Stories, thoughts and reflections on the Bible from the WSFC Staff.
I want to take a few moments to share some pastoral thoughts that I believe will serve our congregation in these particularly challenging times. As well, I want to offer two points of pastoral direction for our congregation.
These points of pastoral direction are intended for the church that Denise and I lead and for those that call us their pastors. Certainly there may be those reading this content (or having watched it online in various platforms) that are not directly a part of our congregation. However, just to be clear, this communication is specifically for the members and attenders of West Salem Foursquare.
Over the last couple of weeks, there have been many opinions and much wide-spread commentary regarding the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the “re-opening” of Oregon and calling for a “return to normal” as it applies to church life and the meeting again of large public gatherings. I think we can agree that there are a lot of conflicting and confusing voices out there. It’s been said that if you find three people talking, there will be five opinions! I trust many, if not most, of those voices are well-meaning, and even come from people of strong moral character and Godly intent.
The primary question on most people’s minds is this: When can our church meet in person for Sunday gatherings? I want to address that as your pastor, especially at this specific time in which we may be hearing of congregations in other States, and perhaps those in Oregon that may be making plans to reopen soon, or have actually begun to meet in some form already.
At West Salem Foursquare we have, as of May 15, chosen to wait and continue to meet virtually in our Online Campus as we take a prayerful, careful and submitted approach to reopening our church’s large public gatherings.
First, and foremost we are to be prayerful in this season. Join us as we call upon the Lord for His will to be done and his Kingdom to come.
We also want to be careful out of love for our congregation, our city and our valley. We simply are not experts on Covid-19, viruses or pandemics, so we are choosing to err on the side of being “care-FULL.” There are certainly those that would want us to be more conservative in our approach. And, there are those that would want us to move more aggressively. We all have our personal opinions on these matters, as I do. I know how you must feel, because these circumstances are a lot to process. For our congregation, however, we are going to take a careful approach.
As well, we are choosing, as we learn in Romans 13, as well as see in the life of Jesus, to be submitted to governing authorities and follow the guidelines being established for large public gatherings. We will continue to do so, as long as they are not being discriminatory against The Church, and I don’t believe we are there yet. Could that happen? Sure. There certainly is a time for pushing back and asserting our religious rights as American citizens. Again, I don’t believe we are are there yet. From what I can perceive, we appear to be treated the same as all other large gatherings, such as sporting events and concerts. So we have chosen to submit to the governing authorities. Please be praying for them, as there is much coming at them at a rapid pace! We will continue to review current guidelines, as well as formulate plans for our eventual reopening when that time comes.
Which brings me back to the question: When can our church meet in person for Sunday gatherings? There are many factors to consider, and as you may know there are “phases” to move through. In Phase 1, groups are limited to 25. In Phase 2 group size increases to 50. It is only in Phase 3 in which large gathering are allowed. The Sunday services of West Salem Foursquare Church would be considered a large gathering, even with multiple services. I believe we are still some time away from meeting in person for Sunday services, especially since the recent announcement from the governors office regarded large gatherings being off-limits through at least September.
Other church leaders may choose to go a different direction, and, with no judgement, that is their decision. I, however, as pastor of West Salem Foursquare, in biblical submission to governing authorities, as well as to our Foursquare denomination, have chosen to lead us in these two very specific ways:
1. An Ongoing Online Campus Presence.
We will continue to broadcast worship, teaching, and pastoral direction via our online services. As a matter of fact, we anticipate continuing to provide our Online Campus even AFTER we’re allowed to meet as normal, because of the incredible “reach” it has already had into our community in helping people Encounter Jesus. We encourage you to be an INVITER to our Online Services. Our weekly “Church at Home” service premieres every Sunday at 9 am and then is available whenever you like On Demand. For now, our Online Campus is a primary way of staying connected together and unified as a congregation.
2. House Churches.
I have sensed the Holy Spirit’s leading, and have received confirmation in multiple ways, that it is time for us to launch a Network of House Churches in which 10-15 people (up to 25 max according to guidelines) can gather weekly for care, prayer, the breaking of bread, as well as worship, teaching and pastoral direction as provided by our Online Campus. WSFC House Churches will begin to be available as soon as our respective counties “open up” into Phase One. House Churches will be all over the Willamette Valley, and facilitated by Godly leaders, apprentices, and hosts with the gift of hospitality. I am so excited about this very Book of Acts-like “Scattered Church” throughout our region. We may be collectively apart for awhile, but we are together and united in Jesus!
Please be praying for us, your pastoral leaders at West Salem Foursquare, as we try our best to come up with creative ministry solutions, as well as discern the heart and mind of the Lord in these days.
And know this: just like the early church that we have been studying in our weekend online church services, we will THRIVE, not just survive, but truly and absolutely THRIVE. The Church has left the building…and we’ll be better for it…in Jesus’ Name!
We love you dearly.
Grace & Peace,
Pastors John & Denise