Seeing all of you last week through Zoom was something special. Thanks for continued grace, encouragement and flexibility. We pray it was as much of a blessing to you as it was to us. As promised, here’s the Friday update to help you navigate our next steps together. As we’ve spent time as a pastoral leadership team praying and discussing next steps, it seems like some of the fog is clearing up. Again, we don’t know what things will look like down the road, but we have a few next steps that we hope provide some sort of consistency over the next 5 weeks. This is our attempt to turn on our blinker before changing lanes. The next time we’ll all gather together on Zoom will be April 5th for our members meeting. So in preparation for that time, we wanted to provide our plan the coming weeks, our purpose behind that plan, and then a closing encouragement.
(Just a small note about this calendar below. Every one of our Sunday offerings (with the exception of the members meeting) will be open to everyone, member and guest alike. Members and regular attenders will have access to the Zoom call so we can see each other’s faces. While everyone else who may be tuning in from afar can stream via facebook live @ facebook.com/cornersteoneatl).
Our Plan (next 5 weeks and maybe beyond)
Sunday March 29th | Family Worship
- Family Worship. Before we move on, let’s clarify what we mean by family. The family in family worship has nothing to do with your marital status, but your membership status. If you’re a member of this church, you’re a part of this family.
We want to use this Sunday to do the same thing we did last week, but in smaller units. Groups where you’lll not only get a chance to see one another’s faces, but hear each others voices (something that we just can’t do on a Zoom call with a few hundred people). What this means for us is that families should open their homes (virtually of course) to singles and singles should not only accept an invitation but return the favor by initiating a gathering where they invite families. My encouragement to everyone is to not wait around for someone else to start this time. You have access to the contact info of people in our church, reach out and connect with someone. I’m sure that you also know someone who may not be a member of our church or any other but is looking for more than just a good sermon on Sunday. They’re looking for connection. Invite them into your space (virtually of course). You don’t even have to clean up around your crib. Just point your front facing camera at a clean side of the room and go from there. We’ll work on our end to ensure you have some content from Sunday that can foster dialogue around God’s Word (if you feel you need it). If you don’t have a group to worship with, please just let us know and we can start you on your way! Hit reply and we’ll work something out.
Sunday, April 5th | Member’s Meeting
- Members Meeting. We’ll worship together, be encouraged from God’s word (similar to last week) and then have a members meeting where we’ll add new members to the family, talk more specifically about our path forward (as far as we can see clearly) and interact around specific care emergencies that have surfaced among the family.
Sunday, April 12th | Sunday TouchPoint
- Touch Point. We’ll pick up where we left off on Zoom again as one church at the same time to rejoice in the Resurrection!!!
Sunday, April 19th | All-Church Prayer.
- All-Church Prayer. We’ll gather together again as one church to spend some time praying in a large and breakout groups via Zoom.
Sunday, April 26th – Family Worship
Moving forward, if this schedule works well, we’ll keep it. If not, we’ll change it.
We’ve been in constant prayer and conversation over these past 2 weeks, trying to discern the best way to lean into this unique season. We’re trying to respond to this season in wisdom. Ecclesiastes 3 is particularly relevant to us today. “There’s a time to embrace and a time refrain from embracing….A time to gather and a time to scatter.” This season, by God’s design, is a time where the church has been forced to (collectively) to scatter. This season is unique in the history of the church (at least in our lifetimes and we want to respond appropriately). Generations come and go without experiencing a worldwide pandemic. Most generations that live through one, only live through one. We want to make the most of it.
Historically, when the church has been forced to scatter, through pandemic or persecution, it doesn’t have the same devastating effects as it does elsewhere. The people of God have always had that assurance—from the burning bush on. Fire consumed the bush, but didn’t destroy it. That’s a picture of the people of God in the midst of trouble. When pandemic is the main ingredient, two spoonful’s of isolation with a side of loneliness is the dish that the world is forced to stomach. The same isn’t true for the people of God. God can turn what looks like inevitable isolation into an opportunity for developing intimate bonds. Deeper connections that reinvigorate the life blood of the church. We want to come out at the end of this time better as a church. We want to leverage this unique season. We don’t just want to survive quarantine, we want to come out of this season with major upgrades.
To that end, here’s how we plan to lean into this season. Leaning into smaller groups. We want to maximize our connection by prioritizing settings that cultivate intimacy while taking care of needs. In other words we feel the need to prioritize attachment in this season. For too long, it’s been too common to measure connection to a local church in terms of worship service attendance, not relational attachment. I think we’re really feeling just how valuable the latter is. We want to ensure everyone in our church is connected and offer invitation to those on the fringes.
This season is revealing the gap between attendance and attachment is greater than many of us thought. It’s the difference between looking at mountain ranges from a distance and standing right next to one. From a distance, the peaks of the mountains seem closer to one another than they actually are. All it takes is a change of your location to see that was only an illusion. The closer you move to the actual mountain the more you realize just how far apart those peaks actually are. The same is true with attendance and attachment. There are settings in which they look and feel much the same. However, in this particular season of pandemic and quarantine, job loss and uncertainty, being weary of living and fearful of dying; we’re learning just how far apart attendance and attachment really are. So this schedule is our attempt at riding the winds of the providence of God in the current decentralization of the church in order to best maximize this time.
Small groups have been a pivotal part of our church life up until now; however, they’ve been something on the periphery (they’ve been off center). In this season, these smaller groups are going to be absolutely vital to our ability to:
- Care for the needs of every family member in real time. We can’t wait until we see people next Sunday, we have to be nimble enough to hear about the need on Monday morning and have people surrounding them Monday afternoon.
- Cultivate Connection. We have more down time at our disposal right now. The problem is we also have more to worry about, more opportunities to be depressed as some of us look at the bleak prospect of the future. This isn’t a vacation for many of us, it’s a time of grief and sadness. In times of grief, taking in tons of new content isn’t what we need most. What we need is to be personally connected.
So we’re putting our eggs in this basket in this season. We’ll be prioritizing connection in this way. Pastor Moe is diligently working with a team to ensure that everyone is placed in a group. We’re continuing to monitor this. This will be the best way that we can ensure our church is shepherded and pastored through this season.
We’re still one family. Regardless of what our meeting schedule looks like right now, we’re still one body. This is a season where we are leaning into the fact that we are scattered instead of trying to swim upstream. It’s just a season—unpredictable and un-permanent! We know God is good in what He allows, and we’re leaning into His goodness by embracing this season. Even if we don’t understand His direction. As we do our best to foster smaller connection groups, we desperately want to maintain a sense of oneness. We’ll try to do that by practicing the schedule above. This way, even in this new season we have times to look forward to when we’ll see each other’s faces. All the while, we’ll be longing for the day when this dark cloud is lifted and we get to see God’s face shining down on each other’s unpixellated ones. We’ll get a chance to put the digital middleman on furlough for a little bit and enjoy hugging each other.
As we said before, no one but God sees all the way down the road. The path is still foggy, but the fog is starting to lift a bit so we’re stepping forward with confidence. We’ll leave you with a quote today from one of my (John’s) favorite preachers.
“[Everyone] blesses God while he gives him plenty, but the Christian blesses him when he smites him: he believes him to be too wise to err and too good to be unkind; he trusts him where he cannot trace him”Charles Spurgeon
We’re trusting God where we can’t trace Him. Knowledge isn’t a prerequisite to joy. Trust is!
John Onwuchekwa | Richard Mullen | Moe Hafeez | Jared Dawson | Bob Selph