ten or less, you still have opportunities to care for one another within the context of our own homes. Here are some possibilities:
We are not gathering as an entire church body to worship. But you can invite one or two families or couples to participate in the live stream worship with you in your home. And then talk about the worship service and pray with each other after the service and enjoy a meal together. Then the following week meet with a different group of people so you can maximize your worship with as many people as possible.
Make two or three intentional phone calls (or texts or emails) each day to ask people how they are doing and how you might serve them.
When you read something encouraging in Scripture or see a helpful and biblical blog post, pass it on to some friends as an encouragement to others.
Reach out to families, couples, or individuals who are in at-risk categories and ask them if you can bring them some groceries, run errands, or doing anything else for them. If you need help with some of these items, or if you are willing to help with these things, please contact the church office (682-498-3014) and we can help coordinate that for you.
Use the Breeze App (church directory; if you don’t have it, contact the church office and you will be given instruction about how to login to the app) to pray for one another. Pray through a set number of people and then text some (or all) of the people for whom you have prayed, telling them what you have prayed.
Send cards and e-cards and notes to church members to encourage one another.
Evangelism and outreach. As with the above possibilities, the Lord has granted us a unique opportunity to minister to people who are having their spiritual needs and emptiness exposed. We have the truth and hope of the gospel; let’s look for examples to share that truth with them.
In the last few years, we have begun doing door-to-door evangelism. Since we are being encouraged to practice social distancing, many would likely not perceive that as an act of love. But how about if we change that slightly? How about if we saturate our own neighborhoods with neighbor-to-neighbor (N2N) ministry? Write a note personal note to your neighbors and offer to bring them a meal or groceries, help with physical needs, and pray with them. Invite them to your home to watch a live stream service with them. Later this week we will send to all our church members a sample letter that you can adapt to your own neighbors and their particular circumstances.
Many families will have children unexpectedly at home from school. There are several ways you might offer to minister to them:
If you have similarly aged school children whom you homeschool, offer to school their children with yours, or help the parents with the dynamics of schooling at home.
If you don’t have children their ages, offer to help with schooling anyway, or to provide childcare, or to take the children to appointments that the parents might have difficulty taking their children to.
Many children are dependent on the meals provided by the school district; GISD has now transitioned to their summer schedule of providing meals. Contact GISD and see how you can either provide a financial gift or how to volunteer time to help.
Use social media for godly purposes. So much of social media is consumed with foolishness and emptiness. Be proactive to limit your posts to encouragements from Scripture, hopeful quotes from books or articles you’ve read, or links to biblical sermons. In a word, don’t waste your social media interactions.
When you hear or read a biblically hopeful message relating to this situation, pass the link to an unsaved friend.
Undoubtedly there will be more changes in coming weeks and months. We want to position ourselves to continue to love each other so well that the world around us recognizes that even during the Coronavirus, we are loving each other well (Jn. 13:34-35). And we also have an unprecedented time to share the reason for the hope that is within us (1 Pt. 3:15). May we be bold and fearless to point unbelievers to that hope in these days.
In His grace and for His glory,
Pastor Terry, for the elders.
March 15, 2020 Update
Like many of you, the elders are monitoring the Coronavirus situation closely. We are following the news reports, trying to stay updated on medical and governmental suggestions and directives, and desiring to filter all the information through biblical wisdom to care for our church body well.
We met again early this afternoon to discuss what corporate ministry will look like tomorrow and in the coming week(s). Here is a summary of the update:
We will keep the schedule of worship for tomorrow that has already been planned (see additional notes from yesterday about the combined worship service).
We ask that everyone be wise about social distancing. For now, we are asking that you refrain from handshakes and hugs, and love your neighbor by giving elbow bumps.
Please do not use the water fountains for drinking; plenty of bottled water (both 8 oz. and 16 oz.) will be available (feel free to also bring water in your own sealed containers).
Only pre-packaged food will be available; coffee will be dispensed “barista-style” to limit possible contamination from ungloved hands.
If you are symptomatic with anything, we ask that you please stay home to limit the possibility of infecting others.
If you are in a demographic that is susceptible to catching illness (either old or young), wisdom would dictate that you also stay at home.
We also want to care for our church members who are serving in various ministries; if you are in a susceptible demographic or are uncomfortable with the potential for exposure, please contact your ministry leader and a replacement will be found for you.
Because GISD has cancelled school this week, we will also be cancelling all our Wednesday night activities (meal, AWANA, etc.) at least until GISD returns to its normal schedule.
Live stream will be available for corporate worship (11:00 a.m.); if you are unable to attend, one way to stay connected to the church body is through live streamed worship. We are working to ensure that the bandwidth will be adequate for the anticipated increase in viewers.
We will continue monitoring the situation and make decisions about corporate worship and ministries on a weekly (or daily, if needed) basis. The website will be updated regularly, and you will be sent information by text or email. Feel free also to call the church office during business hours for updated information.
As a final reminder, our desire for ourselves and our desire for our church body is that we don’t waste this opportunity. Many people are fearful; as believers in Christ we do not need to fear. We have confidence in our eternal home and we have confidence in our Savior and the Keeper of our Salvation (1 Pt. 1). We want to use this opportunity to communicate to those who are fearful the reason for the hope that is within us (1 Pt. 3:15). So as you engage in conversations and as you observe people who are distressed, use this opportunity to joyfully share with them the good news of our great Savior.
With gratitude and love for each of you,
Pastor Terry, for the elders.
March 13, 2020
GBC Update Regarding Coronavirus
Many organizations and institutions are suspending operations because of the coronavirus, so you may be wondering what GBC’s plans are for caring for our church body and our community — how can we love our neighbors (Lk. 10:29-37) during the coronavirus?
There is currently no recommendation from the CDC or the state of Texas to restrict public activities, such as church worship services. In fact there is currently no outbreak in our area, so there is no reason to consider that possibility yet. Should the government mandate some action, we would follow their directives, as God has dictated that we do (Rom. 13:1-7).
While we are planning to continue with corporate worship this Sunday, as planned, we also believe that there are some wise precautions and actions we can take as a means of demonstrating our love for each other and for our neighbors in the community (some of these recommendations are from the CDC):
If you are sick, please stay home.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow.
Wash hands often. Washing hands with soap is an appropriate and adequate action. Hand sanitizers can be used but are not necessary, though hand sanitizers may be more practical in public areas (and because of limited handwashing facilities at church, we will continue to have hand sanitizers prominently available).
Limit close contact with others as much as possible.
Some actions that we are taking during events at the church (and particularly on Sunday) include:
No fresh food will be put out for hospitality; all food will be pre-packaged until the pandemic is over.
Bottled water will be available as it might not be wise to use water fountains. You might also consider also bringing your own closed containers with water to make sure there is sufficient water for everyone.
Hand sanitizer will be available in all major areas of the buildings.
Live stream will be available for the 11:00 worship service — if you are ill or are susceptible to becoming ill, feel free to take advantage of that ministry.
Health officials are saying that if we all follow these simple practices, we will make the spread of all virus less likely. That obviously is no guarantee that the virus will not continue to spread or that we will not become sick. Yet, even with CORVID-19, God remains sovereign. No circumstance is a surprise to Him and no situation is beyond His control or authority. Theologian Abraham Kuyper rightly (and encouragingly) said in the last century, “there is not one atom in the universe over which the Lord does not say, ‘MINE!’” He has been in control of all things, He is in control of all things, and He will be in control of all things — including this virus (see Ps. 139 as a source of encouragement of His authority).
So we will continue Bible studies, AWANA, Sunday morning worship and Sunday School, as planned. If anything changes, you will be notified about those changes. You can always check the website for updates.
Let us please also note that if you are sick please, communicate your need with the church (contact the office or one of the elders) so we may help your family.
Finally, in case of an outbreak in our community, protect yourself and others (as an act of love and care for them):
Stay home and speak to your healthcare provider if you develop fever, cough, or shortness of breath
If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs include (and please note this list is not exhaustive; if you have any questions, please consult your medical provider for any symptoms that are severe or concerning to you):
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
New confusion or inability to arouse
Bluish lips or face
While there is much uncertainty in these days, we are certain of the providential authority and care of our God. That does not mean that we are “safe” or “protected” from getting sick; it does mean that He is working good in these circumstances for each of us (Rom. 8:28-29). He is good and He is doing good (Ps. 119:68) in all that He is doing in these days.