We exist to glorify God by being a family of disciples of Jesus Christ, who in turn make disciples.
August 27, 2020
Greetings Manhattan Bible Church,
We want to begin by saying how overjoyed we are to see so many of you gathering for worship each Lord’s Day. We know that for many, the masks and social distancing have made it difficult to feel very worshipful. And we are aware that many brothers and sisters from our church are choosing to stay home, either due to health concerns, or out of disagreement with the mask mandate our state government has put forth.
To be clear, we understand both of these positions. We know that there are faithful, godly, and wise brothers and sisters who have legitimate health concerns, and after prayerful consideration have decided that the best way they can steward the life God has given them is to protect it from potential illness. We also realize that there are godly, wise, and thoughtful believers who have considered the government’s mandate and have decided that they cannot, in good conscience, agree with it. We are in no way making a judgment toward anyone who is concerned for their health, nor toward anyone who disagrees with the mask mandate. It should also be noted that it would be more than uncharitable for anyone to make a judgment concerning the faith of those who do choose to follow the mask mandate. Each one will stand before the Lord on his or her own concerning matters of conscience (Rom. 14:4, 10-12).
Our purpose for writing this letter is to address the concern that many of you have about wearing or not wearing masks. Here is our position: the church is not an arm of the state government, and the elders / deacons / ushers are not a police force for government mandates. We are not passing a church law that says you cannot worship with us if you don’t wear a mask. You will not be turned away at the door if you aren’t wearing a mask.
However, we, as the elders of Manhattan Bible Church, have come to the conclusion that the mask mandate is not a worship issue. It is not a “proclaiming Christ as Lord” issue. Therefore, we believe that the best thing we can do, in consideration of Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1-2, and 1 Peter 2:13-17, is to humbly submit to this mandate. As we have stated in previous communications, we are asking that you wear a mask out of consideration of the Scripture references above, and out of humble concern for others, but to be clear, we are in no way mandating that you wear a mask at church.
As you know, all things are permissible, and Christian liberty allows for different conclusions on the mask mandate. But please bear in mind Romans 14:13, which says, “Therefore let us…decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” And I Corinthians 8:13, which says, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” We certainly don’t want to put a stumbling block in front of anyone by requiring a mask, and likewise, we hope that you recognize that by not wearing one you may cause another to stumble. (We’re sure you’re starting to get a feel for how muddy this water is!) In the end, we as a church are following the mandate, but you as individuals need to read Scripture, pray, consider your conscience, and ask how humility would have you respond to this issue.
Once again, we are making no law concerning your freedom to worship at Manhattan Bible Church. And we will not turn anyone away who wishes to gather with the saints of God for worship and edification. We want to invite you to reach out to the elders so we can talk through these things together, if necessary. We certainly don’t want anyone struggling through this alone. We would be glad to meet so we can hear your concerns and help you work through this potentially difficult issue.
Here’s the bottom line: We miss all of you. We love all of you. And we want the entire body of Christ at Manhattan Bible Church to feel welcome here. If we have caused any of you to stay away due to our words or actions regarding the masks, we deeply and humbly apologize. It has never been our intention to bind the conscience of any believer. Our goal has been, and continues to be, to honor Christ as Lord, and to build up the bride of Christ until he returns or calls her home.
One final encouragement — we need to remember that God’s plans are never thwarted (Isa. 46:1; Eph. 1:11b). Therefore, he is not distressed over how many empty seats there may be between worshippers, nor does he strain to hear our mask-muffled voices as we sing his praises. His ears hear perfectly the worship of his people, which comes from our hearts. So don’t be discouraged — God is still glorified in our gathering, singing, and worshipping each Lord’s Day. So keep gathering! Keep singing! And keep worshipping Christ as Lord in your hearts!
In Christ’s Service,
April 29, 2020
Welcome back, Manhattan Bible Church family!
We are excited to announce that we are opening our doors for corporate worship this upcoming Sunday, May 3rd (we will continue to live-stream as well. Click here to go to our YouTube page). We will not be holding Sunday school this week since we are still in the process of working through the details of how that will look for the immediate future, so don’t plan to come to church at 9:30 just yet. But what this does mean is that we will be able to join together — both in person and online — for corporate worship at 10:45 a.m. this next Sunday. We are overjoyed at the prospect of seeing many of you face-to-face again!
With this in mind, there are a few health and safety measures, as well as logistical considerations we want you to be aware of in light of the state’s social distancing guidelines, which we intend to comply with out of respect for the health of all our members and guests.
First, and possibly most difficult to accept, we will not be offering coffee or refreshments for the foreseeable future. We do, however, encourage you to bring your own coffee or water to church, but we ask that it be in a closed container in order to avoid spills in the sanctuary.
In addition, we will not be passing the offering plates during our time of corporate worship through singing. Instead, we will have a box by our entrance in which you may place your offering on the way out after the worship service. You may also choose to give using our online giving option on our website by clicking here.
The doors to the church will be open before you arrive and will be opened for you prior to the end of the worship service. This will help limit the number of surfaces you need to touch on your way in and out. The ushers will also have a hand sanitizing station at the entrance for you to use on your way in. Please take advantage of this and help protect your fellow worshippers by sanitizing your hands as you enter.
We would also ask that in keeping with the social distancing guidelines presented by the state government, that you refrain from hugging, shaking hands, or holding children other than your own. Once again, we know how difficult this is, but our aim in doing this is to protect others in our church. If our goal for gathering together is self-oriented, then this will be hard to accept. But if our posture is to humbly consider the needs of others above our own, then respecting the health guidelines given here will be an act of worshipful service instead of a painful restriction.
If you choose to come to corporate worship on Sunday, you will notice that our sanctuary looks different. In an attempt to help with distancing, we are removing every other row of seats in our sanctuary; this will give us the proper distancing front to back. We are also asking that you leave three empty seats between non-household members. In the case that more of you show up than we have space for in our sanctuary, we will have an overflow space established in the basement where the service will be live-streamed to a TV. Additionally, our overflow space across 5th Street is still available for our use. We are reserving this space for elderly or otherwise immunocompromised people. If you are under 65 years old or are without a special medical condition that places you at a higher risk, please do not use the overflow space across the street.
As we mentioned in our last letter, we will not be offering nursery or Junior Church right now. This means that we are asking families with small children to remain together as a family unit for the entire worship service. While this may be new for many of us, and even uncomfortable for some, we would encourage you to consider the benefit of this practice. Your youngest children will be given the opportunity to witness you as you worship God in spirit and in truth, and to observe how you listen to the preaching of his Word. It is never too early to teach our children what it looks like to honor the Lord with our presence, our singing, our listening, and our focus. While we don’t expect the children to all sit quietly and patiently for an entire worship service, we still want to invite all of our families back, even the ones whose children are blessed with an abundance of energy (it’s ok… your kids won’t be the only ones crying)!
In the end, we all need to realize that it might be some time before things return to “normal” around here. That’s ok. Our goal in gathering for corporate worship is not about returning to our comfort zone — it is about worshipping God as the gathered body of Christ. It is about praying to him, singing praises to him, listening to his Word read and preached. So we would encourage you to ask the Lord to prepare your hearts for gathering, even in these unusual circumstances.
In the meantime, let us thank the Lord for his provision of lifting the restrictions in Montana as quickly as they have been, so that we can resume our corporate worship this next Sunday. Even if it’s less than our ideal, it is still a wonderful gift from God to his people. And let’s continue to pray for our local, state, and national leaders — that they would make wise decisions and be given the strength to handle the burden of leadership well.
To God be the glory, great things he hath done!
April 22, 2020
Dear friends and family of Manhattan Bible Church,
We wanted to take a moment to communicate where things are right now for our church and to let you know the tentative plans moving forward.
As you know, Governor Bullock has started the process of re-opening the state, although with many continuing restrictions in place. The impact of this plan as it relates to churches means that when we do re-open, we will need to maintain six feet of distance between non- household members, and we will need to take into consideration the health of our more vulnerable worshippers. Due to the obligations of distancing and logistics of re-opening our building for worship, the earliest we will be able to gather will be May 3rd. As usual, this is subject to change, especially if Gallatin County puts out a more restrictive plan than the Governor.
Logistically, this means we have some work to do in order to prepare our church building and our minds for gathering together again. First, when we do gather again we will want to continue being wise about our physical interactions with one another. We have many elderly, immunocompromised, and other susceptible folks in our church family, and out of concern for them (i.e., loving our neighbors), we are asking that you refrain from hugging, holding other people’s children, and sitting or standing too close to one another. We know this is a big ask, especially since most of us haven’t seen one another in over a month, and all we want to do is give big hugs and say hi to all of the wonderful children who roam through our sanctuary. But if we are going to consider others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4), this is the right approach.
In connection with this, we have decided that we are not going to staff the nursery for the foreseeable future. Again, we know that this will impact many families, and we appreciate the concerns you have about this. But nurseries are the best way to spread germs and sickness from house to house, and in light of our current circumstances, we believe that it would be unwise to invite all of the littlest children into a confined space to share their germs. We will open our nursery again, just not in the immediate future.
We do want to resume Sunday school as soon as possible, so please be on the lookout for more communication regarding this. It will depend on our space limitations, and the availability of our teachers to come back to the church to teach. While we are all eager to gather again, we certainly don't intend on forcing anyone (teachers, ushers, music teams, etc.) to be here. Therefore, resuming Sunday school may be a bit fluid. Please be patient as we work through this process.
We are aware that many of you may feel safer remaining at home another few weeks. We fully support this, and want to let you know that even when the restrictions are lifted, we intend to continue live-streaming our services on YouTube. However, we would be remiss if we didn't encourage each of you to return to corporate worship as soon as you can. Hebrews 10:25 admonishes us not to neglect meeting together, so while prudence is encouraged, fear is not. Please don't allow our live-streaming services to replace the corporate gathering for God's worship. It is a temporary convenience, at best, not a substitute for assembling together.
As we press on, we want each of you to conisder your own health and ability to return. If you feel unsafe returning immediately, please stay home, but reach out to the elders so we can pray for and encourage you while you remain in isolation. If you intend on returning right away, please honor the guidelines that we are establishing, and refrain from judging those who are not yet ready to gather. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 14, "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another, it is before his own master that he stands or falls... Therefore, let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother." Paul's point is simply this, in matters of conscience, don't bind one another based on your own faith.
We'd like to leave you with one final encouragement. While isolation and loneliness are real and difficult, we need to remember that the two principle means which God has given his people to grow in their faith and be encouraged in their souls are the Word of God, and prayer (Romans 8:26-27, 10:17; Isaiah 26:3, 40:1; Philippians 4:6). Both of these things are still available to each of us during this time. So we would encourage you to spend time reading God's Word, individually and as a family, if that's your situation. And we want to remind you to spend time praying to God. If you are looking for a place to start, just read the psalms.
We hope to see you soon, and we will talk - and worship - face to face! The grace of the Lord be with you all.
Your servants for the sake of Christ,