March 27, 2021
Dear Heartland Family,
The last year has been an extremely trying and confusing time for everyone, your Session included. Thank you for your prayers for us and patience with us as we seek to best shepherd all of the flock that God has placed under our care.
Despite our situation in a fallen and broken world, we as Christians look to the truth that God remains sovereign over all things. He is at work even in the midst of these trials for His glory and for our good. How could he be working in this situation? One of the most obvious ways is that he is sanctifying all of us and conforming us more into the image of Christ our savior. This is not always a pleasant process, but can be painful as “iron sharpens iron”. It makes us long all the more for the day when all of creation is set free and we live in perfect harmony with God for eternity in glory.
As followers of Jesus, we live in a state of “redemptive-tension”: the tension of the now and not yet; the tension of the old vs new self; the tension of what we know to be true about our identity vs. our amnesia of forgetting who we really are in Jesus. If we live in this tension on an individual level, imagine what it might look like when you gather a bunch of us together in one place and ask us to get along...well, just look at any church and you may get a picture.
What would it look like for us to be unified in following Jesus who brings us together even amidst a diversity of opinions on “lesser” matters? Amidst such tension as might exist in a church full of people such as this?
Perhaps it might look something like what you are seeing today - a church filled with people who have a variety of opinions about our current situation. Some of you are convicted that wearing a mask is the most appropriate and responsible thing you can do for others and for yourself. Some of you are convicted that not wearing a mask is the most appropriate and responsible thing you can do for others and for yourself. Others have a variety of different carefully considered reasons. Whatever the case may be, we have a room full of people with a variety of opinions and what is the result – tension; and yet amidst this, we are called to unity. How is that possible? Because we possess more that unifies us than divides us, chief of which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Yet we can be tempted to say to one another, “Why won’t they come over to my side? I don’t understand how they could possibly have this or that viewpoint.” Friends, that is not winning in this situation. The minute we start playing red rover and trying to get people to come over to our side on this particular issue - we have lost. The minute we start to believe that uniformity in all things is our highest ideal - we will lose the needed redemptive tension that leads us into deeper sanctification, into deeper fellowship with one another and Jesus. Redemptive tension is replaced with nonredemptive discord.
Instead, what if we asked the following three Biblical questions:
1. What rights/privileges am I willing to surrender for the sake of my brother or sister and for the sake of the Gospel? (1 Cor. 9:12, Phil. 2:3-4)
2. In what ways am I willing to show kindness and strive for peace with a brother or sister with whom I disagree? (Zech. 7:9, Heb. 12:14)
3. How am I following Jesus into the mess of this situation WITH my brother and sister? (Mark 2:14-15)
The situation that we find ourselves in is that there is no full consensus of opinion on how to respond to this thing called Covid on any level. There is chaos in the governmental response and changes on what seems like a daily basis. At the time of this letter, Sedgwick County is under the Executive Order of the Governor requiring masks because our county rescinded its own mask mandate on Wednesday. Our medical professionals disagree, our government officials disagree, our church members disagree, and the elders of this church disagree. Yet, amidst all the disagreements, we have found agreement on many things! For example: we are in agreement that we have been called to ensure that the members of this church are able to corporately gather to worship the One true God, freely and without disturbance; we are in agreement that we want to live in an understanding way with one another; we are in agreement that we are called by scripture to pray for and honor our leaders, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority; we are in agreement that we want to make appropriate accommodations for those who need them; and we are in agreement that we want to be faithful to the Scriptures.
To that end, on the matter of any further government mandated Covid-19 restrictions, the Elders have decided the following at this point:
1. We will post necessary signage as required by and in submission to our governing authorities;
2. We will not bind the informed conscience of our members on Covid-19 restrictions from the government as God alone is Lord of the conscience;
3. We encourage all, with humility and counting others more significant than yourselves (Phil 2:3), to consider the well-being of others as you exercise personal responsibility, to continue to diligently seek God’s will through the Scriptures, prayer, and wise counsel, and to obey your informed conscience;
4. We encourage you to show sincere respect without judgment to one another, to extend grace to one another, and to seek to live in an understandable way with one another;
5. On Sunday mornings during Worship we will make the following accommodations:
· the Library will continue to be reserved for those who practice distancing and masking consistently in public and avoid high risk situations throughout the week,
· the Fellowship Hall will remain a socially distanced space with masks required (except children) during worship, and,
· the pew distancing in the Sanctuary will be opened to accommodate additional attendance; 25% of pews will remain closed (e.g. - every other pew on the west side) to still allow some level of social distancing for those who so desire.
Jesus doesn’t call us to conform to one another, rather scripture calls us to be conformed into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). He doesn’t call us to be uniform but to be unified with diversity.
We believe it is possible, necessary even, for us to seek to be unified amidst a diversity of opinions. We believe it is possible for us to be unified with a certain measure of tension amidst this church. A certain level of tension or disagreement or healthy conflict is in fact good. One might even argue that the tension that we feel over certain matters may even draw us closer into fellowship with Jesus and one another.
With great love for you all,
The Session of Heartland Community Church