March 13, 2020

Dear Converge Great Lakes Pastors and leaders,

We find ourselves in uncharted waters with the fast changing CoVid-19 virus pandemic in American society. Like many of you, I have been pondering what the response of the church should be given all of the panic, fear, and genuine concern. In my lifetime, I have never seen the actions being taken in the last 36 to 48 hours. Massive number of flights cancelled from Europe, the NBA cancellations, sweeping school closings etc. I want to provide you with several resources to guide your thinking and from that to the leadership of your church. Attached are several articles and samples from other churches worth reading along with a few guiding leadership principles.

5 Truths We Must Embrace

First, leaders must define reality . As the pandemic has breeched American society, the rapid changing nature of the information has been almost dizzying. Panic and fear are pervasive all around us. Stores running out of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and other commodities are like never before. Leaders have to speak into the fear after being equipped with accurate information. Get good information. The scripture says that perfect love casts out all fear. Pastors, please don’t overreact nor dismiss this, rather help your people apply their faith to these circumstances and guide them biblically.

Second, the response to the crisis must be driven by love and not fear . Whatever decisions you make about how to lead your ministry make sure that love is the driving force and not fear. We must have genuine concern for people who are medically vulnerable and/or the elderly--some of whom will lose their lives over this pandemic. Some of you will be conducting funerals weeks from now. Make sure that love for the vulnerable is paramount in your thinking. Do not dismiss people’s concerns flippantly. Don’t only think about the people who normally come to your worship service. Rather, also think about your community which is gripped by fear. Encourage your people to show the love of Jesus to neighbors in practical and tangible ways. You might consider a special designated offering to care for the vulnerable and give your folks an opportunity to give to their own community needs.

Third, review all your procedures and policies related to cleanliness. Make sure in your gathering spaces that cleaning is being done at the highest level possible. Plenty of sanitizing wipes, adequate hand sanitizer, ample supply of hand soap in your bathrooms, wiping down sanctuary arm rests, editing your greeting efforts to practice ‘social distancing’, and changing procedures for communion and offerings are all things to review and change in light of the current issues. Review those procedures and change them now. Changing them several months from now will be too late. Listen, learn, and adapt to challenges.

Fourth, review and temporarily alter your gathering strategy . The guidelines being given right now about “social distancing” are all about mitigating a massive rapid spread of the virus across the nation in the coming weeks. The Church should not ignore this call to action. Changing our gathering strategy for the next 2 to 6 weeks could save lives but we need not abandon the call from scripture to worship and to gather together—we just need to do it differently. This is especially true for our larger than 250 people congregations which have the highest vulnerabilities. More than ever, people need to be connected to one another in authentic relationship they just need to not hug or shake hands and maybe use elbow bumps until this settles down. More people will feel lonely and afraid than ever before. Offer alternatives and changes which still meet the needs of the human soul. You will need to adjust the pattern of your church and the manner in which they gather for worship. Gathering in small groups to worship and pray is strikingly familiar to the early church in Acts. Have your people engage online giving or send their offerings in through the mail. If your office staff works from home, use this as an opportunity to review your work policies for documentation back up, online communication, and financial practices to assure security.

Fifth, call your people to prayer for the nation. All week long I have been thinking about how the church did not adequately engage the culture around the concerns of 9/11 when we saw a massive influx of people who were unsettled by the terrorist attacks. We cannot miss this opportunity to BE the church toward people who are going to think about life from a fresh perspective. One of the ways we can get our people ready is to call them to pray. Call your people to specific acts of prayer by praying for the nation, our leaders, the local church, businesses who are going to have massive consequences to the pandemic, etc. Upon news of Israel’s destruction, Nehemiah wept and he prayed. Then, he called the people to pray and he called them to action. We must have that kind of clarion call to prayer and dependence upon Christ to bring the gospel to people in relevant ways addressing their questions and the unavoidable reality that we are all mortal.

Converge Great Lakes will do whatever we can to be helpful in these days of vulnerability and uncertainty. Do not hesitate to communicate with any of our staff team for help or direction. We will do our very best to provide practical counsel and helpful resources in the coming weeks.

Please review some of the attached articles for additional guidance and input. These are the best of the many I have read in the last 24 hours and I hope you find them helpful too.

Better together,

Ken Nabi
Regional President
Converge Great Lakes