A Year in Review – How God Has Led in a Difficult Time
It was February 2020, and the Lord had given some very interesting direction for preaching a short sermon series. He directed us to the book of Haggai, which isn’t your run of the mill book for a sermon series. The sense was that there was a shaking coming and we needed to be prepared. Another theme that came through these sermons was that we needed to be carefully considering what and how we build.
Immediately on the heels of that short sermon series our whole world was turned upside down as Covid-19 swept across the globe! There were many unknowns and few answers. As people around us began to contract the disease, get sick, and in some unfortunate cases, die from its effects, we faced a very difficult decision of what to do as everything around us closed down. Through much prayer and careful thought, we decided that the Lord was calling us to choose to protect life and to honor the government’s request to slow the spread by not meeting in large groups. The decision to shut down our Sunday morning worship services for a time was not an easy one nor was it taken lightly. The driving force behind the decision was love, not fear, as we know that God does not give us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT)
At the time no one knew how long it would take for us to be able to return to corporate worship, and most of us thought that it would be a short time. As time went by, we began to realize that there would be no quick fix and that we might be in this season longer than we’d originally thought. The distancing and disrupted rhythms quickly led to grief over what we’d lost, and for many, feelings of loneliness and isolation. We all missed gathering together on Sunday mornings and longed for when we would be able to resume meeting and worshiping the Lord together again.
During this time, however, even though we weren’t able to meet in person, our church remained alive and well, and busier than ever. The staff remained busy serving the church in a variety of old and new ways by: starting a new blog for communication, creating the At Home Worship Liturgies each Sunday, working on updating the church website, sending weekly church emails, facilitating prayer appointments via Zoom, continuing to lead our weekly Wednesday noon prayer meetings via Zoom, and much more. The Care Elder team, Deacons, and Admin Elder teams stayed busy serving the congregation, even as the congregation continued to love, care for, and serve each other.
Through the difficult shutdown we continued to ask the Lord for direction and felt that he was calling us to a more intentional focus on disciple making, in accordance with Matthew 28. He helped us to see, even more clearly, that our Sunday morning worship services couldn’t bear the full weight of making disciples who themselves go and make disciples?” While we love gathering and worshiping together, disciple making requires more intentional focus and relationship. So we asked what the Lord would call us to do about this. We sensed that the Lord’s response was to teach gospel fluency in a small group setting which would allow for deeper growth even in a time when large group meetings were still prohibited due to being top contributors to the spread of Covid.
So, even as we continued to ask the Lord when it was the right time to begin regathering for Sunday morning worship, we sensed that He was calling us to focus on launching Discipleship groups and creating a curriculum called the Gospel tool which we would study in the groups. It was all hands on deck for the staff to launch groups in the fall; the effort required to do this well was tremendous, and more than expected. They had to find hosts and facilitators, discern, write, and train about group culture, how groups would be run, communicate, plan who would be in which groups, and more, while at the same time planning and writing the Gospel Tool curriculum that all the groups would use (we’ve also had a number of other churches and individuals request to use The Gospel Tool, which is very encouraging). We praise the Lord that the majority of our church family has been able to participate in the groups, and we’ve even seen some growth with some new people joining GAC for the groups.
As we now consider regathering for worship on Sunday mornings, we’re asking for the Lord’s wisdom and guidance, and discerning steps of faith to take. We will be working with ministry team leaders to coordinate the many details needed to regather safely. We anticipate this process taking many weeks and will communicate frequently with you as details become firm (i.e. timelines, expectations for safety guidelines, etc.). We do not have a target date yet, but you can expect to hear a joyful announcement from us when we do. Whatever happens, we are excited to worship together as the loving, caring, spirit-filled body that is Gold Avenue Church.
As we continue to plan, you can stay up to date by continuing to read weekly emails, checking out GAC’s website www.goldavenuechurch.org (recently refreshed!), or our blog about regathering: http://goldavenuechurch.org/category/regathering-updates/. If you have any questions you can email email@example.com and we’ll try to answer as best as we can. Thank you for your patience and prayers as we’ve never been on this journey together. Please pray for special wisdom, discernment, and strength for us as we lead this regathering effort. Please pray also for the staff, who have labored so hard on our behalf over this past year.
The Regathering Team
(Annah Blake, Tim Mulder, Nancy VanNoord, Mark Essenburg)