Dear Redeemer Fellowship Family,
I am so encouraged when I reflect on the past nine months. I have been privileged to see God’s faithfulness on display in the lives of so many of us. Of course, those of you who precede the arrival of the Bakkes family, have an even richer well to draw from. You have seen the Lord’s faithful provision in the midst of exceedingly difficult circumstances.
Uncertainty is nothing new to our little flock.
‘Uncertainty’ certainly seems like a good word to describe the situation in which we find ourselves right now. We have all faced difficulties in the past, but never before have we been in a situation where our very coming together as believers has been threatened.
I’ve said before that the obvious love that exists for one another at Redeemer Fellowship, is one of the biggest things that immediately drew my own family to this congregation. It is our love for Christ and for one another, that makes our corporate gatherings such a delight to our hearts.
Beyond that, is the clear command of Scripture that we not forsake the gathering together of the saints (Heb 10:25).
And yet, we have decided to suspend our services. We’ve done this in an attempt, not primarily to safeguard the health of ourselves, but to aid the efforts of the South African Government to slow down the rate at which the Covid-19 virus spreads through our country as a whole.
The decision to suspend our services was not one at which we arrived easily. It was not a decision that proceeded from fear. Even death itself holds no fear for the believer (1 Cor 15:50–57). In the end, our decision was based on a voluntary alignment with the goals of the government, whose strategy seeks to promote the well-being of our country. Those efforts are aligned with the very purpose for which God instituted human authorities
But more importantly, our decision flows from a loving concern for the well- being of the poor who almost certainly will have no access to medical treatment if this disease spreads too rapidly.
The question that still needs to be answered is this: Is it right to cite ‘government submission,’ and ’love for the poor’ as motivations for suspending our corporate gathering together, when we are clearly commanded to do so in Hebrews 10?
First, a challenge... Do you realise that there is a very specific context to the command that we gather together? Hebrews 10:24 says that the purpose for our gathering together is that we spur one another on to love and good deeds. Coming together on a Sunday (or Wednesday) is not about placing a check-mark next to some weekly list of Christian duties. Coming together is meant to be about discipleship, service, and sacrifice. As we are faced with a situation where we cannot meet together for a period of time, ask yourself: “Have I been making the most of past opportunities for corporate gatherings? Or have I actually been disobedient all along, to this command in Scripture?”
Secondly then, an exhortation... I want to appeal to you as a church to think about ways in which you can fulfil the purpose behind the instruction of Hebrews 10:25. The first century church did not have WhatsApp, FaceTime, email, or any number of other means by which we can instantly encourage one another to love and good deeds.
Instead of using the Internet to fuel your sinful worry about the future, use it as a means of being a blessing to your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Also, do not miss the tremendous opportunity that this time brings us to preach the Gospel to a dying world, who is now being confronted with exactly how frail their imagined sense of security really is. Pray for God’s grace to save the sick, but pray also that He will grant eternal life to those who do not even realise that they are already caught in the clutches of spiritual death (Eph 2:1).
We (the Management Team) have been talking through ways in which we as the leaders of Redeemer Fellowship might continue to remain faithful to our own responsibility as under-shepherds of this flock. We have decided to implement a number of strategies.
• We have decided that it would be wise for me to delay my leave for a week, so that I can be available to you all during the initial stage of this temporary transition. So please feel free to contact me if you have any needs or concerns. Obviously, the rest of the Management Team is also at your disposal, both now, and also during my leave.
• As a leadership team, we have decided that we will continue to get together on Tuesday mornings to pray for our church, but instead of meeting at someone’s house, we are going to facilitate that meeting through a group call on WhatsApp.
• We have also decided that, for the next three weeks, we will be sending out a small “inductive type” Bible study on Wednesday evenings, and on Sunday mornings we will also send out a message (at around 9am), which will include a Scripture reading, prayer, and link to a sermon that we believe will be particularly beneficial to our congregation. Please make use of these resources and view it as a means of encouraging one another as you discuss the things that God is teaching you.
• If the need for “social distancing” persists beyond the next three weeks, then we plan to resume our study through the book of Philippians on Sunday mornings. We will keep you updated on exactly how we will facilitate that process. For now, I think that I might write and “preach” a sermon that we upload to our own website, making the link available to you on Sunday mornings.
• Please also forward any particular prayer requests to the Management Team so that we can share them with the rest of the congregation.
We will specifically send out an invitation on Wednesday mornings for requests that we can include with the Wednesday evening studies.
Obviously this is a unique situation, with circumstances that are constantly changing. It is very possible that our plans have to change as we continue to adapt to the needs of the moment.
Please know that we will continue to pray for you and that we, as the Management Team, stand ready to care for your spiritual needs. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any needs or concerns.
Yours in Christ,
Izak, and the rest of the Management Team