Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I will be writing to you next week with some important updates regarding our future plans for when and how we might begin to regather as a church. But as we head into the weekend I wanted to write to you with some brief updates.
Preparing for Sunday Worship (at home or in small groups)
Please note that we will again not be gathering together as a church for worship this upcoming Sunday. However, the church elders want to affirm and encourage you, if you’re able, to be gathering together safely in person in small groups for worship, prayer, and mutual encouragement – the park, for instance, can be a great place to do this. You might even consider arranging a picnic gathering in the park with other members of the church after your time of worship or just simply throughout the week
For this upcoming Sunday I will be providing us with a video reflection and Bible study questions on Mark 1:21-28 (as always, you can find these on the church website). Therefore, as you prepare your own heart for worship, you can read through that passage and perhaps consider: as you reflect back to the time when you consciously accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, what have been some of the struggles you’ve endured as a follower of Jesus? Have there been times when doubts crept in about whether it was all worth it? And what ultimately has kept you following Him as one of His disciples?
Gathered… Scattered… Gathered…
I hope that one of the positive things that comes out of this unusual time of not gathering as a church is that churches and Christians will have reflected more intentionally and deeply about what the church even is. I’ve already seen and had a number of conversations with folks about this very thing, which, indeed, makes me hopeful that this will be the case. For example, we can note that gathering together isn’t just something churches do, but (by definition) it’s really what a church is. The word in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for “assembly,” ekklesia, is the same word the New Testament writers use to refer to the local church. It’s simply the term for a gathering.
Now that, of course, raises a further consideration: are we still the church when we are not gathered; is CCNYC right now a church? The answer is ‘yes’, because a church is more than simply a gathering. A church can be said to scatter throughout the week and then regather on Sunday. So, yes, a church is more than just a gathering, but (quite importantly) it’s never less than a gathering. And so if a church never gathered together in person, it would cease to be a church. Let me provide you with an illustration. In a given season of the NFL, we talk about a “team.” Are the New York Jets a “team” on Monday, when they’re not playing, and may not even be gathered for practice (let’s say they won on Sunday and were given the day off)? Yes, they’re still a team, and we know who that team is. They’re a team between the Sundays. But would they be a team if they never played any games? We would say no. One of the primary things that makes them a team, maybe the primary thing, is that they play games. They “fight the fight” together, side-by-side.
So, again, is CCNYC right now still a church? Yes. We know our flock. We have covenanted together. And we’re staying connected – by studying the same passage each Sunday; by various communications throughout the week; by Sunday school classes, prayer meetings, hymn sings, and community groups meeting via zoom and/or now beginning to meet in person; and by hundreds of emails, texts, messages, or calls that get made among our members in any given week. But, for a temporary time, we’re an ungathered church, longing to see each other again.
Missionary Work in Japan
One of the overseas missionaries that our church supports is the Stewart family in Japan. The last I heard from them, they are doing well and pressing on in faithfully sharing the gospel even in the midst of the current global circumstances. Please do continue to keep Robert and Lisa Stewart (and their two children) in your prayers as they continue their missionary work.
Yours in Christ,