June 24, 2020

Burning Down the House

If someone yells “Fire!” in a crowded building, people will often first look around and then they’ll respond by how those around them respond. Even the most calm, even-tempered person will run for the door if those around them are panicking. Recently, we’ve all experienced this. Someone yelled “Toilet paper!”, and whether we needed toilet paper or not, we all rushed to buy toilet paper, causing those who responded slowly to go without. Someone yelled “Violence in the streets!” and gun and ammo sells have spiked. Even people who argued for more gun control got in line for their first weapons. I enjoy target shooting, so I’ve seen the lines and I’ve had many conversations with people who sell guns and run shooting ranges, and it’s just plain mystifying how their businesses have literally skyrocketed. How do we change the escalating panic culture?

I’m in a weekly prayer meeting with other local pastors and within the past week nearly all of us have had to make quick and very serious decisions. One large church had a staff member who had a positive test, so they had to send all of their staff home and quarantine. Another church had their first actual meeting since this COVID-19 pandemic started, and then the next day they received word that one of the members in attendance had tested positive. Wellspring had its first youth meeting last Wednesday, then the next day I received word that prior to the meeting a few of our young people had been in contact with another person who had just found out Thursday that she was positive. The positive person had gone to the doctor for another procedure and they automatically tested her for COVID-19, then it took days to hear back. She didn’t have any symptoms as of finding out she was positive on Thursday then over the weekend she had a lot of phlegm in her chest and lost her sense of taste. By yesterday (Tuesday), her taste was back, the phlegm was lessening, and she was feeling much better. It was a pretty fast turn around — praise the Lord! The youth that actually had contact went to get tested and were told that they’d find out in four to ten days. Last Thursday when I found out, I called all of the other parents of youth who were at our meeting and then had multiple long conversations with our board members about how we should respond. We decided to cancel our Sunday meeting and pull back to pray for more clarity.

This is happening in churches and businesses all over the country, and will probably continue increasing as testing increases. And the answer of complete shut-down and quarantine of our entire world is just pure imagination and unrealistic fantasy. Farmers can’t produce imaginary food, businesses can’t sell imaginary services, doctors can’t just imagine going to work, and governments can’t continue sending checks of imaginary money from uncollected taxes. And in the same vein, churches can not call themselves churches (which literally means “gathering”) if people aren’t actually “churching”. Is it a church if we virtually meet by watching TV at the same time? It seems like an updated version of televangelism to me. But I may just be old fashioned. When the Bible lists “laying on of hands” as one of the six elementary principles of Christ (or basic Christian doctrines) it may be that human proximity is a little bit important to being a Christian, much less a gathering of Christians we like to call the church. So what do we do?

On one of the social media sites for my neighborhood someone recently posted, “Be afraid! Fear may save your life!” They were serious. Day after day people are living in fear and thinking that the people who aren’t afraid are going to burn down our society. In their opinion, the reason COVID-19 positives are rising is because people aren’t afraid enough. Trust me, we have more than enough fear in the world right now. But humans aren’t made to sustain a constant high threat level. Eventually, they will burn out, move to denial, medicate, or redefine what counts as an actual threat.

And that’s where we areā€¦ We’re halfway through 2020, and we’ve come to the critical place of burn out, denial, self-medicating escapism, or redefining the threat. Mass burnout is what’s playing into the chaos of people acting out against one another. Denial is equivalent to intentional self-induced ignorance and it works only until you or your family are painfully and abruptly smacked in the face by reality. When I say “medication” I mean escape behavior: drugs, alcohol, movie/TV binging. Medication is like drinking yourself drunk to avoid dealing with the other options; it’s immature, irresponsible, and conceding loss in a situation that is not completely lost.

I’m choosing to redefine the threat levels. We on the Wellspring leadership team don’t think it’s realistic or feasible to cancel meetings, isolate and quarantine all of the church members every time somebody realizes that they came in contact with someone who tested positive. If we continue responding to every single yell of “COVID-19!!!” then we may as well cease to exist because we’ll never be able to meet again. We may as well light the metaphorical house on fire ourselves and watch it burn (of course from a socially acceptable distance). If the church’s answer is more video teaching and taped music performances, we’re out. There are already great mega-ministries that are experts in the field of televangelism. That’s not our calling. We’re called to be children of God gathered to worship our loving Father. We’re called to minister to Him and then to one another and then to the world around us. We’re called to make disciples, which is only truly done in intimate, proximal relationship — living, modeling, watching, copying, partnering, interacting, laughing, crying, interceding, imparting, serving.

All the above comes down to this: we’re going to continue meeting. Our meetings have been outside, and that will continue for now. If the weather turns for the worst, we will revert to a service online. But we’re believing that online services are only in case of emergency. Also, we intend to begin streaming our regular meetings. The purpose of streaming is for anyone who does not feel well to continue staying in the family loop. If you don’t feel well, stay home, watch online, and take responsibility for yourself by contacting me or a member of the board, like it says in James 5:14: “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” I’m including myself in this. If I don’t feel well, one of our other incredible spiritual family members will step in and I’ll watch online. We’re in this together, and so we’re taking responsibility together.

Governor Greg Abbott recently requested that we help slow the infection rate by wearing masks and maintaining social distance. His desire is just to keep businesses and life going as much as possible. The Bible tells us to honor our leaders and submit to the authorities that God has put over us, and Governor Abbott isn’t commanding us to do anything that would be considered heretical. At this point, I don’t plan to wear a mask on Sunday, but I do plan to be more conscious of social distancing. As much I really do love you, I’m going to refrain from hugging. But when I pray for someone, I still intend to put my hand on their shoulder and face the ground as I pray for them (not spitting in their faces). Am I saying this because I’m fearful? No. I’m attempting to honor our leadership, but still maintain our calling and identity. I’m willing to concede less important things to maintain the essentials.

I continue to diligently and continually seek God, as do the other Wellspring leaders; and I encourage you to do the same. You are responsible for seeking the Lord and His guidance for your decision making. This is an opportunity for each of us to grow up as children of God by taking responsibility instead of looking for someone to drag us in a direction. We need to hear Him or we’ll jump at every voice that yells “Fire!”

On Sunday we’re meeting at 10am in the Nothrop’s backyard. As long as Sundays stay between 75 and 94 degrees (which they miraculously have so far) and it’s not storming, we plan to continue meeting as we have the past few weeks. If the whether turns for the worse, we’ll have our backup meeting online. As I mentioned in our email last week, we’re working out final details on a new meeting space that has plenty of room for us. I’ll let you know more about that as soon as we’ve nailed down the details.

His love is better than life!
Matt

Matt Neese
Wellspring.Live
daily reading.001
  • 6/24 Deuteronomy 23, Psalm 26, I Chronicles 25, Acts 7:1-19
  • 6/25 Deuteronomy 24, Psalm 27, I Chronicles 26, Acts 7:20-43
  • 6/26 Deuteronomy 25, Psalm 28, I Chronicles 27, Acts 7:44-60
  • 6/27 Deuteronomy 26, Psalm 29, I Chronicles 28, Acts 8:1-25
  • 6/28 Deuteronomy 27, Psalm 30, I Chronicles 29, Acts 8:26-40
  • 6/29 Deuteronomy 28, Psalm 31, II Chronicles 1, Acts 9:1-22
  • 6/30 Deuteronomy 29, Psalm 32, II Chronicles 2, Acts 9:23-43
  • 7/1 Deuteronomy 30, Psalm 33, II Chronicles 3, Acts 10:1-23

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