We exist to glorify God by being a family of disciples of Jesus Christ, who in turn make disciples.
March 27, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters of Manhattan Bible Church,
We are living in unprecedented times, and once again we find ourselves subject to the changing circumstances around us. But we do not lose heart, for we are reminded in Scripture that all things work according to God’s perfect plan (Isaiah 46:10; Acts 2:23, 4:28; Ephesians 1:11); therefore, we trust that he is not subject to our circumstances, and he is not taken by surprise. Rather, he is ruling over all things and is working them for his glory and our good (Romans 8:28). This gives us great confidence, even amidst the uncertainty of life.
As of today the coronavirus pandemic has not slowed or ceased. Because of this, Governor Bullock issued a “Stay-at-Home” directive yesterday afternoon (https://covid19.mt.gov/Portals/223/Documents/Stay%20at%20Home%20Directive.pdf?ver=2020-03-26-173332-177). Our own Gallatin County has declared that no gatherings of more than 10 people can occur before April 17th. This means we can anticipate the possibility of meeting for corporate worship on April 19th at the earliest, although this remains subject to change.
The elders have been prayerfully considering all options and responses to this news. Here is where we have landed: we are going to remain online for the foreseeable future (at least through April 17th). Worship services will be live-streamed through Facebook and YouTube, and our small groups, Sunday school classes, and youth group will remain cancelled until further notice (this includes all weekend activities that may have been planned for early to mid-April). This does not mean, however, that we don’t want you to be in communication with each other! We highly encourage emails, phone calls, texting, and even live-chatting in order to experience fellowship, pray for one another, and build each other up during this time of social isolation. The “Stay-at-Home” directive allows for outdoor activity where at least six feet of separation can be maintained, so go on prayer walks with one another.
In addition to continuing the suspension of regular services, the church building will now be locked until we re-open it to everyone. This means that we are asking those who would want to stop by for a visit to call one of the elders personally instead. If you would like a library book delivered to you home, please email the church and we will make that happen! Jessi, our office manager, can still be reached via email at email@example.com. If you have an announcement or a need, just reach out to her.
We recognize that this decision impacts all of us, just as this virus has — no one has been left unaffected. Millions of children have suddenly become homeschoolers, which means millions of parents have suddenly become teachers! Many people are out of work or will be shortly. Money is tight and is growing tighter. Even our ability to gather for corporate worship — which fuels us for Christian living — has come to a screeching halt over the last two weeks. We want you to know that we are aware of the impact this is having, and we are praying for each of you. If you have needs or specific prayer requests, please reach out to us. The church has resources and people who are willing and able to help.
The reality is that we are going to remain apart for some time, but only in person. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5 and Colossians 2 that we can be apart from one another physically, yet we are together in spirit because of the Spirit who binds us together. So please know that you are not alone. We are continuing to lift one another up and care for each other in new and creative ways.
Two final reminders: first, don’t forget your neighbors. It would be easy to become self-focused in a time like this, but we want to orient our attention outward. We should seek to minister sacrificially to our neighbors, both believing and unbelieving, during this time. If it’s as simple as bringing them groceries, we want to do that. But we also want to encourage evangelism. So look for opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus.
Lastly, don’t neglect your family’s spiritual health. During this time the world would encourage us to binge-watch TV shows. Our anxious hearts would tempt us to stay glued to our phones for minute-to-minute updates on the coronavirus. The lack of corporate worship might convince us that we can get back to worship once all this blows over. Dear friends, don’t embrace any of these foolish responses! God, in his providence, is giving his people the opportunity to grow closer to him in prayer and Bible study, not closer to the TV. He is giving us the chance to increase our faith and trust, not our anxiety and fear. And he is providing the environment to re-kindle a commitment to family worship, which is sadly absent from so many Christian homes. Instead of giving in to despair or our fleshly desires, let us turn our eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
With deep affection in Christ,