Covid-19: 12 steps for our church

On Sunday at Welcome Church I spoke about our response to the current Coronavirus Pandemic. This is a moment unprecedented in most of our lifetimes, but moments like this are nothing new historically; many disasters, plagues and viruses have come and gone over the years.

In 1854, the preacher Charles Spurgeon found himself pastoring a congregation during a cholera outbreak in London. You can read about his response during that time here. We need a response to this current crisis too.

Here’s our 12 step plan as a church:

1. Let’s have faith:man-walking-on-gray-stairs-677971

As I’ve said before, this is not a time to panic (read more here). The church is made for a time like this. We are people of faith and we will trust Jesus. We will trust him that our lives are in his hands, and we will trust that He will do good things in and through our church and our lives at this time.

2. Let’s make informed decisions:

We will listen to wisdom and follow official advice, combining that with our local knowledge of the state of play in our own town and church. We won’t be making changes simply for the sake of appearances.

Presently (2pm, 16th March) we’re allowed to meet together as normal, so we’ll continue to do so. If the official advice changes, we will change too. In line with official advice, if you have a new constant cough or a high fever – however mild – please self isolate, and do let us know so we can pray for you.

3. Let’s continue to meet together:

We need to seek God throughout this challenging season. If a point comes where the official advice is to cancel our main Sunday meetings, we’ll meet in other ways and by other means as appropriate. This could include smaller meetings, Life Groups, Facebook live, video recordings, podcasts, blog posts, links to worship songs, email updates and more. Make sure you connect to as many of these things as you can.

Obviously there are some who may need to limit social interaction, on the advice of health professionals, or due to underlying health conditions, but let’s not withdraw simply out of fear, after all – this could go on for some months.

Currently we have decided not to pass an offering basket or take communion. Let’s also be wise in how we greet people or pray for them. Beyond that, we plan to carry on with our diary as planned, in line with the current official advice. But because this crisis is likely to get significantly worse before it gets better, let’s be ready for changes, even at the last minute, and let’s be flexible when they happen.

*** UPDATE ***
This afternoon,
Boris Johnson briefed the nation on the latest measures that the Government would like us to take to help manage the national Coronavirus situation.

Amongst other things it was said, “now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and non-essential travel” and that we should all avoid all social gatherings and social contact.

He has also asked people to work from home wherever possible.

In order to comply with this guidance, with immediate effect Welcome Church will be cancelling all meetings, including Life Groups, and closing our office until further notice.

Over the next couple of days we will be looking at how things develop and what that will mean for us as a church, including using online and other resources.

As soon as we have further information we will issue an update via email, social media and our website, so expect to hear from us soon.

Let’s all be on the front foot to care for one another wherever we can.

Remember: none of this is taking our Heavenly Father by surprise.

He can use this time for His purposes in our lives, our church and our nation.

 

4. Let’s pray:

belief-bible-book-business-267559Let’s seek God for his protection on our church, our town and our nation at this time. Let’s pray for wisdom for our government, and strength and endurance for NHS workers and emergency services. If someone is sick we’ll pray for them in whatever way we can as well; just let us know the situation. Please also pray at home and in Life Groups.

We are Christians, not fatalists! We believe in prayer!

Right now the official guidelines tell us to wash our hands often, for at least 20 seconds. If you want to time 20 seconds, try praying The Lord’s Prayer; it works in more ways than one. 😃 We believe in the power of prayer, we also believe in the power of soap.

5. Let’s reject selfishness:

It would be very easy to just focus on ourself and our own family right now: buy what we can, pile it up, look after number one and batten down the hatches until it’s over. By doing that we could miss out on the opportunity of this unusual season we are living through.

Instead of embracing selfishness and fear, let’s show the love of Jesus to our world by responding with kindness, care and generosity to those around us. Let’s connect with our neighbours and those in need, and let’s offer help in Jesus name. And let’s ask Jesus for his help and strength to keep on serving, however tough it gets.

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6. Let’s be ready to care for others:

As a church we are God’s family, so let’s act like a family. This may get easier once some of us have had the virus and recovered, so we can step up in caring for others without restrictions, but let’s not wait until then.

If there comes a point when those who are over 70 are told to self isolate – which could happen in the near future – let’s be ready to help them. And let’s think more widely than just our church; let’s be ready to step up and help our neighbours and any vulnerable people we know as well.

7. Let’s look to pastor our town:

People are in fear. Let’s be ready to speak God’s good news to people, to offer prayer, to help our neighbours and to show a different way of living. Let’s not be selfish. Let’s not spread fear in person or online. Let’s speak faith and point people to the eternal hope that is available in Jesus, and let’s step up to help practically. Welcome Church is here in Woking for such a time as this.

8. Let’s be open to new evangelistic opportunities:

Let’s be ready to tell people the reason for the hope that we have. We have an amazing message of hope in Jesus; he offers eternal life and the promise of his presence with us. We can walk through this season without fear because live or die we can’t lose. And remember: the more you pray for opportunities, the more you get – so be ready.

9. Let’s be worshippers:

God deserves our praise at all times, so let’s live lives of worship in all circumstances. Worship is a spiritual weapon (see 2 Chronicles 20). We’re called to give thanks to God in every circumstance; so let’s be worshippers and not panickers; it’s hard to worship when you’re running away in fear!

10. Let’s lead our children well:

Teach the truth of the gospel to your children and grandchildren. Don’t leave them afraid and don’t model fear to them. Pray for them and pray with them. Remind them that Jesus cares for them. Teach them not to be afraid in life’s difficult circumstances. Teach them that death is not the end for any of us if we put our faith in Jesus. When Coronavirus comes up in conversation be ready to speak words of faith and point them to Jesus. Our kids need evangelism even more than they need soap!

As a family you could worship together, pray together and celebrate communion together. Let’s lead our children in faith, not fear.

11. Let’s entrust our lives to God:

When Esther, in the Bible book of Esther, had to go before the King on behalf of her people, without being summoned by him and in great fear of her life, she said, “I will go before the King, and if I perish I perish”.

This is a time to throw ourselves onto Jesus. Let’s go before King Jesus, ask for his mercy and leave our lives in his hands as we serve those around us. If we perish, it’s in his hands. We are not immune to disease, but death is not the end for us either, and King Jesus has us safely in his hands.

flowers-marguerites-destroyed-dead-200912. If people die, let’s bury them with faith, and care for their families well:

Death is not the end. We have a resurrection to come. If our faith counts for anything, it counts when we face a crisis like this, where people we love may die, or our own lives may be lost. God has not promised us immunity from sickness and death, but his word does show us that we’re immortal until our life’s work is done – so let’s trust him.

THAT’S THE PLAN!

This situation will get worse before it gets better. Jesus does not promise that we will never get sick or die. We may lose people we love to this and we may mourn … but we will not mourn like those who have no hope, and we will not walk in fear.

Jesus won a great victory for us at the cross: death was defeated; our resurrection is promised; victory is ours in Jesus. We can live in contentment despite the current crisis because our Heavenly Father is watching over us and even if we die we will live.

And perhaps this crisis is a good reminder for us all that it’s not wise to live our lives as though sickness and death were the least likely things ever to happen to us; they are a certainty for us all.

Introducing ChurchSuite

As a church we need to store the information we have about people safely and process it properly. To help us with this at Welcome Church we ha e introduced a new database system called ChurchSuite. Some of you may have heard of it or used it before.

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Not that kind of sweet

 

What happens next?

If you are already on our Welcome Church database you should have received two e-mails:

E-mail 1:  Is simply to let you know that you’re on our ChurchSuite database. If you don’t want to be on it anymore you can ask to be removed.

E-mail 2: Gives you login details for your personal account.

If you believe you are on our system (or want to be) and you haven’t had an e-mail from us, something may be wrong with the info we have. Please let us know straightaway.

ChurchSuite comes with a handy App

ChurchSuite comes with a free to use App for smart phones and tablets. Please download it and login to it. It works on a web browser too, so you might want to login to it on your laptop and bookmark it too.

Some important info: this App will replace the previous Welcome Church App, which we will cease to use or update as of now, It will disappear from the App Store soon, but you might want to delete it now and save some precious space on your device! 😀

What the ChurchSuite App does for us

The app will initially contain:

  • Your data (Address, DOB, phone number etc.) Please check that it’s correct and edit it if it’s not. You can also add more data than we currently hold if you want to. No one else can see your  data except those who we have authorised to see it. (Even if you change the settings on your data to “visible”, this will still be true. We’ve set it up that way on purpose …)
  • Podcasts – so you can keep up to date with our latest talks easily
  • Links to our Facebook page and our Website (which might be helpful)
  • The church diary, and the chance to sign up for events (which will be hugely helpful)

In the next few weeks we will be adding some more functions:

  • Serving rotas will soon be added (some are there already). Reminder e-mails will also be generated through the App for when you’re serving
  • You will be able to mark when you’re unable to serve so that you don’t get put on a rota, and you’ll also be able to organise swaps with people.
  • For people who create rotas: we will soon be showing you how to do this easily through the App; although at first we are adding them centrally
  • Registration for kids and youth work will soon be done through the App
  • Later on you’ll be able to see your life group, or serving team and message them all through the App
  • Further applications may also follow

We really hope this is helpful for people. If you have any questions please message Darren in the office on Darren.Forsdyke@allwelcome.uk

Thanks … and enjoy!

Yes You Can!

One of the (many!) roles that falls to me as the Lead Pastor is setting the culture for my church. Culture is so important!

Someone said it like this:

“Culture is king!”

Obviously Christians believe that Jesus is king 😀 but whoever said it still made an important point. Perhaps it was better phrased like this:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

The simple truth is this: we can make all the plans we want and devise all the strategy we  like, but the culture of our church can hinder our best intentions. For example:

  • We could devise a system to welcome new people, but if our culture is not inclusive and welcoming, new people will not feel welcome.
  • We can create a strategy to train more leaders, but if our culture is not releasing and empowering, new leaders will not emerge – (or they will emerge and leave!)
  • We can earnestly desire to be ‘a more creative church’, but if our culture is not open to new or fresh ideas, creativity will be stifled.

So what culture do we want?

In our preaching over the last three weeks I’ve highlighted two culture areas (and more will follow in the months ahead). We need to create:

  • A “Come As You Are” culture
  • A Culture of Grace

“Come As You Are” is about how we treat people coming in to our church.

It might be best summed up in the three ‘B’ words: Believe, Belong, Become

I explained on Sunday how ‘Become’ is better than ‘Behave’; Christ-like action flows from our new identity in Christ.

One implication of ‘Belong’ being first on the list, is that we don’t require someone to be a church member before they belong to a neighbourhood Group or join a serving team in many areas of church life.

Can I get involved? Yes you can! (Just ask)

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Flip That Switch!

A “Grace Filled Culture” is about how we treat people within the church

This flows out of our new life and identity in Christ; it’s the outworking of the gospel in our lives and our church.

Jesus gave us a new commandment: love one another (John 13v34). We need to show the same grace to each other that God has shown to us (see Matthew 18v21-35).

How could you show more love and grace to someone in the church today?