From the Pastor's Heart,
March 21, 2020
Dear Church Family,
We are certainly in uncharted waters these days due to the Corona virus. There is a saying going around: Pray for your pastor because he has never ministered through a pandemic like this before. That is true but I am praying for all of us because none of us have sailed these waters before. We are facing several unknowns, but one thing we know for sure is that the Lord is in control and will bring us through these trying times.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Deacons and I have been doing everything to keep the doors of the church open. As you know authorities originally told us we had to have under 250 in attendance to meet, then it was 100, then 50 and then 10. Those limits were suggestions rather than orders. Restaurants were allowed to have 50% or less to stay open. Many of my fellow pastors were already deciding to close their churches, all with heavy hearts, but several of us were going to stay open as long as possible.
On Friday, March 20, 2020 all that changed when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in order to comply with guidelines from the CDC and the President, issued an executive order that all restaurants suspend on premises food consumption and operate only for carry out. Gyms and fitness centers must close and all places of gathering of 10 or more are temporarily shut down, except essentials such as grocery and drug stores, gas stations and banks.
Since this is an executive order, and we must abide by the law, with very heavy hearts the deacons and I have shut down all of the regular physical gatherings of our church for at least two weeks. This includes Sunday School, Sunday morning, evening, and mid-week services.
There are several reasons why we need to follow this order.
For the safety and health of our church family.
Because disobedience of an executive order can open us to legal consequences if someone came to our services with the virus and gave it to someone else.
Because of our testimony to others. What type of testimony would it be if the authorities had to come in on a Sunday morning and order us to go home? You can rest assured we would be in the local news for all the wrong reasons.
The Word of God directs us to follow the lawful orders of the authorities appointed over us. We are not being told to preach something that goes against the Word of God or that we cannot have church. As we know the Church isn’t the building, it is the people. We are still going to have church but we must begin to think outside of the box.
Romans 13:1-7 says
"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore, you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. "
Please understand that this is not an easy decision, but it is necessary. Remember that our main goal is to preach the message of Christ while protecting the church body. Just yesterday a close family member of a church member was put on the prayer chain for having the symptoms of this virus (This person has not been to the church). Others have folks in their own neighborhoods that have come down with the virus. We need to be careful.
Tomorrow, (3/22/2020) at 11:00am, the church staff will do our best to LIVE-STREAM our worship service. It can be seen on the Rima Ridge Baptist Church Facebook page. If you have Facebook please look for that link. For those who do not have Facebook the service will be posted on the church website (rimaridgebaptist.com) sometime on Monday. It will also be on CD for those without computer access and we have a couple of CD players if anyone needs one.
In the meantime, please understand that though we cannot meet physically for the time being, our church is not shut down and we must continue to function as a church family, maybe now more than ever. Reach out to others. Call, check on, and go to the store for those that need help. “Attend” our online church service Sunday at 11am. Stay in the Word. PRAY, PRAY, and PRAY some more. Also, please understand that we still need financial support so, as you are able, don’t forget to send in your tithes and offerings. We hope to have online giving up and running in the next couple of days.
Thank you for your prayers, understanding and support in these difficult times. With the Lord’s help and by working together, this too shall pass. “God’s Got This.”