DEAR CHURCH FAMILY:
The year 2020 will forever be marked as a pivotal year for our nation and the world. This year started off with a lot of promise, but many plans have been disrupted and/or cancelled due to a world-wide pandemic. Add to this, political and racial unrest around the country has further divided everyone. In the midst of crisis, both medically and racially, we have sadly seen our country descend into partisan tribalism and individualism. I’m sure many of you, like myself, have been overwhelmed, disturbed, and incredibly burdened by the division both within and outside of the church.
Out of tragic circumstances, however, there are bright and shining moments of selflessness found in the devotion of God’s Church to the mission of Jesus Christ. Such devotion has been on display through generosity, service, and commitment during one of the most difficult seasons of ministry I’ve experienced in my lifetime. We can choose to be victim to the circumstances or make an attempt to ask ourselves what we can learn and how we can grow as followers of Jesus Christ in such times. Thanks to all who have persisted and continue to be engaged in worship, groups, and other ministries in-person or online. Given the directives of the State of Indiana and Lake County regarding COVID-19 and wearing masks, it is my duty to once again make some announcements to address the unfolding circumstances around us. The Church has weathered a shutdown, a quick transition to online worship, and an evolving situation with this global pandemic, and the bitterness of racial divide. I have NO doubt we will continue to be resolved and find a way to be persistent and unified in order to fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ. Please, continue to pray for me as your pastor and the team here at the church as we are trying to do our best to meet the “needs of the many” in this season.We will be REQUIRING MASKS to be worn at BOTH Sunday morning worship gatherings (9:00 am and 10:45 am) starting THIS SUNDAY (July 26, 2020). This plan will be in place until the mask order is lifted by state and local authorities. After the mask order is lifted, we will have one service (9:00 am) which will continue to be a “mask required” service and one service (10:45 am) which will be a “mask optional” service. We will continue to live stream the 10:45 am service indefinitely and it will be available to view on YouTube after the live stream. Those are the BIG news items, but I want to unpack this so you understand why and how this will be implemented. Make note of the fact that the implementation of state orders will be slightly different at both services. The early service will be more vigorous and the later service less vigorous. We feel both meet the requirements of the state orders, but we are offering two alternatives for the needs of our congregation. The first answer to the question regarding WHY we have made this decision is that the Word of God tells us submit to the “governing authorities” which are over us. Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13:1-2) I have weighed all the current arguments both for and against this order. I have educated myself on the various perspectives being offered and can sympathize with many of those arguments. As always, our response in the church shouldn’t be political and partisan in nature, but spiritual and centered on Scriptural authority, so that is how I wish to address this topic with everyone. I realize there are many who will disagree with this approach we choose to take, but that is true about most decisions leaders have to make. Trust that this decision comes from time spent in prayer and reflection. In the end, to be obedient to God’s Word, we will follow the orders of the state and local government. As a Christian, the ONLY justifiable reason for rebellion against a governmental mandate is when such an order and/or law forces us do something which breaks God’s law. It is a stretch of reality to justify the position that wearing a mask breaks the laws of God. Therefore, we will comply with the requests of our state and local government. If I felt the government was taking away our right to worship or was somehow singling out the church, I would likely be the first to enter the protest line. There is a time for conscientious objection, but in this case it doesn’t appear prudent, necessary, or particularly honoring to God. While I respect your personal liberty, be careful not to conflate this with the responsibility of the Church. Keep in mind, Paul was speaking in Romans 13 about a government far more hostile to the Church than ours when he issued these words (above) of instruction and guidance.
Jesus taught His disciples to go beyond the letter of the law in showing deference for others, even setting aside their own legal rights and prerogatives for the sake of the kingdom. He said, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also” (Matthew 5:40). In a Roman court of law, a creditor could literally demand the shirt off of a debtor’s back. Rather than resist the litigation, Jesus advised His disciple to go further and give the creditor his cloak as well. Under the tyranny of Roman occupation, Roman soldiers could force a man without Roman citizenship to carry a load for them. Few things could have been more hateful for the Jewish people than to be forced to serve the Romans like pack animals. Jesus instructed His disciples to disarm their opponents by going an extra mile. Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:41).
I must confess to you that I am exhausted by the shaming which exists on both sides of this issue. It seems petty and unbecoming of God’s people. Some people are attempting to shame those who wear masks by stating they are somehow fearful. Some people are attempting to shame those who don’t wear masks by stating they are unloving or unkind. Shaming is wrong no matter who does it or what “truth” one claims as justification. I’m sure God is grieved by this kind of approach to one another. Keep in mind it is our human nature to gravitate towards positions which best fit our own personal needs. Nevertheless, I would urge you to do as Paul suggested to the Church at Rome when heated discussions arose regarding many non-salvation related issues…
So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. (Romans 14:22)
The Second answer as to WHY we have made this decision is that we want EVERYONE to feel welcomed and loved at Momentum Church. OVER 1/3 of our regular attendees have not been to church since the COVID-19 lock down began in March. Now, I’m sure some of this can be attributed to things other than the virus, but that’s a message for another time! When we locked down, we anticipated recovery might be quicker than it has been. Now that things are lingering on, we want to work toward a solution to include more of our people on Sunday morning. Many have been joining us online or have popped in from time to time, but due to the lack of a masking policy have decided to stay at home. I respect and appreciate this concern and want everyone to know you are on my mind and in my prayers regularly. Some want to join in-person worship on Sundays, but for health concerns feel they cannot do so safely. While we have followed the state guidelines at all points throughout this season, we felt we needed a solution to include everyone regardless of the changing regulations. We had already planned a mask required service before the state and local orders came in, so this only served to move up the timeline to do something which honors those who are older and/or those who have health considerations to consider in a return to in-person worship.
Before this order, we were planning on launching a mask-required service on Saturday. We have scrapped that idea. Given our numbers, it is not prudent for us to do three services on a weekend. It is too taxing on our team. So, in the short term, given the governmental orders, we will have to “mask up” in BOTH services. The long term plan (once the order is lifted) is that the first service (9:00 am) will continue to be a mask required service and the later service (10:45 am) will be a mask optional service. We feel this is a fair compromise to accommodate everyone without working our team beyond what is reasonable. Some may be inconvenienced by the need to attend 10:45 am instead of 9:00 am (or vice-versa), but we hope, in the spirit of love and unity, you will work with us as we attempt to lead our church through this season. We will continue to offer these two services (details to follow) until there is a need for a third service and/or masking is no longer deemed necessary and/or prudent. This season WILL end at some point. How we treat and value each other during this situation will have lasting effects beyond this season. We should desire to come through this season having done everything we can to love one another and to be kind and compassionate to everyone. I am asking everyone to respond to a higher calling of selflessness. I value and respect the personal liberty afforded to us by The Constitution of the United States of America. My father, brother, sister, and wife ALL served in our armed forces to protect these liberties. Currently, our church has individuals serving in the military and/or law enforcement who fight to protect and defend our liberties each day. As followers of Christ, I would advise you to recognize there IS a higher authority than The Constitution and it is the Lord himself and the Scripture which has been preserved for us as a guide for our faith. For the believer, there is a more important citizenship than “American” we all should embrace. I could provide MANY Scripture references to the nature of God’s love for us and how we are to love one another, but here is one those poignant verses for our times: Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.Philippians 2:3
Sometimes, personal liberty SHOULD be sacrificed to love and serve others (read Romans 14), even if we feel we are in the right position. This is especially true when it is clear that our sacrifice doesn’t cause us to be disobedient to God. Last I checked, wearing a mask doesn’t disobey God. I completely understand your disdain for wearing a mask (I don’t like it either), but if it means seeing our friends in church together sooner, I will do it with a cheerful heart. Again, it is a small price to pay.
Here is HOW we are going to implement this plan:I want to outline the plan so you can have as much information in deciding which, if any, service you might attend. As always, if you have any COVID-19 related symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, please get tested and do not attend for 14 days.Pre-Service on Sunday:We are going to ask our entire team (worship, greeters, children’s ministry, tech team, etc.) to wear a mask upon entering the building and keep it on throughout the pre-service preparations. We want to limit and/or reduce what is being expelled into the air before people gather at 9:00 am. We will provide masks for those who forget and/or leave theirs at home. Any team members needing a “mask break” will be encouraged to step out the back door near the playground so as not to be in the path of those walking into the building.*Team members, please check with the staff member or leader over your area of ministry for more details on procedures.
9:00 am Along with all team members, everyone entering the building to attend worship will be asked to wear a mask throughout the worship gathering. Both the preacher and worship leader will be masked throughout the worship service. Social distancing will be observed and other precautions in place to ensure safety for all. Please, do not sit directly behind, beside, or in front of anyone not in your own household and try to observe the 6 ft. of distancing requested. The 9:00 am service will be shortened in length from 75 minutes to 60 minutes by reducing the number of songs. Again, all speakers, any worship team members, and our worship leader will be masked for the duration of this service. We will end at 10:00 am to give more transition time before second service attendees arrive. Please, keep masks on after service until you exit the building.
10:45 am Along with all team members, everyone entering the building to attend worship will be asked to wear a mask everywhere except when sitting or standing at your seat during worship. If you are wandering around, please put a mask on. Please, do not sit directly behind, beside, or in front of anyone not in your own household and try to observe the 6 ft. of distancing requested. If you need to go to the restroom and/or visit the café, please put your mask back on until you get back to your seat. When the service is over, please put your mask back on. Unlike the first service, the preacher and worship leader will remove masks while on stage in observance with social distancing requirement. Upon leaving the stage, masks will be worn. We will do a full worship set and a regular length of worship during this service. This service is more relaxed, but PLEASE out of respect for church leadership, help us by observing these requests.
Café: The café will not be opened until 10:15 am (30 minutes prior to the second service). Masks will be worn by those serving in the café and should be worn by all visiting the café throughout the morning. During the second service, you will be able to take your coffee and treat to your seat and remove your mask to enjoy!
Children’s Ministry (both service times): Club Mo will continue to meet. Following the state mask guidelines, we are asking/requiring all kids ages 8 and older to wear a mask to service and/or Club Mo. Children ages 2-8 are strongly encouraged to wear a mask or face shield. However, children ages 2-8 will not be required to wear a mask in order to attend Club Mo. Again, this follows state and local guidelines for masking. All children’s ministry staff and volunteers WILL wear masks. Social distancing and other precautions will be in place to ensure the best safety possible.Your leadership team at Momentum Church has been working tirelessly to continue to do ministry during a very challenging season. We are all personally dealing with the same struggles and challenges everyone else has been having to endure. We will get through this together!
We appreciate your continued prayers and support during this season and hope to see you on Sunday either in-person or online!
Love and Blessings,