April 28, 2020

 

A Word from Walker

 
It is hard to believe we are entering our seventh week of a Shelter at Home/Social Distancing shutdown. So much has changed in a short period of time. Who would have believed that local churches would have gone this long without meeting together for public worship or small group gatherings? And from the looks of things, we are not going back to any regular type of assemblies for some time.

What do you do when you are handed a situation that you didn’t want or weren’t even prepared for in the slightest way? I know it would be easy to see ourselves as victims and spin our wheels looking for someone to blame. Like a lot of situations in which we experience some kind of loss, we think if we could know who is at fault that this would provide some kind of solace. But unfortunately, the relief this might provide is at best superficial, and has no lasting impact on helping us deal constructively with our present crisis.

Others will feel tempted to come up with a fool-proof plan for recovery. This mindset lends itself to simplistic, grandiose thinking that in the end, leads to rabbit trails and wild goose chases which can leave us in worse shape than when we began. After all, if a solution to an unprecedented phenomenon is just a matter of slapping some ideas together we would already be way down the path of the comprehensive reboot we all desire.

What is needed, especially from our leaders, is a thorough and wise consideration of all the facts leading to a careful step-by-step process of recovery. No matter how much we would want things to be different, there is no switch someone can turn on that would get us back to where we were before COVID-19. Quick fixes only lead to a multiplication of more problems.

And maybe in some ways, having the false belief of total autonomy blown apart is a good thing. I think this is the case because prior to this crisis many of us were in autopilot, operating from the false premise that we were in complete control. Such egotism is the first straw house to be blown down under the gale force of unexpected trauma like we are processing now. This is a good thing because any illusion, no matter how comfortable it might be, will always lead to miscalculations and bad choices.

What is essential for us to truly recover is an added measure of humility that leads to a deeper level of trust in God. This is necessary because right at this moment there is still so much we don’t know. To presume we have enough verifiable data to make bold plans is like traveling on bald tires in a snow storm – there is a high probability that we are going to end up in a ditch or worse if we maintain this foolish activity. We are better off absorbing facts, seeking the face of God in prayer and making initial plans that can be rapidly assessed and changed in midstream if needed.

This is what we are seeking to do as your Association. Our staff and leaders are constantly processing the latest information we can absorb and use. We want to strategically apply this information to give our churches the kind of insights that will help them plot a wise course of action. We also desire to add resources that provide support that boosts the leaders in our congregations health and stability. All of you who lead are now managing new responsibilities on top of existing duties. We want you to be well and not only survive these difficult days, but more importantly to thrive and grow.

I have already talked and prayed with many of you and have been encouraged by the stories I hear about how your churches have adapted and improvised during these stressful times. I am proud of how you have stepped up and sought to find new and innovative ways to minister to the saints in your congregation and the precious people in our communities. Please know that we are praying for you, and that we are ready to serve you in any way we can. In the end it is important to remember that God is at work in our midst, and his plans will prevail.

Your fellow servant in Christ,
Walker
 

April 28, 2020

 

Craig's Comments

  
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! Habakkuk 3:17-18
 
Many people in our church families are journeying through a season of hardship, wilderness, or even a dark night of the soul. Whenever we face such, it is easy to feel forsaken. Our emotions often seek to censure that which we know to be truth. This makes our wilderness experience even more exaggerated when we find our hope under attack.
 
Has this difficult time taken God by surprise? Does God ever say, “Oops?”
 
I think we all know the answer to such, but in the midst of the slough of despond (cf. Pilgrim’s Progress) our minds are prone to wander into conclusions that simply are not true.
 
What is the answer when we find ourselves struggling with such realities in our human existence? First and foremost the answer is faith. Are we living in step with Christ as we once did so that God might feed us like Elijah being fed by the ravens at the brook Kerith? (1 Kings 17) Then we need to consider self care which is multi-faceted. Factors such as our diet, exercise, and social/family interaction all contribute to our well being also. We underestimate these many times because deep down we believe that we are indestructible. In reality they play a significant role in how we navigate seasons of hardship.
 
Taking all of these into account there is only one other factor that we must keep in mind…blessing others. A supreme focus upon ourselves often causes us to be depressed during challenging times. Take intentional time to help others as much as possible during this time of stay at home orders and social distancing. While that may seem daunting, there are ways that we can still legally help others and that often contribute to our well-being.
 
During these uncertain times many plans are tentative, but we are resolving to work closely with our churches to help as many people as possible. Here are a few reminders:
 
Food distribution: In cooperation with the Bread of Life Food Pantry we are seeking to receive donations of food as well as monetary support to equip our churches with food boxes that may be used in the community. A donation day was held on April 23rd and we had a wonderful response. Distribution is scheduled for May 7 and our goal is mostly to send boxes out to churches for them to distribute as needed. Special arrangements may be made for donations and distribution if our current dates are not tenable. Additional dates will be planned once we are able to assess the need on an ongoing basis. Updates will be sent via constant contact and on social media.
 
Mask the City: We also plan to partner with a service to provide masks for those who may not have access to them due to financial constraints or other reasons. This will be in partnership with Love Out Loud and the City of Winston. A limited supply will be available at the associational offices for churches to consider. They are also available on a larger scale for purchase or free of charge by clicking: https://forms.gle/wkojuDvYFtWsU6xQ9
 
Missions Blast: At this time, we would like to remain optimistic that schools will reopen in the Fall creating many needs that our churches can assist with. We are encouraging our churches to reach out to their local elementary schools and make known their interest in serving as needs arise. A guide has been released with some general principles for churches to keep in mind as they seek to do so for the month of August.