A Message From Pastor Scot

Dear Church,

My friends and partners in the faith, I am so very thankful for you. I sincerely hope you are well in body, mind and spirit on this Saturday. I pray for you often, and I sense your prayers for me and our whole church family. I am so grateful that we are remembering one another, interceding and serving each other in this challenging time.

I am writing this email to you from my makeshift home office. Notice the salutation I wrote above, “Dear Church.” I am writing to you, the church, from home. In many ways, this simple email correspondence is an illustrative teaching tool for the age we are in.
 
What is the church? I’m sure you’ve thought of this question before. How would you answer if a seven-year-old asked you? Is it an organization? A campus of buildings? A network? A weekend gathering? A family? A spiritual reality? How would you answer?

Consider what the writer of Hebrews was teaching or responding to when he said, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful: and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25).  What is his point? What is the application?

At the time that passage was written, the church of Jesus Christ was still very young, perhaps only decades old. They had no official buildings they called their own. That wouldn’t happen for many centuries still. They met in private homes, scattered throughout a city. They gathered together for meals, singing, prayer, reading of the Old Testament or the newly written words of the Apostles of Jesus, and they did so over hours of interaction, fellowship and sincere love. This was a non-mobile, simply-connected, relatively tight-sphere, family of believers. They didn’t just associate with or vaguely recognize the other brothers and sisters on Sundays, they intimately knew them. There was probably little small talk. And one bathroom.

Now, in a time when the people of God have not gathered, en-masse, in a dedicated building built primarily for that purpose for a number of weeks, many have become worried we are losing ground, giving up or folding. This sentiment is widely and diversely held. As I scour the news feed on my phone or laptop, I have read a spectrum of articles, reports, opinion pieces, fluff pieces and propaganda. So have you. Much of it is beyond my experience and training; virologists or epidemiologists dissecting COVID details or economics PhDs discussing the stock market of 2021. But one statement has troubled me greatly. Perhaps you’ve heard it in one of its many forms or disguises: during the 2020 COVID pandemic, the church has closed its doors.

What is most telling about this statement is what it just did inside of you the moment you read it. Your heart reacted to it somehow, and probably more so as a believer in Jesus. What do you think?

Let me tell you what I think, because as you might have surmised, I’m pretty passionate about it. My dear friends, the church has not closed its doors because the church is not a building. Technically, the church doesn’t have doors, it has hearts. And as long as our hearts remain open to discipleship, prayer, mission, worship and spiritual growth, we will never be closed. We can’t be closed.

As a church, we are not on pause. We are on mission, and perhaps a more passionate and urgent mission. This is not the first time the people of God have endured a pandemic or forced quarantine. Paul wrote some of his best letters from a jail cell, chained to a guard. Europe and the Middle East has seen dozens of devastating plagues lasting many years. Even the Spanish Flu a century ago made its way to America and Houston; and then, like now, public gatherings were not allowed in Houston. Yes, the doors of our campuses have been closed recently for responsible and wise reasons, but no virus or army or war can ever cage the church of God. Even the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

In history, what was true in each of these cases was quite the opposite than “the church has closed.” In my view, these are the times that the church has bloomed with vibrancy to a hurting world. In retrospect, these times served as a deep renewal and revitalization of what God’s people should be, should do, should believe and hold dear. Scraping off some barnacles, setting aside their privileges and giving of their possessions, and in many cases their very lives, the church historically and repeatedly rose up to give, to serve, to sacrifice in times like these. And in that crucible, God became more glorious, faith became more real, grace became more abundant and the great commission became more urgent.
 
And what about now? What about our moment in history? How can we make this eventual, clarifying and purifying retrospection a current realization? This is a primary question. This is our task. Friends, we are here in this moment. This is our time. We are at the post.

Let me be crystal clear. I hate social distancing. I am so over quarantine. We are not built to live this way. I absolutely loathe not being able to gather in person on Sundays and every other day. I cannot go much longer without sharing a glorious and delicious meal with close, believing friends. I desperately need to give some hugs. I need to receive some. So do you.

But we must not forsake the wisdom, service, witness, mission clarity and gospel opportunities uniquely afforded in this time. As your pastor, let me say that returning to “normal” is impossible, and regathering in person is complex. So many things have changed, there is no returning to how things were. While we will never, hear me say never, compromise the gospel, discipleship, mission, prayer and gathering together as the family of God, our methodology has changed. The world has changed. And the complex matrix of reopening factors, insights, official rulings and popular opinions is dizzying.

Practically, the main point of this letter is to let you know that we are furiously working toward that glorious day when we can regather. We still don’t know when that will be, but we're gathering lay leaders (from relevant cultural fields), staff, pastors and elders around this matter as a priority. Beyond timing, some of our chief considerations are safety, campus preparations, the vulnerable, the nursery and kids ministry. And this is just for Sundays.

Moving ahead, we will be conservative and will approach this complex task in stages. Once we gain a level of clarity on the many details of these stages, we will tell you more. Until that time comes, I am asking that you continue to take full advantage of the safety of online gatherings and ministry resources. Rediscover the old-fashioned phone call. Serve someone. Give. Be generous. Focus on those around you. Reinvest in your family. Tend your heart.  

As your pastor, let me remind you of the words of Peter, written to scattered house churches, in the epistle we just studied. “In [your imperishable, undefiled and protected inheritance in heaven] you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. …Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1-13).  This is a time of many challenges. We must lead through them. Godly leadership requires a faith that has been tested and proven. Let us be found faithful.

I love you, church. I’m grateful for you, especially for your endurance, your patience, your grace and your love for one another. The most difficult step of this journey will be reentry. I’m asking for your support and grace as we walk this road together.

Scot Pollok
Lead Pastor
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