I am sure by now you are well aware of the National Emergency which was declared by our President Donald J. Trump yesterday, in his address to our great nation the United States of America, in response to the COVID-19 virus outbreak.
In response to those actions the Pastors of the Free Methodist received this directive by our Bishops and Superintendents;
“In conjunction with guidance from our Board of Bishops of the Free Methodist Church - USA, along with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for Community and Faith-Based Organizations, and evolving legal restrictions. I am directing you to suspend all in-person worship services, church gatherings and activities effective immediately through April 6th in response to the COVID-19 virus realities.”
Yesterday afternoon, I spent a large part of the afternoon in prayerful discussions with our Superintendent Brad Button along with several of our pastors and leaders within the East Michigan Conference as we contemplated the direction of the Holy Spirit as it pertains to leading our respective congregations through this temporary trial.
The general consensus was that instead of seeing this situation as an impediment to worshiping and serving our great and gracious Heavenly Father we should receive this as an exceptional opportunity to be the Church and model of the deep passionate love of our Savior, serving our communities by being Jesus to a nation that desperately needs Him in this hour.
As we know the Bible commands us to be in subjection to those who have been placed in leadership over us (Romans 13:1-7). I ask that we carefully adhere to the mandate delivered by those who are over us, especially those of us in leadership of the local church, meaning please do not move any “gatherings” with the Benchmark Church name upon it to other locations, but be creative in other ways to connect possibly via Email, Facebook, Zoom Meetings or other social media venues.
However, I ask that “we love our neighbor as we love ourselves” by keeping up with one another, as well as those who do not attend our church and especially those who are at high risk and susceptibility to the virus, make sure that they have the needed supplies to sustain themselves. Call one another often and pray together. This may be the time and place in life where we can lead them to the saving knowledge of our Savior and Lord, allowing him to use our concern and generosity to win their hearts to him. Our worship team and I are currently working on ways to provide Sunday services to our congregation, however with the suspension of services coming so late in the week tomorrow’s service will be minimal. These churches are within the East Michigan Conference and already have the capabilities of providing online services, Davison FMC, Midland FMC, New Covenant Church and Waypoint Church. If you go to their websites they will be streaming their services and should have something up and running for tomorrow.
Benchmark Church is unique in the fact that our Fenton Campus houses the Fenton Alano Club and the club will not be closed as in truth we are already battling an epidemic of alcoholism and addiction which already takes the lives of over 72,000 people nationwide yearly, approximately three a month that we are connected to in some type of fashion. We are taking extraordinary precautions to protect our attendees and we are bracing for the possible influx of meeting attendees as many of the surrounding churches are canceling all meetings. I solicit your prayers for the safety of those within the Alano Club, especially the leadership who will be exposed to a lot of people.
In truth we feel as though we have no other choice but to continue in the ministry of the Alano Club because it would be very likely to adversely affect many lives if they were unable to maintain their 12 step program. As I move towards the close of this letter, I would like to kindly remind all of us that even though we cannot gather together right now the ministry of the church continues forward and with that our office will continue to be open and accessible by phone or email. Contact Tina at (810) 632 - 3417 or email@example.com . Pastor Dave will be handling much of the phone ministry so if you are in need of prayer or counsel his mobile number is (810) 252 - 2408. I will be available to make outside vistations and wellness checks, along with taking any calls for prayer or counsel, as well as working with the worship team to provide Sunday Service and developing a process for our Wednesday Night Prayer Group to be actively pursuing God in prayer for the state of our Nation and wellbeing of our Congregation.
My contact info is (810) 588 - 7084 and firstname.lastname@example.org. One final note, even though the physical operations of the church are being interrupted, the work of God still moves forward, which means staff, bills and caring for the community still requires our obedience to God in tithing. We have an online giving button on our website benchmarkchurch.com. If you go there and click on that button it guides you through the process. You may also send your tithe in the mail to Benchmark Church, 5530 Runyan Lake Rd., Fenton MI 48430. If you have any questions please feel free to call the office.
In closing there is a scripture which stands out in my mind in light of this situation which is found in;2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Friends remember this, “we” may be in unprecedented times but our God is not. His Holy Word promises us that He will never leave nor forsake us. God is bigger than the COVID-19 virus and the chaos it is causing. If we will keep our eyes and hope upon him he will undoubtedly lead us through this moment in time. I have no doubt that he will even cause us to flourish in spite of the current storm we are experiencing.- In His Holy Love, Pastor Tony