A note from Pastor Evan (April 22, 2020)
My Dearest Bayless Family,
We often close our service with the words, “May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,” and truly this has been my prayer for you, especially in times like these. I’ve been reflecting a lot over what God may be doing in strange days, and while certainly our sovereign God has unique intentions for this crisis for each of his precious people (only our God could make use of such evil circumstances for our good), I wonder if he is allowing it to be a gracious “reset” in our lives. In fact I’m praying that it might be.
It makes me think of Philippians 4, which I have been reflecting on just this morning, a passage which believers in fear have clung to for generations, particularly v. 6.
 do not be anxious about anything…
Do you scratch your head at verses like these? Do these words feel frustrating to you, like a friend who unhelpfully tells you to “Just stop it already” or “Just pray more”? Do you wonder to yourself, “I wish it was that easy”? You wouldn’t be the only one.
Still… It isn’t entirely fair to begin with this verse. In fact, this section begins with v. 4: “ Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Did you catch the command here? After all, Paul repeats it twice “Rejoice.” Perhaps, this feels even more frustrating to you. Rejoice? Again, if only it was that easy.
What we may not realize is that this command isn’t just a command; it is an invitation. You see what Paul (and the whole Bible for that matter) assumes is that as unpredictable, inconvenient, and even awful as our circumstances are, our gracious God NEVER changes. He is stable, kind, sovereign, just, and good, and there is coming a day in which we will see it. Soon enough, gathered together with Christ, we will say in full-hearted praise, “We knew it! Of course I could trust you.”
These verses are NOT instructing us to pretend our circumstances are not difficult, even more than we can bear. They aren’t instructing some sort of blind optimism or cold-hearted indifference. Rather, Christians have been able to praise God even with salty tears on their face because their trust is in the living God who has already won the war. We can lament our circumstances with full honesty because we know our hope is not in our circumstances. Our hope is in HIM.
This is why v. 4 adds “Rejoice IN THE LORD.” He is one who hears our prayers, not lacking in any compassion OR power. He is the one who is “at hand” (v. 5), who’s coming is certain and soon. And most importantly, he is the one who has already proven his trustworthy character more concretely than we could have hoped or imagined—through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because he won peace at Calvary, we can have peace in our darkest days.
What does it mean to rejoice? It means we move our eyes from the headlines and the bank accounts and the health issues to behold our true, good, and beautiful God. Set your sights on our crucified King, whatever it takes, until your heart rests afresh in the gospel. “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (v. 8). And of course, we know the one who is all of these things… and more. Think upon him.
Friends, are you afraid? Are you doing all you can to keep your nerves under control? Believe it or not, relief isn’t found in another hour of Wheel of Fortune. It isn’t found on Fox News or Facebook. It’s not found in alcohol or even the warm hug of a loved one. It is found as we rejoice.
And let me remind you friends, as your pastor it is my privilege to care for and encourage you during these times. As the isolation surfaces discouragement, temptation, loneliness, or any physical needs, please let your church know. Even if you need help navigating some of the new technology we are using, you are not an inconvenience to God, and you are not an inconvenience to us.
Now, for our regularly scheduled programming…
Here are few updates, friends. First, many states right now are considering what their next steps might be in loosening the current restrictions. Our Governor has extended the stay-at-home order until early May at least. But I have to tell you, even when St. Louis permits large gatherings to reconvene like church services, we still are going to err on the side of caution. We will have more details for you in the coming weeks, but you can expect that we will have at least a 3-phase process:
Once St. Louis City/County permit gatherings of 10 or less, we will encourage you to begin worshipping with at least one other family/individual on Sundays from home. We will not be reconvening in-person Bible studies for some time, but I would encourage you to pray and study the Scriptures in person with someone in your study once a week. And most importantly, I would encourage you to keep calling one another! Set a goal of calling one person a day just to check in on them and pray. Don’t underestimate the role you can have in encouraging one another in a significant way.
Don’t let this season be an excuse to sideline your relationship with God or your duty to build one another up in love. It may take more work, but don’t underestimate what God can do in your heart and our church during times like these.
Sometime after St. Louis City/County authorizes large gatherings to take place, we will begin gathering for corporate worship, but we will be spacing the chairs, conducting extra sanitation, and suspending morning studies for at least a few months. Additionally, we will be encouraging those who are over the age of 65, are immunosuppressed, or have significant health problems to remain home, joining us online instead as we continue to broadcast our service.
At some point regular service will resume, along with in-person Sunday studies, and won’t that day be sweet?! But when it comes, we need to be ready still to exercise appropriate caution and perhaps to reinstitute social distancing should things begin to escalate once more.
Again, in all of these phases, you can expect your church to be in regular communication with you, and praise God we have some tools to stay nourished and connected (even if it feels like we’re walking on a broken ankle).
Last, as many of you know our family is expecting baby girl any day now, and when she arrives I will be taking at least two weeks off to enjoy her and support momma. Because we don’t know the date of her arrival, I will also be taking four weeks off from preaching, though we have some exciting preachers up to bat during this time!
Thankfully, we have an incredible team of leaders who will continue to connect with you during this time, but if you have any needs at all, feel free to email my assistant, Ashley Stier, at firstname.lastname@example.org who will make sure your need is followed up with promptly.
You are loved, friends. And while I can’t wait for this season to end, I indeed am praying for it to be a gracious “reset” in your relationship with God and with your fellow saints. Only our God could graciously use it for your joy in him and the glory of his incomparable name, and we pray he will.
In Christ for God’s glory,
Bayless Baptist Church