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Update 6 – March 30

Dear First Baptist Family,

What a good time to remember that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever! If your family is anything like ours, then the new has worn off this quarantine by now. However, we must continue to be diligent for the sake of our neighbors and for our own health. I love you all and miss you more than I can explain. However, God has been so kind to me through all of you during this time. Your love, support, encouragement, and prayers have been so meaningful to me.

By now it is apparent to most of us that it will be a while before we are able to gather again for church. The latest news from Governor Ivey asks that the current social distancing measures extend through the end of April. We will continue to follow those guidelines, which means the church facilities will continue to be closed to meetings, public gatherings, services, and normal work through April. While this is difficult to swallow, it is particularly difficult because it means we will not be able to gather together on Easter Sunday. You will notice that many churches will be creative and come up with unique ways to celebrate Easter as a church on that day. I love seeing all the creative ways that churches are getting the Word out during this time! However, I want to tell you what our plans are at First Baptist Church. First, our commitment remains to provide live worship broadcasts each Sunday during this time. I feel a profound sense of conviction that we continue to put all that we can into our live broadcasts. Something like a “drive-in” church or other creative service would eliminate our ability to provide an excellent live broadcast during this time. As much as I would love to do something where we could achieve some semblance of a “gathering,” we simply cannot do it at the expense of our live broadcast. Continue to use this time to remember how important gathering is, and let your longing for gathering with God’s people on the Lord’s Day increase during this season. On Easter Sunday, we will provide a live worship broadcast with a message on the resurrection and beautiful music.

However, as of right now, our plan is to celebrate Easter properly on the first Sunday we are allowed to gather again. As you know we usually advertise “Easter at First” during this time. On that Sunday, we will celebrate “Easter at Last!” I hope this gives us all something to look forward to when we finally emerge from our homes to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the faithfulness of God during a tough season.

Your staff continues to work hard to love and serve our congregation and our community during this time. You should be very proud of all of them. I want to give you some updates on where we are in the 5 categories we are focusing on during this season.

1. Communication – Our communication strategy seems to be working well so far. We are regularly reevaluating what we are doing, but we are communicating well internally as a staff, internally to the congregation, and externally to the community. Our deacons and Sunday school teachers are especially doing a great job of keeping us aware of pastoral care issues as they arise. Bear in mind that you cannot go wrong with emailing us if there’s something you think we ought to know, even if it’s likely that we already do. We would rather get too many emails than none at all when there is a need.
2. Teaching and Discipleship – We are trying to be sure that we are replicating the teaching and discipleship opportunities that we normally provide in the course of a week. We have dedicated a page on our website to helping communicate these opportunities. Simply go to fbcgadsden.org/athome to find different teaching and discipleship opportunities.
3. Community and Loneliness – This is the area that burdens my heart the most. Our staff, deacons, and Sunday school teachers are reaching out to folks as much as possible, but it is hard to make up for all that we are missing in terms of community and relationships during this quarantine. If someone is on your heart, call them. If you lead a group of some sort and would like to set up a conference call or video meeting, let us know, and we will help you with that. Continue to call, write, and pray for those who may be struggling more acutely with loneliness during this time.
4. Pastoral Care and Mercy Ministry – We are working hard to keep in touch with those who have new or ongoing medical needs during this time. We have been praying for and “visiting” with them over the phone. We are also making a difference in terms of mercy ministry to the community. On Wednesdays during this time, First Baptist is partnering with businesses and others to provide food for hungry children in the community. Last Wednesday, we gave out enough food for about 2000 meals for hungry kids in the community. What an amazing ministry that was provided in part by your generosity through our auction earlier this year. We are also working right now on ministry opportunities for healthcare workers at both of our hospitals. Be in prayer that the Lord would provide and give us Gospel opportunities in that area.
5. Weekly Worship Service – We had a technical glitch on 3/29 that made the service unavailable on television. I was very frustrated by this, but God is sovereign. Some things cannot be helped. Our faithful TV crew was not to blame whatsoever for the glitch. We are working hard this week to get that fixed. Nonetheless, we continue to get great feedback from inside and outside FBC on our weekly worship services. Continue to pray each week as we get the praises to God and the Word of God to people in Etowah County and beyond.

During financially uncertain times, it may be difficult to give to the Lord. However, I do want to encourage you to continue to give faithfully to the Lord during this season. The ministry of First Baptist is dependent on your generous giving. Online giving is available at fbcgadsden.org/giving you can always give by mail as well (PO Box 456, Gadsden, AL, 35902). If you need help with online giving, call or email Becki and she can help you.

Hang in there, folks. Your pastor loves you. However, Jesus Christ loves you more. His Word and His Spirit keep us and compel us during these strange times. Cling to Christ and cling to His Gospel! Pray hard! Keep us posted on what needs or concerns you have. Most of all, love well and love big during this time.

In Christ, Bro. Mat

 

Update 5 – March 17

Church Office Closure and Communication Plan

Dear Church Family,

As of Wednesday, March 18th our church staff will be moving to total remote work for the foreseeable future. We plan to maintain our normal office hours of 8-4 from Monday through Friday.

Furthermore, the facilities at First Baptist Church are closed to groups of any size at least through April 1. We have a plan in place to provide maintenance checks at the church during this season.

We also have a communications plan in place as we work remotely. If at all possible, try to primarily use email to contact us. This will be the quickest, easiest way to reach us with non-urgent issues.

The church phone line will funnel into two voicemail inboxes that we will be checking regularly. One will be for messages that need an answer by the end of the day. The other will be for emergencies that need immediate attention.

In the case of an emergency, however, go ahead and call one of our staff members on their cell phone. If you do not have one of our cell phone numbers, reply to this email and we will provide them for you.

We are going to email the Chimes during this season as opposed to a mass mailout. Gina is working to make sure that those who we believe do not have email access receive a printed copy via mail. Bear in mind that the Chimes is also available on the church website. The prayer list will be exclusively digital.

Giving options will continue to be available during this time. You can give online at https://portal.icheckgateway.com/firstbaptistgadsden/ or by mailing a check to PO Box 456, Gadsden, AL, 35902.

We will continue to broadcast a live worship service on Sundays at 10:30. Watch on Comcast channel 5, Facebook live, or the church website.

Bear in mind that we are continuing to work and think through these categories as we move to remote work:

  1. Communication
  2. Teaching and Discipleship
  3. Community/Loneliness
  4. Pastoral Care and Mercy Ministry
  5. Weekly Worship Service

Expect updates and opportunities in these categories as time goes on.

Remember, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever! Keep trusting and keep praying! I love you and am grateful for you.

In Christ,

Pastor Mat

Update 4 – March 16

Dear First Baptist Church of Gadsden Family,
 
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever! We must be reassured by the truth in uncerta1.in and fearful times. Please know that your church staff is working diligently to serve and love you and our community during this season.
 
As of right now, based on the information we have all on-campus services and activities are cancelled at least through April 1. Things are changing rapidly and I believe wholeheartedly that an immediate and thorough response is necessary at this moment. We will continue to provide worship broadcasts on Sundays during this season.
 
As your pastor, please let me encourage you to practice social distancing and proper hygiene precautions during this time. It is clear at this moment that lives are at stake. I am a pro-life pastor and we are a pro-life church. This means we value all life, including those that are most vulnerable and at-risk during this health crisis. We are called to love sacrificially as Christians, which means we are willingly inconvenienced for the sake of others. As I have thought through our response to this pandemic, I have returned to this thought many times: I would rather apologize later for overreacting than preach a funeral. Consider our Lord, who for our sake became poor. We can sacrifice comfort and normalcy for the lives of others.
 
Your staff met today and evaluated 5 areas that we are focusing on right now:
1. Communication
2. Teaching and Discipleship
3. Community/Loneliness
4. Pastoral Care and Mercy Ministry
5. Weekly Worship Service
 
We will be brainstorming and implementing ways to serve you and our community in each of these areas during this time. We will also be working on ways to mobilize the gifts and service capacity of the entire church during this time. As you think of concerns, questions, ideas, and more just send us an email. We are continually evaluating and considering different options to make sure the work of the church continues! I have asked the staff to focus on these 5 categories at this time. We are fully focused on leading through this crisis. Please bear that in mind and be patient with us during this time. I promise you everyone is working hard and with the church’s best interests in mind.
 
Furthermore, bear in mind that as the Lord leads, you can continue to give during this time. Online giving is available at https://portal.icheckgateway.com/firstbaptistgadsden/ and you can always give by mail as well (PO Box 456, Gadsden, AL, 35902). These are financially uncertain times, but please continue to support the church as the Lord leads and as you are able.
 
Finally, our church staff is preparing to move to remote work sooner than later. We are working hard to make sure that there is very limited interruption as we make that transition. Thankfully, we had been making great strides before this crisis in our ability to be productive outside the office. This transition will not be exceedingly difficult for us. When this happens, know that we will have a plan in place to regularly check on the church facilities to make sure that all is well here.
 
Be on the lookout for further updates and emails. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have an emergency, if you are fearful, if you need prayer, or if there’s something else you need us for. That is why we are here!
 
I have been overwhelmed with the level of support, encouragement, and faith that you all have demonstrated during this time. God is sovereign, He loves us and He has promised to make all things right through His Son. Cling to that! I love you and I believe the future of Christ’s church, and First Baptist, is bright. Keep trusting! Keep praying! Keep serving! Keep loving! These dark moments are where we have the opportunity to see the Gospel shine the brightest.
 
In Christ,
 
Pastor Mat

Update 3 – March 14

Dear First Baptist Church Family,

I have prayed, sought counsel, and agonized over whether or not to gather this Lord’s Day for worship. However, it has become clear that wisdom requires us to suspend our public gatherings for the foreseeable future. That means there will be no worship gatherings or on-campus activities beginning on Sunday, March 15.

You know my heart and you know how difficult this decision has been. However, as Christians, we must not simply focus on what we have to do. Instead, we must focus on what we ought to do to serve our community well, love our neighbor, and be an excellent example in trying times. In particular, it is unconscionable to me to put our senior saints at risk.

There is good news, however. We will continue to broadcast a worship service at 10:30 AM on Sunday mornings. We will plan to continue our Comcast channel 5 local broadcast during this time. In addition to this, we will have a service broadcast live on facebook.com/firstbaptistgadsden and  live.fbcgadsden.org. Furthermore, you can continue to give online and via mail during this time.

Our staff will be available to love and serve you during this time. Jesus Christ is alive and sovereign and the Gospel will continue to go forth. We are not operating out of panic and fear, but out of a heart of love for Christ and our fellow man. Let’s gear up to love and serve our community during such difficult times. This is why the Lord’s church is in the world!

In Christ,

Pastor Mat

 

Update 2 – March 13

Dear First Baptist Family,

What strange times! and yet, what an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ in difficult days! As the threat of the Covid-19 virus global pandemic escalates, we continue to keep a close watch on the developments around the state and country. I want to briefly give you two updates.

1. We have decided to cancel our Spring Revival that was set to begin on Monday. It was a difficult decision, but after much thought and prayer, it became clear that it was the right decision.
2. As of right now, we plan to gather for worship this Sunday, March 15. If anything changes, we will get the word out immediately. We must be very diligent, however, that as we worship we take all of the practical concerns of social distance and personal hygiene seriously. Furthermore, if you are worried about becoming sick, if you are feeling sick yourself, if you believe there is a chance that you might expose others to illness, or if you are particularly at risk to be harmed seriously by Covid-19, please stay home and take advantage of our television and online broadcasts.

If there comes a time when it is no longer wise or possible for us to gather for worship for a season, we will make sure that God’s Word continues to go forth through our media ministry. Furthermore, we can all be comforted in knowing that even when we are weak, God is strong and at work. Remember during these days what an opportunity we have to love our community and to demonstrate how Christians behave in the midst of trials and uncertainty.

In Christ,

Pastor Mat

Update 1 – March 11

Dear First Baptist Family,

There is a lot of fear and even panic surrounding the Covid-19 virus, or “Coronavirus,” global pandemic. Many of us will disagree on the severity of the situation and the obligation each of us has to make inconvenient changes in light of the spreading disease. However, what we all must agree on is that our Lord has told us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
For that reason, I want to ask you to consider how we might best love our elderly and immunocompromised neighbors during this season. Wouldn’t we rather take wise, common sense precautions out of love and look back and see it as silly than to ignore this altogether and see people we love and care about harmed? I certainly believe so. We will be providing extra hand sanitizing stations, diligently cleaning, and taking up the offering at the door instead of passing the plates during this time. Also, here are a few things we can all do to be cautious during this time:
– Be extra diligent in washing and sanitizing your hands.
-Choose an alternate form of greeting besides hugs and handshakes. This is hard to do at church, but let’s all hold each other accountable through elbow and fist bumps.
-Make sure you sneeze/cough into the crook of your arm or a tissue that you can quickly dispose of.
-Try to avoid touching your face, mouth, nose, and eyes.
-Stay home when you or your children are sick. Take advantage of our great media ministry that broadcasts the service on television and online.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but we are called to be wise and to love others well. I believe these things are basic, simple precautions that will help us honor Christ and love our neighbors during a difficult season. Join me in prayer that this disease will abate and that there will be waning impact in the days to come.

In Christ,

Pastor Mat