• We will hold online worship services through May 10 unless restrictions are lifted
  • May 17 is our first scheduled in-person worship service
  • Please post pics of church at home with #firstfreestl
  • Thursday night online prayer gathering at 7 PM
  • Most ministry gatherings and special services will be postponed at least 2 weeks and possibly 8 weeks
  • Groups are encouraged to meet online during this period
Message from Pastor Adam
Dear Church Family,

Did Sunday’s service feel as unusual for you as it did for me?

I’m thankful for the technology that allows us to stay connected digitally even if we cannot meet physically. At the same time, there is something special about getting together in person and I know we are all eager to do that again very soon.

I think it’s a good time to remember what makes our community of faith important. It’s not the building or the seats or even the coffee and donuts. It’s the people of God gathering together to encourage each other and worship Him. In a way, I hope this quarantine experience helps each of us return to the basics of the body of Christ. Perhaps the Undivided series was good preparation for the journey ahead of us, teaching us to focus on what really matters.

As you may know, St. Louis County has issued a ban on all gatherings of 50 or more people for eight weeks. The CDC also recommends communities take this action. Medical doctors nationally and within our congregation have recommended avoiding any gatherings of people for a while, even in numbers smaller than 50. The federal government is now saying less than 10.

After researching this and speaking with medical professionals, I believe the caution governments and most churches are taking are well-founded. The worst-case scenarios for the coronavirus are devastating. My understanding is that this virus is many times more deadly than the flu and spreads much faster leading to exponential growth. Unchecked, the coronavirus could quickly lead to millions of people needing hospitalization and ventilators while the US reportedly has fewer than 1 million hospital beds and fewer than 100,000 ventilators.

While we do not need to fear because we trust God, we also should not ignore the seriousness of this pandemic. Some Christians have suggested that churches should continue meeting regardless of the health crisis or that by Christians not gathering, they demonstrate a lack of faith. I don’t think these are biblically defendable positions. 

Faith in God does not mean reckless behavior. In the books of Leviticus and Numbers, God commands that sick people be quarantined and even restricted from access to the temple. He did not say that if the people had enough faith they should ignore the sickness. 

Proverbs 27:12 says, “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Our motivation as pastors and elders making difficult decisions is not fear but prudence. It is unwise to put many lives at risk because of a misunderstanding of God’s Word and faith. It is unwise to ignore the guidance and restrictions of our government and healthcare officials who are warning us this could be a disastrous pandemic if we do not temporarily meet online.

While I believe it is wise to follow the restrictions, I am honestly concerned about what this could mean for our church. I do not want to see our patterns of church attendance grow weaker. I do not want to see our groups lose intimacy and connection from not meeting together.

My prayer is that God uses this time in our lives to make us more connected to each other in different ways. And I think we could see a strengthening of our church and even growth on the other side of this pandemic if we remain faithful.

So I encourage you to stay connected with each other. Reach out to your neighbors. Be ready to jump in and help people wherever needed. If you aren’t already connected to a group, now would be a great time to get plugged in at efree.org/groups .

Worship Gatherings
For the next several weeks, our worship gatherings will have to be online only. If the current restrictions remain in place, we may need to continue this until May 10, with May 17 being our first service back together.

A number of the special services we had planned for March and April must now be postponed. We will do everything on a later timetable.

Church At Home Pics With #firstfreestl
One way we can stay connected is to see each other worshiping at home. Each week, please take a picture of you and anyone else watching the service with you and having church at home. Post these pics on Facebook or Instagram with #firstfreestl. We can all see these pictures and know that we’re gathering together for worship. This will also promote the services to others who may not have a church home and might join us for the first time. Let’s turn a crisis into an outreach!

Ministry Activities
The gathering restrictions will also impact our other ministry activities like Women’s Bible Studies, Community Bible Study, MOPS, AWANA, and Celebrate Recovery. We’re giving guidance to each of these ministries on how to proceed so they can contact their communities directly.

Position Paper and Messages
We planned to release a position paper on Women in Church Leadership soon and have several preaching messages to accompany that paper’s release. Those will be postponed as they need to be covered in person and not only online. Our study of 1 Timothy will continue but we will skip over the more controversial passages and come back to them later in the year.

Our giving last Sunday was down 25% but our expenses did not go down 25%. The impact of not meeting has a very small impact on expenses. Staff, missionaries, utilities, the mortgage, and other expenses continue without a break. Please continue supporting this church even though we are not able to physically attend services together. You can do this at efree.org/give or, if that site is overloaded on Sunday, use onehub.church .

Online Prayer Gathering Thursday Night
John Richardson will lead us in an online prayer gathering Thursday night, March 19 at 7:00 PM. You can join using this link: https://zoom.us/j/3146256064

Our website provider has struggled to keep their system working so we are looking at other options. In the meantime, we have set up an alternate site with the most important links at onehub.church . Please feel free to share this link with anyone looking to watch online, get connected, ask for prayer, or give if our main site is not working.

Final Thoughts
This is a challenging time and the first time any of us have experienced something like this. We can be an example of Christians who care for the least of these. We can be a light for those who have no hope. We can be good citizens who represent Christ well and do our part to limit the spread of the coronavirus. 

Most of all, we can ask God to keep people safe and use the pandemic to draw people to Him.
In Christ,
Adam Bowers
Senior Pastor
First Free Church