OPEN LETTER ABOUT LBC RESPONSE TO Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Dear LBC Family, Beech Creek and Blanchard Communities:

Our world is certainly abuzz and divided by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its present and potential future impact. We want to be careful and thoughtful, but not fearful or overreactive. We will continue to have regular services at LBC for the time being. According to the CDC the overall risk of exposure is still very low. We are a church that operates not under a spirit of fear but of power and a sound mind.
We especially want to love our kids, seniors, and others who may be vulnerable to illness well. LBC will continue to allow the building to be used for community activities. In Psalm 46, we are reminded that it is God who is our refuge and strength, and our ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, let us not fear, but with confidence use this opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus through our prayers and our care for others.
 
We live in a creation of thorns and thistles – a world not yet as it should be – and this is yet another example. Therefore, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some perspectives on this particular outbreak and how we as Christians can respond.
 
Fear vs. Love
 
Often, our natural response to news of these kinds of outbreaks is fear. This is, of course, a natural emotion, and a healthy focus on self-preservation is wise. All human life is worth protecting, because we bear the image of God and are therefore eminently valuable. However, we need to be careful to weigh the “actual” risks versus the “perceived risk” (which is often skewed towards the disastrous: for example, COVID-19 currently poses very little threat to the average American). However, we can’t just choose to “not be afraid.” We have to walk into our fear and expose it to the light of the gospel.
As we know from many contexts, fear can be a dangerous emotion when unchecked, because it can cause us to curve inward and focus only on ourselves. As Christians, we do not fear death as others do because of our resurrection hope. We do not forget that our Father who loves us is providentially guiding events in the here and now. And we dare not neglect the invitation of the gospel: to receive the love of God so that we learn to love our neighbor as ourselves. “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). This, I would suggest, is the guiding question of the church in times of mounting fear: “How can we not succumb to fear and continue to love one another well?”

That is the question that LBC will be asking over the next several days and weeks as we think through practical steps to respond to health crises like this one. Since our weekends can be a heightened point of contact with one another, we would love to encourage the following steps:

1. Please wash your hands often and completely. The CDC recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. We have bathrooms and hand sanitizer throughout the building.

2. We love to greet each other with hugs and handshakes, but let’s do our best to refrain from these for the time being. Even if you are not concerned about COVID-19, the person you are desiring to feel welcome might be.

3. Thank you for your desire to make gathering on weekends a priority, but if you are fighting any kind of illness, maybe stay at home and enjoy worshipping through our online worship experience(on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lbcblanchard/ ) for the time being. You can also make online contributions/tithes using our online giving site at https://www.lbcblanchard.com/tithe/ Coming together on the weekends in the same place is always better, but not if there is a risk of you getting worse or inadvertently passing your illness on to someone else.

Where We’re Headed
We don’t know what the future holds, for this outbreak, or for others that will almost surely come. But we will also not cease to pray for those fighting this outbreak, as well as lament for those suffering from it and the families that have lost loved ones. Disease is horrific: just because it is happening to someone else doesn’t make it less important.

These are all just simple precautions that are easy for us to take to make sure we are being thoughtful. In the future, there may be more drastic measures that need to be taken. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated.

In times like these, I am reminded of Isaiah 41:10. “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and hear you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

If opportunities come to serve more tangibly, we will seek to take them. Anecdotal reports suggest the church in China is sacrificially serving their neighbors and earning trust among them, much like the early church did during the plagues in Rome: Christians ran into the cities to serve as the politicians were running out to protect themselves. Knowing we are ultimately safe makes a real, tangible difference in our love for one another.

One thing I can almost certainly promise is that we will never forsake the act of meeting together as a church body, even if not everyone is able to participate on a given Sunday. We do not just gather as a church to receive religious content: we could do that over our phones! The very act of gathering is a sign of the gospel, an act of rebellion against the forces of fear, suspicion, and prejudice that tell us we have more to fear from one another than we have to gain from the presence of Christ in each other. As Paul said to the Corinthians, we are “one body, because we all share in one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). Our tangible, physical unity around the table is itself an act of gospel proclamation, and will be worth continuing no matter what threats of danger come. Hostile governments, rogue shooters, and COVID-19 do not hold more power over us than the gospel of Christ!

We look forward to seeing you this Sunday and declaring these foundational truths together as we gather our bodies – and spirits – for worship.

God is in control.

In Christ,
Pastor Chris


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