Corona Virus Updates

Posted May 7, 2020

Be sure to read to the end of this note: I’m excited to close with some big news!

Dear Church Family,

Today, May 7, is the National Day of Prayer. Can you ever think of a time when we needed to pray for our nation more than we do right now? Join us tonight at 7 PM for prayer. You can register at https://www.firstbaptistshallotte.com/prayer/ and we will send you the log in code.

Great news!:

This week Governor Cooper moved NC into Phase 1 of his reopening plan. He continued the “Stay-at-Home” order but relieved some of the restrictions on shopping and other public practices. And Phase 1 keeps in place the restriction on gatherings to no more than ten—except outside!

So let’s get together for worship! On Sunday morning, May 31, at 10 AM, we will have a special outdoor Memorial Day Worship Service! Right now, we are only planning this for May 31, so don’t miss it! Bring your own chair or stay in your car. We will observe social distancing and proper precautions. We will be letting you know more about this starting next week but plan now to get back together for outdoor worship on May 31! (And yes, if it goes well, we might do it again!).

But, what about getting back together inside? And when we will return for worship on a regular basis?

As NC continues to improve and more of Gov. Cooper’s phases are implemented, restrictions will continue to ease. For us, the restriction that matters most is on the maximum number of people permitted to gather in one space. I believe for us to regather indoors for worship on a regular basis, that restriction needs to rise to 100 or more.

I believe that day will come soon!

With that in mind, I have been prayerfully working on “A Plan to Reengage Together” at FBCS in conversation with our staff and deacons. When that plan is finalized, I’ll send it to you.

Our plan will assume a gradual reopening that permits us to engage as many in the congregation as possible in worship on our main campus. That is our goal. Let me repeat that—I do not want to leave anyone out of at least the option of regathering, and we will be organizing and planning toward that goal. But I will not relaunch for corporate, on-site worship until I am sure that all of us are able, if we choose, to participate, and that guests and visitors would not be excluded either!

I do not believe that this unprecedented situation, and the suspension of services, is a problem that we should get past so we can get back to doing things the way we have always done them. I believe that this is an opportunity to become an even greater church for the future. Our national crisis is our time to show and see God’s greatness. Our desire is not to “get back to normal.” Our desire is to come out of exile and see the future God has for us! (Jer. 29:10-11).

So at this point, I want you to know what I am thinking.

As I look at our steps forward, I have eight priorities. These priorities will guide us as we fortify ministries during the pandemic, craft new ones, and reengage at each phase as we prepare to return to our main campus.

My eight guiding priorities are:

  • To focus on what we can provide, even if we must sometimes postpone. Clearly, we have had to postpone and reschedule some events and ministries, and we already have. But we are focusing on what we can provide in the meantime and not wait to start back with business-as-usual;
  • To have a plan based on biblical principles and not our personal preferences;
  • To have a plan that accounts for the Governor’s directives and respects local laws and mandates while respecting our autonomy and freedom as a church;
  • To account for our multigenerational congregation, our size, our facilities, and our unique context, and not one dictated by what other churches are doing;
  • To remember our witness to the community;
  • To prepare and provide in ways that are both sustainable and flexible, able to meet current needs and future needs as well, while at the same time giving us the flexibility to change, reschedule, and relaunch ministries that have been postponed;
  • To consider new and evolving ministries and methods, such as online participation and virtual Bible studies. We are flexing new ministry muscles that we want to keep and develop;
  • And to continue to consider the health and well-being of all of our members and attenders and to respect the hard work of our health care professionals.

Therefore, through May and while Phase 1 of the Governor’s plan still restricts gathering to ten people indoors, here is what we will be doing:

  • Except for May 31, worship will continue exclusively streaming online, but we will be preparing for returning to worship residentially! Sunday School classes will remain virtual for the time being. Be sure to access our website for more information. Parents—be sure to connect to new resources coming out through our church and developed by our children’s ministry leaders.
  • Creative new ministries and worship services are underway. Be sure to check the Wednesday email and other announcements regularly to get plugged in.
  • Plans for a modified VBS event are underway.
  • A new ministry, called Connection Groups, will be launched to help us stay connected and care for one another. Groups will partner with the Deacons for the care of our congregation.
  • May 20, I will start a virtual session of Discovering Church Membership.
  • Sunday nights, May 24 to June 14, I will stream a Bible study online. More information to come.

My goal is to be prepared with each phase of the Governor’s plans, so we will be ready to take advantage of each stage. And our May 31 outdoor celebration is an example—we can gather outside, so let’s do it!

Now as promised: I am excited to let you know that the new church sign on Main Street has been installed! Go by and see it! God continues to move and bless FBCS!

Thank you for your faithfulness and your prayers!

And as always–Keep Loving God, Loving One Another, and Loving the World!

With love in Christ,

Pastor Bob
 
 
 
 

Posted March 18, 2020

 
Dear Church Family,

As the situation in our community with the Coronavirus continues to evolve, we are continuing to take appropriate precautions and, at the same time, seeking to stay engaged as a community of believers. So here are some changes and updates for you to be aware of:

Schedule Updates:

• Our 11 AM worship service will continue on our online platform only through March 29. Worship with us online and invite friends or family to join you! We will review our situation as we move into April and keep you informed as we consider what to do for Sunday, April 5.
• We are continuing the suspension of all other activities, services, groups, and events at the church through Saturday, April 4, and we will reevaluate at that time.
• For now, Sunday corporate worship may resume April 5. The Celebration Choir Easter Cantata is still scheduled for Sunday morning, April 5. The True Love Waits commitment ceremony has been moved to Sunday night, April 5.
• The Spring Carnival and Easter Egg Hunt scheduled for April 11 has been postponed. The new date is TBD. From Heather Bath: Thanks so much to everyone who has donated toward the event and who has helped already and committed to help as well!
• Choir members: Be sure to see the email that Kristi Smith sent to you. If you did not receive it, contact Kristi.

Announcements:

• Until further notice, local hospitals have suspended pastoral visitation unless requested by the family or in the case of an emergency. So Pastor Mike and I, and the Deacons, will not be making routine visits. However, in the event of an emergency, or if you request that we come, we will be there!
• For your safety and good health, the Pastors, Deacons, and the GROW Teams have temporarily suspended home visits, except in the case of an emergency or at your request.
• As ministry needs arise, jump in and minister to those in our community! Also let us know if we can help as well.
• Since the schedule remains fluid, the weekly Wednesday update will focus primarily on prayer requests and praises for the next few weeks.
• Just for your information, we are taking this opportunity to thoroughly clean our FBCS building. Thank you Marvin and your team!

Coming Up:

We are setting in place exciting ways that you can stay engaged, study God’s Word, and grow in Christ while we are in this unusual season of life and ministry! Here are a few things to look for between now and next week:

• We will be launching online Sunday School class forums for each adult SS class teacher to engage members and discuss the weekly Bible study.
• Pastor Mike and I will be preparing and launching a Facebook group for the study of the first few chapters of the Book of Acts. A weekly Bible study will be uploaded and you can use it as a family Bible study or personal devotional.
• Starting tomorrow, I will be posting on social media a short prayer alert during this crisis. Look for the alert, called “This is FBCS Prayer Update.” I want to encourage you to pray in your quiet time, with your family, or with others as we see God work through this situation.
• And—we are blessed to have the technology installed that has prepared us for just this moment! But not all churches are able to record and upload sermons. So our IT team is going to offer to pastors through the Brunswick Baptist Association the opportunity to record their sermons at our church during the week so they can minister to their flocks online! Thank you FBCS for your foresight and heart for ministry!
 
Remember, just because we are not all coming to the church building doesn’t mean we are not the Church! Stay healthy, stay informed, stay connected, and stay engaged!
 
“In the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5)

If you have any questions, just let me know,
 
In His Grace,
Pastor Bob

 

Posted March 21, 2020


Dear FBCS Family,

Thank you for your patience as you have waited for a decision regarding any adjustments we might make as a result of the Covid19 outbreak. It is true that there has been a lot of hype and hysteria in the media, but that doesn’t mean we should not take precautions, especially to help prevent the spread to those most susceptible to the virus. The hype of the media doesn’t give us permission to be unrealistic, or, worse, dismissive. We are responsible for what we know. Most important, the first presumed case of the virus in our county was confirmed Friday by the Brunswick County Health Department, making a response on our part even more necessary.

We are blessed to be a large congregation relative to our context, and we are a multi-generational mix,  so we have to consider that. Most of our public gatherings, services, and events draw hundreds of people, and we have to be aware of what that means when we are confronted with a difficult decision that will impact everyone involved in and impacted by our ministries.

With that in mind, we need to remember a few things.

First, remember, we do not want to respond out of fear or worry (Matt. 6:25). God does not foster fear, and He does not want us to be afraid (2 Tim. 1:7), but He wants us to be prudent and be wise (James 1:5). We can both trust God and take wise precautions at the same time (Prov. 3:5-6, Eph. 5:15).

Second, He also wants us to love one another, which includes sacrificing some of our own desires for the better health of the body of Christ (John 13:34-35, Rom. 12:5, 14:19, Gal. 6:10).

And third, He wants the church to be an active and supportive part of its local community, which includes supporting the efforts of health care professionals to get out in front of this rapidly changing illness (Matt. 25:35, Rom. 12:13).

So, after considerable research and fact gathering related to the Covid19 virus, the deacons and I gathered Saturday morning, March 14, and we prayed and considered various options that we might have. As a result, we have made the very difficult decision to move our 11AM worship service completely to our online platform for two weeks, March 15 and 22, and to suspend all other events and activities at the church from Sunday, March 15 to Saturday, March 28.  

At this time, we plan to resume Sunday Bible study and worship at the church on March 29. But on or around March 28 we will review our schedule in light of developments and the advice of health care professionals and assess any possible changes.

Suspension of large group events gives us time to ensure that we are not sick, lessens the chances that we will share any sickness, especially among our most vulnerable members, and supports our medical professionals as they enact necessary measures, treat the sick, and get ahead of this crisis.

So, for the next two weeks:

  1. Join us online for live streaming: Our plan is to live stream worship and the message on Sunday March 15 and 22. We are blessed that God has provided this additional technology for us to make this available to you! Gather your family at 11 AM, pray, and then worship with us from your home. A digital bulletin will be provided, we will have a time of prayer, and I will share the gospel with all who are watching! You can watch on our YouTube channel, Facebook Live, or on our website at fbcshallotte.org.
  2. Small Groups may continue: Though we will not meet in large groups corporately, at your discretion you may wish to meet in your small groups in homes for Bible study or DiscipleLife. This is elective, and the homeowner will need to ensure a clean environment. However, be wise. If you feel unwell, at risk, or if you are already compromised in your health, I do not recommend that you attend even small group gatherings. If your small group meets, please let us know.
  3. Stay connected and in ministry: I will be looking for other ways to engage you in Bible study and spiritual growth in these two weeks, perhaps using online resources. Stay involved in ministry to your friends and neighbors, as well as siblings in Christ. Our deacons will be checking on those in need, and feel free to contact us if you have needs.
  4. The weekday office hours will remain the same: The staff will be in the offices during the day, and the office will be open as usual during regular office hours (Mon. 9-3, Fri. 9-1). After hours, you can contact one of the pastors directly, contact the staff through Facebook, or email us through the church website.
  5. Giving can, and should, continue as usual. Please continue your faithful giving to the ministries of the church. You can do that three ways. First, and best, is online on our website. If you need help, email Kristy Knisely at finance@firstbaptistshallotte.com. Second, you can bring your offerings by the church during regular business hours. Third, simply mail your tithe to the church office. Remember that we are also in the season of giving for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. And you can stop by the church and pick up an envelope for the Youth Ministry Envelope Challenge.
  6. Schedule changes: Here are changes to the schedule that are immediately affected—
    1. No activities, events, or services at the church March 15-March 28.
    2. The “Bee Blessed” Women’s Retreat hosted at FBCS has been moved to April 24-25
    3. The Youth Taco Bar and Dessert Auction Fundraiser will be cancelled and replaced with a love offering for the youth ministry to be received on April 5. Contact Pastor Mike if you have any questions.
    4. The True Love Waits commitment service will be Sunday night, March 29.
    5. We have not made any changes at this point to the Spring Carnival, but due to the large number of attendees expected, that will be the next thing we will look at.
    6. Choir practices and rehearsals in preparation for Easter will continue on the usual schedule, but stay in touch with leadership for more information.
  7. Take care of yourself and your family. Use precautions as suggested by health care professionals.

That’s all for now! I will miss you on Sundays! Preaching to you online only will be, well, different!

I look forward to when we can get together again and talk about the ways we saw God work in this time.

I pray He blesses you and your family!

In His Grace,
Pastor Bob