Perhaps I had heard the word “pandemic” before, but it did not lodge in my memory. Well, it’s lodged there now. Eddie Cloer said to me the other day that if you had asked him what he thought might have the potential to affect us this way he would never have guessed that it would be a virus. I’m sure that each of us could say the same thing.

            The coronavirus has forced us to change the way we do things. Like it or not, agree with it or not, attach to it whatever political implications you might want but, I hope that you are cooperating. The CDC and the President of the United States have asked the public to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people. The shepherds of the Mabelvale church are concerned about our physical well-being, but more importantly our spiritual welfare. No one likes the physical limitations that are placed upon us at this time, but we have to remember that “this too shall pass.” I guess the question is, how are we using the time of change and isolation that is now upon us?

            The fact that we are not engaged in corporate assembly for a few weeks does not mean that we are not worshiping. The work and worship of the church is not limited to the assembly. I remember hearing Dr. Everett Ferguson at Harding University’s Institute for Church & Family (2001) lecture on “Some Contemporary Issues Concerning Worship and the Christian Assembly.” Brother Ferguson made the point, “Therefore, worship for the Christian is not confined to what is done in the church assemblies. However, these assemblies are an important part of the Christian’s total service and worship to God.” This is certainly not to say that it is okay to decide that if we stay home during a crisis then we can do it any time! That would be “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb. 10:25). I am not willing to join the alarmists who declare that Satan has gained the victory with churches choosing not to assemble. If shepherds do not care for the overall wellbeing of the church members who are under their oversight, how then are they shepherds at all? And Satan is still the loser as long as we do not lose heart! (Gal. 6:9) As a parallel, the church in Jerusalem was forced out of the city because of persecution, and those disciples “went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). The Jerusalem church did not cease to exist. We will get through this, with small adjustments being made, and hopefully we will be better on the other end of it. Nothing, not even a virus, can separate us from the love of God! (Rom. 8:38-39)

            There are some positive things coming out of this for the Mabelvale church: First, we, like congregations everywhere, are live streaming more than we ever have before. Noah and I have and will continue to live stream our classes. This is a brave new world for me, but Noah is teaching “an old dog new tricks.” We have been doing this in our All Comers class for some time now, but Noah has been in control, not me. Now that I have done it I’m an “old pro.” Yeah, right! The added advantage is that these live streams are on Facebook and are seen by many more than just the members at Mabelvale. What a wonderful opportunity you have to invite others to tune in and check us out! Second, people have stepped up to help distribute the individual communion packets for all who can get them, namely, Ray & Donna Bryan, Roger & Sue Horton and Ken Sullivan up to this point. Third, Sisters in Service has established a phone calling tree of ladies who are calling and checking on every member of the congregation to see how they are and if they have any particular needs at this time. Fourth, hopefully you are using this time to read your Bible, especially those of you in our All Comers class. We have a golden opportunity to read through the books of the Old Testament that we will be studying in class. Perhaps you are spending more time in Bible study or in reading good books that will help you grow spiritually.

            Please use this time to pray for this situation to pass as soon as possible so that we can get back to our regular activities at home and with the church. Pray for the elders as they lead the Mabelvale church in the temporary adjustments that must be made to keep us connected spiritually. Pray for the entire congregation, but especially our older members, and that no one contract Covid-19. “Social distancing” does not mean spiritual disengagement. Let’s continue to love and encourage one another through these difficult times. Love your family and spend time with them if possible. Love your neighbor and reach out to help them if they need it.