March 26, 2020 | 0 Comments
I pray that this finds you well and trusting the mercy of Christ. I’m writing to you to address a few matters which I could not in my previous letter. In sum, I hope to address the following questions:
What should I do this Sunday?
Is this church? What is a church?
Can we livestream?
You should know that this letter is long, but I hope and trust that it is worth the time and thought.
What should I do this Sunday?
In light of the COVID-19 pestilence (and I choose the word “pestilence” deliberately), I think that we would be wise to spend some time this coming Lord’s Day reflecting on the power of Christ over disease and death. To that end, I’ve developed a template for worship at home based upon a passage from Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus displays such power (Matthew 8:1-17). Please know that this is simply a suggested template for worship. You can take up portions of this template or all of it.
Call to Worship: God through his Word calls us to worship him. Read Psalm 33:1-3
Prayer of Invocation: Offer a brief prayer asking God to attend your worship.
Praise through Song: O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing (216)
Praise God through Prayer: Offer a prayer praising God for who he is and what he has done.
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 53:1-12 (Note: Matthew quotes Isaiah 53:4 in our guiding text, Matthew 8:1-17)
Confess Your Sin through Prayer: Offer a prayer of confession for anything the Lord has brought to mind in your reading of Isaiah 53.
Scriptural Assurance of Pardon (for those who repent and believe): Read Psalm 130:3-4
Respond in Song: I Lay My Sins on Jesus (272)
Give Thanks and Pray for Understanding of God’s Word: Offer a brief prayer of thanksgiving for what God has done in Jesus Christ. Also ask God, through his Holy Spirit to give you a mind, heart, and will to hear, understand, believe, and obey his Word.
Read and Reflect on God’s Word: Read Matthew 8:1-17
- Two options: Answer and discussion questions on the passage or listen to a sermon and discuss questions on the sermon (see below).
- Answer/Discuss the following questions:
- Why did Jesus tell the man in verse 4 to “go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded?” (Hint: proof) What does Jesus want to prove? What should we believe about Jesus as a result of this proof?
- What does Jesus do in Matthew 8:5-13? What did Jesus find in these verses (in the centurion)? What has Jesus found in you? Has he found faith? What does the centurion call Jesus? (Hint: verse 8) What does this tell us about Jesus?
- What does Matthew 8:14-17 prove about Jesus’ power? What does Jesus have power over? How is this related to Isaiah’s prophecy? How does Isaiah relate sickness to sin? What does this tell us about our sin? What does this tell us about our Savior?
- What should you apply to your life from this passage?
- Something you should start doing
- Something you should stop doing
- Something you should pray about
- Something you should praise or thank God for
- Something you should repent of
- Something that you should believe
- What is something that you would like to share with an unbeliever from this passage?
- Listen to a sermon on the Text:
- Discuss the Sermon:
- What was the point of the sermon (as a whole)?
- What were the points of the sermon?
- Where from the text was the gospel preached?
- How would you share the gospel with an unbeliever from the biblical text?
- What applications were made in the sermon?
- What application do you need to make in your life from the sermon?
- What applications were made to the church from the sermon?
- How does this sermon encourage us to trust, pray, and obey God?
Respond in Song: I Saw the Cross of Jesus (286)
Close in Prayer: Offer a brief prayer thanking God for what you have learned about him, salvation through Jesus, and how you ought to follow in faith.
Receive God’s Benediction: Read 2 Corinthians 13:14
Reflect: Take some time and reflect on what God has taught you in this time.
These are some of the things that you can do to spend the coming Lord’s Day well. If you’re a part of the church’s Facebook Group, then maybe you could share an edifying reflection from your time of worship.
Is this church? What is a church?
We want to be clear that worshiping in your home is not church. Your physical family is not a small version of the local church. The local church is not a building either. The local church is the people of God associated by faith in Christ, drawn together through a covenantal commitment to one another, who regularly meet to worship Christ through the right preaching of God’s Word and the right administration of God’s ordinances (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). Biblically speaking, this is what the church does when it gathers:
- Read the Bible: 1 Timothy 4:13
- Pray: 1 Timothy 2:1
- Sing: Ephesians 5:19 (note the “one another” phrase)
- Teach and Admonish: Colossians 3:16 (note the “one another” phrase)
- Preach: 2 Timothy 4:2, Galatians 1
- Practice Baptism: Matthew 28:18-20
- Celebrate the Lord’s Supper: 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 (note the “when you come together” phrases)
Ultimately, the Scriptures assume that we will physically gather to do these things. Consider Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Similarly, Article 13 of our church’s Statement of Faith reminds us what we believe about the local church:
- Of a Gospel Church
We believe that a visible church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the ordinances of Christ; governed by his laws, and exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by his Word; that its only scriptural officers are Bishops, or Pastors, and Deacons, whose qualifications, claims, and duties are defined in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus.
Notice that we are associated, that we observe the ordinances, that we are governed by Christ’s laws, and that we exercise gifts, rights, and privileges given to us in God’s Word. In the very least, in order to observe the ordinances and exercise the gifts God has given to us we need to gather (Again, see Hebrews 10:24-25). Writing in 1589, Henry Barrow defined the church as follows:
This church as it is universally understood, containeth in it all the elect of God that have been, are, or shall be. But being considered more particularly, as it is seen in the present world, it consisteth of a company and fellowship of faithful and holy people gathered together in the name of Jesus Christ, their only king, priest, and prophet, worshipping him aright, being peaceably and quietly governed by his officers and laws, keeping the unity of faith in the bond of peace and love unfeigned. [Henry Barrow, “A True Description of a Visible Church,” reprinted in Iain Murray, ed., The Reformation of the Church: A Collection of Reformed and Puritan Documents on Church Issues (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), 196.]
Many of you will know that I am a lover of the Baptist Catechism as published by the Charleston Association of 1813. Well in 1774, my beloved Charleston Association also put out a wonderful definition of the local church:
A particular gospel church consists of a company of saints incorporated by a special covenant into one distinct body, and meeting together in one place, for the enjoyment of fellowship with each other and with Christ their head, in all his institutions, to their mutual edification and the glory of God through the Spirit 2 Cor. 8:5, Acts 2:1. [The Baptist Association in Charleston, South Carolina, “A Summary of Church Discipline,” Polity: Biblical Arguments in How to Conduct Church Life (Washington, DC: Center for Church Reform, 2001), 118.]
What is the point? While the church remains the church when it is scattered, biblically speaking it is when the church is gathered (assembled) that the church takes up and takes in the right preaching of the Word and the right administration of the ordinances. In other words, these are the things that we ordinarily do together (with one another). These are not ordinarily the things that we do without one another, which leads to our present approach to live-streaming.
Can we livestream?
If you have skipped down to this question, you may want to return to the question, “Is this church? What is a church?” because the answer to this question is based upon the foundation laid above.
At this time, the elders’ approach to live-streaming is that we are open to having the service live-streamed if we are gathering and assembling together. We would do this in love for those who are homebound, elderly, sick, those who can’t make it due to distance, or those who feel it is not safe to come (we want to be careful not to bind consciences here).
We are reticent to live-stream a service wherein we are somewhat pretending to gather – where we are acting like a gathered body, doing the things the gathered body does, even though we are not gathered. This, not live-streaming the service while we are not gathered, is not the ABC elders’ settled position. Things may change, our understanding of the congregation’s needs may change. Our approach may change during this extraordinary period of time. Currently, this is where we feel like the arrows of Scripture point.
When we do not meet, due to the hand of God’s sovereign providence, we probably ought to feel that loss. In this season, and particularly on the Lord’s Day we have a sense that we don’t want to miss worshipping with the church, rightly so, and so we reach for something to stand in the gap. But in this season feeling like we’re missing worshipping with the church is precisely what we should feel because we are not worshipping with the church. We ought to mourn, maybe even fast and pray, over the loss. It should grieve us to feel separated from our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we should allow this to drive us to our God in prayer – pleading with him to end this pestilence and distress upon our community, upon this land, and upon the world. We should plead with him to open the door for us to meet again, or for us to meet him in the air because the Lord Jesus has returned. Consider the words of a wonderful hymn we sing from time to time:
O When thou city of my God,
Shall I thy courts ascend;
Where congregations ne’er break up,
And Sabbaths have no end?
-From “Jerusalem, My Happy Home” by Joseph Bromehead.
As I close, and by way of reminder, please remember the four things we have previously mentioned:
- Fight fear with faith.
- Read your Bible and pray every day.
- Give regularly and sacrificially.
- Remember that we are sojourners, that our Father is sovereign, and that we can trust him.
With love for Christ, and longing to be with you all again,
For the elders of ABC,
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