Pastoral Counsel for our Beloved Church Members
The early church faced suffering of all kinds: murder of their pastors, imprisonment of church members, economic boycotts, social ostracism from their neighbors, and excommunication from synagogues. In 165, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, a devastating epidemic swept through the Roman Empire. Medical historians suspect that the epidemic was the first appearance of smallpox in the western world. But wherever the disease was, it was deadly. Marcus Aurelius, the Emperor, also died. During the 15 year duration of the epidemic, it is estimated that a quarter to a third of the Roman Empire died from it.
Then in 251, another devastating epidemic swept the Empire. As Rodney Stark points out in his book titled The Rise of Christianity, Christianity flourished during the epidemics while paganism completely collapsed. Perhaps the reason that Christianity flourishes in hard times (including pandemics like the coronavirus) is because followers of Jesus know things that are unknown to the rest of the world.
- We know our world is fallen and things are not the way they are supposed to be. As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
- We know that the coronavirus, along with every other cause of sickness and death, will not be part of the kingdom of God! We have hope for the future. As the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:1, “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” In other words, our perspective on life and death is different than that of the world. We live our lives on the bedrock truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
- We know that we are not in control! We don’t live with the profound illusion of human power and knowledge. The tiniest virus has emptied cities, crashed the stock market, pushed the global economy toward recession and created mass hysteria. But, we also know that Almighty God is in control. As Jeremiah said, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”
- We know that we’ve been called to be different from those who don’t know God as their Father or Jesus as their Savior. How might we be different during this global pandemic?
- Followers of Jesus must not succumb to xenophobia or racism. Already we’re seeing discrimination of individuals because of their race and ethnicity. We followers of Jesus must resist xenophobia and racism whenever it rears its ugly head.
- Followers of Jesus must not succumb to fear. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us fearful, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
- Followers of Jesus are always called to pray. As the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
- Finally, we know we must be wise about our own health. But followers of Jesus are also called to minister to the sick and the dying. As Jesus said in Matthew 25:36, “I was sick and you looked after me…”
Many of you have asked questions about whether Vineyard Columbus will be holding services or meetings during this outbreak. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions.
Practical Information for Vineyard Columbus
- How is VC responding to the coronavirus? Last week, our leadership initiated a coronavirus response team who is responsible for pastoral guidance, logistical decision making, and ongoing ministry continuity during this interruptive season. We have plans in place for our community, for our staff, and for our multiple areas of ministry (VCC, VECC, Food Pantries, Campus locations, etc). We’ll communicate via social media and give you a daily update on our church’s website.
- Will we cancel weekend services? What about mid-week events? We will follow guidelines for religious services as they are issued by state government and health officials. Please check our social media or website daily for the most up to date information about events and services. Right now, we are continuing to hold all of our services and meetings. If you feel uneasy about being in groups of people right now, that’s understandable. We encourage you to follow the advice of your medical professionals. Our staff is working to establish ways to stay connected via livestreaming, video appointments, etc… and in the case of a quarantine many of our staff will be working and available from home.
- How can I stay connected to my faith community if there is a quarantine in central Ohio? We are pushing up our Livestreaming initiative and will begin livestreaming our Saturday 6pm service from Cooper Road weekly starting next weekend. We’ll also be in touch with our group leaders to help resource you to meet via Zoom, Skype, whatsapp or other tech platform. Our pastoral staff will be working from home and are available to you for video and phone conversations, pastoral care, etc. Our Operations Ministries are set up to operate from a distance as well, so while some functions of the church will necessarily pause, we’ll remain available and connected to you!
- Is the Community Center open? What about the Early Childhood Center? Follow social media for up to date information about VCC and VECC. Right now, all VCC programs are open. If Cooper Road campus must close, VCC and VECC will be closed as well. Our VCC After School program follows local school districts so if Columbus city schools or Westerville city schools cancel, the After School program will cancel as well.
- I have health risks (age, medical condition, etc.). Should I still come to church as long as we’re having services? Governor Mike DeWine on Tuesday, March 10, encouraged people who are in an at-risk group to stay home from gatherings like church services, and we echo his recommendation. It’s important for you to follow the advice of your medical professional.
- How can I help? In these kinds of situations, it’s important that we as Christians continue to serve the vulnerable around us, that we keep an eye on our neighbors (especially those living alone or with health concerns), that we remain non-anxious presence in an anxiety filled world. Please continue to pray, to give generously to the work of the church, and to care for one another.
- How do I stay up to date? Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or at our Website for the most up to date information. We’ll post information daily, or more often as the situation requires.