A summary of what’s here:
- A word about coronavirus and racial division
- 6 practical things we encourage you to do
- 3 prayers for our church
Complicated Cultural Issues
We live in a day of complicated issues. Racial division and coronavirus are the two most culturally pressing for us right now, and just a few weeks ago, right in the middle of all this, a smaller, but equally fierce, debate popped up about “rehoming” adopted children. It’s one that hits particularly close to home for me (Aaron) and my family, so it hit my radar as high as any of the other public arguments lately.
In the middle of all this, maybe the reality that saddens us the most is the level of misunderstanding that drives these conversations to conflicts. It seems we have lost the ability, and at times the desire, to understand someone who doesn’t think like we do. We are high on opinion, outspokenness, and activism, and low on humility, compassion, and listening.
The coronavirus is a real thing and a real threat. To what degree and how we should respond need careful thought and discussion, but the virus itself is very real. We need to do our best and make wise decisions to protect ourselves and others, particularly the vulnerable.
Racism in America is a real thing and a real threat. How it plays out, who is “part of the problem” or not, and how to move forward need careful thought and discussion, but racism and its consequences are very real. We need to be active and make wise decisions that affect long-term change and move toward equality and justice.
The paths forward on these issues are not simple or single-layered. They have implications for millions of people and for each individual person. Moving forward on issues like these takes conversation, patience, understanding, and mutual submission (Eph. 5.21). One of the main obstacles to these things is misunderstanding, which comes from an unwillingness to listen.
Our Response to Coronavirus
At Remedy Church, we did cancel our in-person gatherings for a season. As our government recommendations and guidelines began to ease and allow for larger in-person gatherings, we did cautiously begin to regather, and we continue to monitor and pray about the best way forward.
You can see our current plan and precautions, which are always subject to change as the Lord leads, and we are prayerfully working through a plan for August and beyond. We ask that you pray for wisdom, faith, sensitivity to the Spirit, and eager unity (Php. 4.3) in our faith family as we make decisions.
Our Response to Racism & Its Consequences
On the heels of time spent in prayer last summer, our staff and elders felt the Lord leading us to prioritize a few specific areas of prayer and emphasis, not even sure yet what those would look like or lead to. Those areas were:
- Vulnerable children (meaning orphaned and foster kids and women in crisis pregnancy along with their babies)
- Men and marriages (meaning the brokenness in men that leads to so many problems in society and the church and aggressively pursuing healthy marriages)
- Racial reconciliation
While we had some ideas about what the first two could look like, we were pretty unsure about racial reconciliation. We had ideas and had been having conversations inside and outside the church, but we had not seen God clearly open a door for us to walk through. So we made it a matter of consistent prayer and conversation, even praying for it periodically in our worship gatherings together.
Over the last several weeks as we’ve seen things unfold nationally, we have prayed for peace, justice, unity, and wisdom, both in staff and elder meetings and in our worship gatherings. We continue to ask the Lord to change the heartbreaking reality of racism and its consequences and to show us as a church how to work for lasting change in this area, holding high the value and dignity of every single person as created in the image of God.
To that end, we are also praying about how to pursue relationships in our city and with churches and leaders who look and think differently than us racially and culturally.
6 Practical Things We Would Encourage You to Do
Get in your Bible first and most. As complicated, emotional, and penetrating as the current issues are, we cannot possibly expect to navigate them personally or corporately without a conscious awareness of the presence of Jesus among us. So we would encourage you to pick up your Bible, read it, and pray before you read your favorite social media or news app and more than you read any other thing. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Col.3.16).
Get off social media and news media. So many of the conflicts we’re seeing are being driven by the news cycle and national commentators or twitter feeds, most of whom do not know and love Jesus. Be diligent to guard your minds and careful about who or what is influencing you. Be on guard against the schemes of the devil. Our battle is not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6.11-12).
Assume the best about people. Look for ways to relate to real people more than media, and work hard to assume the best about them rather than the worst. Silence or speaking on an issue does not mean that is someone’s only position. Saying one thing does not automatically imply disagreement with another. Show others the same respect and honor you would like them to show to you (Mt. 7.12).
Reach out to real people. Getting involved in a larger conversation has its place, but work hard to reach out to real people. Have conversations with members of the Remedy family, neighbors, friends, and co-workers. Listen a lot. Pray together. Invite people into your life, not just into a conversation about one topic, and show kindness (Eph. 4.32).
Invest locally. As we said before, there is a place for engaging a larger conversation, but you have much more influence locally, where you live, work, and play. As you engage, look for ways to do it locally (Jer. 29.7).
Foster dialogue and listen a lot. So many of the voices we hear most are making loud points with giant periods at the end. They want to be heard, but they are not interested in listening. That leads to misunderstanding and conflict. Most of us should be asking questions, listening, and fostering conversations, not making points (Jas. 1.19-20).
3 Prayers for Our Church
We would encourage you to read each passage before praying each prayer…
God of creation, we thank you that you are a refuge for us and a very present help in times of trouble. Will you please help? Will you give us faith in place of fear and help us to trust in you. Please glorify yourself in Ellis County and in all the earth, and help us to be still and rest in your presence and power.
God of justice and mercy, we thank you for your perfect justice and perfect mercy. Will you help us pursue true and lasting justice for all, even when it is difficult? Will you help us to do nothing from selfish ambition and to selflessly and sacrificially look out for the interests of others. And will you give us grace to do these things with Christlike kindness and humility as we walk with you?
Father, we thank you for the reconciliation and peace you have brought us by sending Jesus to pay for our sins on the cross. As we pursue justice, mission, unity, and community, will you give us the humility, faith, and wisdom to always believe that Jesus is the first and greatest and to hold him first in our hearts as our only Savior and King?
We’ll Make it Together
We love you, church! And in God’s grace we will make it through this difficult season together. If we will love one another deeply, love others deeply, and serve the Lord and each other humbly, we will be even stronger as we move through these things than we were when they began, and the schemes of the devil will collapse on him as Jesus’ church grows. Let’s do it together!
Aaron, Shelby, & Nathan (Bryan is on sabbatical)