Relaunch Date: When Will We Re-Open the Doors?
"When is the church going to reopen the doors? I can't wait to get back together with everyone!"
I have been asked this question more than a few times as Texas eases restrictions on public gatherings.
"There is still much we don't know about Covid-19. Some models project a slow burn that may well spike once people resume gathering, and other models predict a second wave coming in the Fall. We aren't in a rush to reopen, are we?"
I've also been asked this quite a few times.
"As long as we practice proper social distancing, we should be okay to gather again as soon as possible, right?"
Yes. You guessed it. I've been asked this as well a few times.
And, we also have some who are genuinely fearful of returning.
So, what will we do? I want to speak to you as pastor.
First, we are going to continue our focus of faith not fear, but with that, we are also going to add the following to our equation when we discuss relaunching (reopening): 'prayerful preparation, not panic.'
God has been amazingly good to us as a church. Before the Covid-19 shut down, we were already talking about the need for a third portable, decking, more parking and to finish paying off our church debt so we could move to a third service (a second Sunday service).
During the shutdown, God has (for His purposes and glory only) used us profoundly to reach thousands upon thousands of people not only in San Antonio, but across the state, the U.S. and even the world. God is working in our church.
Wonderful virtual communities have formed that are points of discipleship, encouragement, prayer, equipping and evangelism and service to the community. God is showing us as a congregation those things that are most important, and in this, refining us and pruning and preparing us. As we have been praying, 'God, show us what YOU want at Stonebridge,' He has been remarkably faithful. We are seeing incredible developments in so many of our ministries.
All of this during a time when we could not physically gather. This is God's Goodness toward us! We even had a good first three months of generous giving, and we are confident that you all, as family, will continue to give generously as you are able. Again-God has been and is being so good to us!
Re-opening and relaunching, if it is done in a way that will honor God and bless our communities and church, will need to be examined prayerfully and we will need a prayerful process. There are many variables in relaunching. Many.
Not only must we be honorable and make certain that we have all of the proper health and sanitation and disinfectant measures in place, but we must also be creative with space, as social distancing would only allow us the equivalent of a small 'studio audience' in the sanctuary and a smaller group in the portables. There is no way we can safely accommodate over 200 people over the weekend, and God may well have many, many more people He will be sending our way in addition to our core, while practicing safe social distancing and the proper protocols to ensure we are honoring all who come through our doors, and by extension, all who leave our facility and return to their communities.
We must be wise, and God will give us wisdom. We want to make certain we are honoring those in the 'at risk' category in our community: those over 65, individuals with pre-existing conditions, respiratory issues, weight or cardiac issues as well as individuals with compromised immune systems.
I had the privilege of sitting in (virtually) a meeting with the mayor a week ago, and the ministers present learned much about the expected trajectory of Covid-19 in our city, when the anticipated Apex would occur, and precautions we will need to take to do our best to protect members and visitors from exposure.
That was followed by a statewide virtual conference with our state convention on relaunching. There is so much information we need to process if we are going to walk in wisdom. This does not mean we will be dragging our feet. What it does mean, is that your staff and church ministry leaders and deacons will be praying and processing all of the data so when we relaunch, we will be at peace as a church and do it the right way. We look forward to a major time of celebration.
Something in the statewide meeting stuck out to me: 'Every church only has one opportunity to 'relaunch.' Be wise. Don't be that church that jumps back before you or your people are prepared, have to shut down again for a period, and then try to relaunch later. Get it right the first time.'
That is what we are praying and working toward.
I (and all of the leadership) would ask you to please do the following as we enter the month of May:
1) Stay in prayer. God is, again, at work, and while we may be going through a time of testing, God is choosing to use us for His glory. Stay in prayer. Pray for revival in the church, for revival in the churches in San Antonio and for Awakening across the globe. Pray big.
2) Stay connected to your small groups. This is vital. Continue to invite those seekers into your virtual small groups. We were going to move toward a much stronger and extensive small group ministry before all of this hit. God, in His Sovereignty, put us on the fast track to do just that. The larger we've become, the smaller we must be (in terms of small groups) so people can experience community and grow together on mission.
3) Stay in the Word. The Word is central to who we are and all we do. Stay in your private time in the Word, in your small group time in the Word, and continue to worship with us online in the Word. God's Word gives us all we need to navigate the waters ahead.
4) Stay on mission. So many wonderful ministries have been birthed out of this time of crisis. Stay focused on blessing the communities and the world.
5) Continue to encourage one another. Honestly, most of the models we have seen indicate this Covid-19 will be a part of our reality for some time. Don't grow weary. Encourage each other to press forward!
6) Continue to give as you are able, joyfully and in faith. Your generosity enables us to move towar the next stage and phase and minister in so many ways.
7) Continue engaging your lost networks. I'm so proud of this church! You have shared testimonies, invited lost friends and unchurched friends to connect with us so they can hear the gospel! Keep that up!
8) Continue connecting with and praying for the various ministries you are connected to.
The future church will look different from the old church. This was another take away from the meetings. That is not a bad thing. As one speaker said, 'do we really want everything to go back to the way it was?' He was talking about letting go of the silly things that sometime sidetrack us and focusing solely on the main things. Keep that up.
The church will continue expanding virtual and online connection points even when we are easing back into the facilities. We will continue to pray and think city-wide and globally moving forward. We will continue to pray big and to walk by faith, not fear, and Lord willing, we will walk forward prayerfully and wisely. We need not panic.
Our God Reigns.
Rejoice in that!
Stay tuned-more information will be coming through many platforms in the weeks ahead. Looking forward to the future!
Grace to You,
More in Pastor's Blog
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September 13, 2022God's Goodness to Stonebridge Baptist Church