Dear Grace Family,
We are witnessing something that is unprecedented in our lifetime. The Coronavirus continues to strip away every aspect of normalcy. Millions of Americans are being adversely affected by the increasing shut down of businesses, restaurants, and every day activities. Understandably, this has led to many of us feeling an elevated sense of stress and anxiety over the impact this crisis will have on our personal lives.
Perhaps most striking is the current emergency order prohibiting groups like our church from gathering to worship. The fundamental nature of any church is their ability to gather and worship. To suspend the gathering of our church is an extraordinary measure meant to show love to one another and to our neighbors as we seek to limit the spread of this virus among us.
The leaders made the difficult decision to cancel our worship service on March 15. We want to share with you that we will also be canceling our worship service for the next two weeks, March 22 and March 29. Stay tuned for updates on future weeks.
As you can imagine, this will be a difficult challenge for our life together as a family. This is why we offered a live-stream of our entire Sunday service this past week. The leaders believe this is a God-honoring and creative way for us to stay connected as a church even when we can’t gather. We were able to sing, pray, and listen to God’s Word together. We had over 300 users logged in on Sunday. We estimate that to be somewhere between 600-1000 people who joined us online. I have heard numerous stories of church members and non-church members watching and being encouraged by the service. While it in no way replaces meeting together physically, we can continue to meet virtually as we patiently wait for the day where we can gather again in one accord.
One of the most significant ways this crisis can impact our church is in the area of giving. While more people have chosen to give online recently, 73% of our congregation still gives by cash or check. We are incredibly thankful for the generosity of our entire church family regardless of the giving method. However, if we do not gather, the majority of our church members are not able to give in their normal way.
For instance, this past Sunday, the giving that came in online and by mail ended up being $20,000 dollars less than our need for the week. If this were just one Sunday, that would not be too concerning. But if we are not able to meet for several weeks or more, this could have a debilitating impact on our church’s mission to shine the light of Christ both locally and globally.
As I shared this with a few church members, they encouraged us as leaders to articulate this need to our church family sooner than later. They were confident, as am I, that our church family will rise to the occasion and exercise faith knowing that God is our ultimate provider.
While this is a challenging time, it is also an incredible opportunity for spiritual growth. We can learn together that whether in times of prosperity or adversity, “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). How exciting would it be to see God work through his people in such a time as this so that God’s Word can go forth from Bowie to the nations. What a joy it will be to keep meeting spiritual and physical needs as a tangible witness to the grace of God at work in our lives.
So what can you do? If you normally give by cash or check, would you consider mailing your contribution or dropping it off in person soon? If you would prefer to give online, you can go to our giving page at gbcbowie.org/give and follow the simple steps listed there. If you need help with this, you can call our Business Administrator, Mike Beckman at 240-898-2059. He is ready to help walk you through the steps of setting up a giving account online. If you are concerned about fees, please know that if you give electronically through your bank account, the fee is less than 1%. We highly discourage giving by credit or debit card (over 3% fee).
I acknowledge that we are living in a time of great uncertainty. Some will lose their jobs and others will have their hours drastically reduced. Financial strain might become a reality for some of us. Know our church stands ready to help through our benevolence ministry. Please reach out to the pastors if you have need.
Over the last twelve years serving as a pastor at Grace, I have been constantly amazed by the generosity and love of this church. I can say without hesitation, you are the most generous and loving church I know! God is greater than the Coronavirus. In a very real sense, we can say like Joseph, what the coronavirus meant for evil, God meant for good. Who knows how God will show his superior power and glory through this crisis. Let’s continue to bring glory to God by making fully devoted followers of Christ who passionately love God and people. By God’s grace, this is still possible.
Waiting in Hope,