Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Greetings and blessings in the Name of Jesus Christ our reigning and coming King! I want to share some updates and encourage you during this unusual season. While the global pandemic has stopped the world in its tracks, our God is still working for the glory of His Son in all the earth.
When we suspended our in-person meetings in March, I never imagined the road to “a new normal” would be so long and include so many twists and turns. For now, not much seems normal, but we do not need to fear or fret.
God has given us a sure guide — His holy and perfect Word. In some ways, we have a wonderful opportunity to reflect on why the local church is so vital. We can be reminded of His design for His church and pursue it wholeheartedly as things return to “new normal.”
To do this, it is helpful to remember God desires for us to glorify His Son by making disciples who make disciples who make disciples. To make disciples, we need to know what a disciple is, does, and believes.
A disciple is a new creature in Christ created through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. A disciple must be “born again” — made new through the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. A disciple cannot be made unless the gospel is heard. To make disciples, we must be disciples who share the good news.
If this pandemic has shown us anything, it is that many people do not have the peace and joy that comes by belonging to Jesus who has conquered death. We have a great opportunity to rise above the worry, the confusion, and the various opinions to share the best truth ever -- Jesus conquered sin and death for those who trust in Him!
Being a disciple does not end with the new birth. Genuine new birth leads to a new life in a new community — a local church. As we have seen in Hebrews, our target is not decisions for Christ that fizzle but disciples of Christ who finish the race. The local church has been given the responsibility of baptizing new believers and teaching them to observe all that King Jesus has commanded us to do as His people.
This is an important truth. Being and becoming a disciple happens within the context of a strong commitment to a local church. God has made us new to experience and to share in His new life together as His church.
According to the New Testament, virtually every aspect of being a disciple happens in/through/with a local church. The local church is an ever-growing family on mission together. It is in a local church that we love, serve, pray for, encourage, challenge, and forgive one another.
We maintain the confession of our hope within a local church. We are accountable to Christ by being accountable to one another in a local church. We identify and train up a new generation of God-called men to serve as pastors in a local church. Disciples identify, support, and send out church planters and missionaries from a local church. We encourage one another to love and good deeds in a local church. We bear one another’s burdens in a local church. We help young men become godly husbands and fathers and young women become godly wives and mothers in a local church.
This is not an exhaustive list, but we know these things are true of disciples because God’s Word reveals both our need for life in Jesus and how to live for Him. Among the many things a disciple does, gathering together to worship King Jesus is central and vital.
I have heard from many how much you miss worshiping together. This is a great sign! A hunger for God’s Word and a desire to worship Jesus comes from the indwelling Spirit. We are compelled to serve together in the mission of making disciples when we hear and sing God’s truth and encounter our King in worship. A real disciple longs to gather with his/her local church to worship King Jesus. In worship, we hear God’s Word, read God’s Word, encourage one another by singing the truths of the gospel to God and to one another, support the mission through our generous giving, and more!
For this reason, if you are not in an at-risk category, I want to encourage you to consider that now may be the time to return to the worship gathering. If you are unsettled by worshiping indoors, consider the outdoor service — a service where we have seen a wide range of ages lifting their voices to Jesus in a socially-distanced fashion.
Below, I will say some more about worship and some other upcoming opportunities to come together and be Christ’s church.
Gathering for Worship
Because gathering for worship with our local church family is such a vital part of being a disciple (Heb 10:25), we should view the livestream (available on the church YouTube channel, the website, and through the app) as a last resort and not as our “new normal.” A livestream is helpful in a pandemic, when you are sick, or when you are out of town, but it is no substitute for being physically present with your church family to worship Jesus.
God has made us to be encouraged through our assembling together. Indeed, the New Testament shows the Spirit dwells in a special way among the church when we are gathered. For that reason, I want to be sure you know about the two opportunities to worship each weekend (weather permitting on Saturdays, moved indoors if necessary).
Sundays at 10:30AM | Preschool/Kids Ministries Return August 9
First, we have worship in the sanctuary (and as needed projected on the screens in the gym) on Sundays at 10:30AM. Beginning Sunday, August 9, we will have nursery, preschool, and kids' worship available during the 10:30AM service. We will check children’s temperatures as they arrive, and volunteers will wear masks. Children over 10 must also wear a mask unless they have a medical reason they cannot. You will need to register your household for the worship service (by Saturday afternoon would be a huge help!), and we will be ready to receive your child at 10:10AM for the 10:30AM service.
Saturdays at 7PM
If you prefer to not have to sign up or wear a mask, we also have an opportunity to worship on Saturdays in the field behind the church at 7PM. The wonderful thing about this service is the freedom. People are relaxed and receptive. The attire is comfortable/weather appropriate. We’ve had quite a few guests attend. At this service, you may sit as far away from others as you would like to feel that you are at a safe distance, and you may sing to the Lord without a mask. It is a wonderful time!
I truly believe God provided the field for us to be able to gather and worship safely and to magnify Jesus in our community during this season. We did not know it at the time, but He did. We have a place to worship given to us by God for this time. As the days get shorter, we will adjust the time of this service to continue worshiping during daylight. For now, this is the safest way to worship and accommodate a larger gathering.
At this service, we have seen people from various ages and stages of life — singles, couples, widows, young, young at heart, and families with kids of all ages. The diversity of ages and life stages reminds me of the crowds to whom Jesus preached, and I hope you will consider joining us for this service if worshiping inside is too great a risk. We simply ask you to bring a lawn chair or a blanket and your Bible. There is plenty of room to practice social-distancing; we keep the service to an hour, and the bathroom is available if needed.
Big Worship Weekend (weather permitting)| August 15-16
Because worship is so vital, I want to specifically ask you to make plans to join us on Aug 15 or 16 for a Big Worship Weekend (most of the "big" is on Saturday, but if you cannot attend Saturday, it will still be a BIG deal to be able to worship with you on Sunday).
August is typically one of my favorite months of the year! The weather is still warm, but fall and college football are on the way. Families are returning from vacations, and students are anticipating another school year.
While all of these things are wonderful, what I enjoy the most is that the worship services are filled with you. People are back in town and back to worshiping Jesus and inviting others to consider the gospel.
This year, many things in our lives are quite different, but August remains a great time to get back to worship. For many of us, the time to return is now. We need to see one another and worship our risen King together. For that reason, I want to invite you to participate in the Big Worship Weekend on Saturday (8/15) or Sunday (8/16).
On this weekend, weather permitting, we will celebrate some baptisms during the Saturday evening service. We will also have an opportunity to meet a missionary couple that our church helps to support every week. They are serving Jesus in a very dark and dangerous place and will be available to fellowship and answer any questions you may have following the service. We are also hoping to have an ice-cream truck or other sweet treat following the service (more details on this as soon as possible - we are awaiting an answer).
**If weather prevents us from worshiping, we will still worship inside on both Saturday and Sunday, but we will move the baptisms and other special opportunities to the following weekend.**
Small Groups | Sunday School
While worshiping together is the engine that fuels our life together as disciples, small groups provide a place to live out many of the “one anothers” of the Christian life. For as long as social distancing is required indoors, it is difficult to hold individual Sunday School classes inside at the same time. Most of our classrooms will not allow us to meet the regulations for social distancing.
For this reason, classes and small groups are encouraged to meet over Zoom and/or to schedule a time to use the field or the sanctuary during the week. The sanctuary is already marked off in socially-distanced zones and may be used by classes during the week on a first-come, first-served basis. We simply ask that you wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and sanitize the space as you leave.
Currently, we have one class meeting outside on Sunday mornings before worship and another small group meeting on Tuesday evenings in the field. The students are utilizing the field on Wednesday evenings. If you would like to schedule the field or the sanctuary to have your class meet during the week, please contact the church office, and we will get your class on the schedule.
For those who are not a part of a class that is meeting during the week, we also are providing a Sunday School lesson on Facebook live at 9AM on Sunday mornings. We have a great rotation of teachers helping with this!
Later this fall, we hope to bring more people into the building at a common time and with opportunities for children at the same time. Tentatively, we are considering having a few combined adult classes in the larger spaces for social distancing. We are still working on some of the logistics and will share more as we can.
In the meantime, please feel free to use the field or the sanctuary as a place for your class to meet. The first time you schedule the sanctuary, Cindy will tell you about the how to sanitize the space as you leave.
Business Meeting | Saturday, August 8 | 8PM
Under normal circumstances, we would have had a regular business meeting in July, but limited opportunities for interaction have meant that our nominating committee has needed a bit more time to prepare a list of nominees for service on the various committees of the church.
For that reason, we will hold the regular business meeting on Saturday, August 8 in the field immediately following the worship service at approximately 8PM. Holding the meeting in the field will allow the greatest number of members to participate. We will place the documents with the information needed to be considered by the church in the church app (search North Roanoke in your app store to download the free app).
Throughout the pandemic, many of you have asked about the church’s financial picture. For much of the year, our financial position has been remarkably strong.
Remarkably, earlier this summer, receipts were ahead of the budgeted need for the year. This is no longer the case, but we are still in a pretty good place for this point in the year (approximately $17,000 behind budget). Your generosity has been an overwhelming encouragement and testimony to your love for Christ and His mission. You may continue to support the advance of the gospel through North Roanoke by giving online, through the app, through the mail, or by placing your gift in the offering box at worship or in the white mailbox outside the church office.
As you may know, the long-range planning committee was poised to bring a motion to our regular business meeting in March regarding a relocation/renovation of the preschool. This is something we still hope to do. In one way, now would be a great time for the renovation because the building is empty. However, many unknowns remain due to COVID-19. For that reason, we are monitoring our overall financial picture and hope to bring the motion for the work to be done as soon as things are heading toward “new normal.”
Thank you for bearing with me through this lengthy update. It has been pure joy to see many of you returning to worship, and I hope to see many, many more of you in the weeks to come.
In Christ’s love,