Here are some pastoral thoughts to help you think through your world. This post is directed at the people of Palermo Christian Church, those who consider themselves Christians, follow Jesus, and believe in the truthfulness of God's Word. I'm addressing the question, how should God's people respond to a changing cultural climate? If you're a member of this group and don't consider yourself a Christian, consider this blog an internal dialogue between Christians. If you wouldn't consider yourself a Christian and you have objections to what's said here, please respond in a manner free from obscenity. I'll be happy to interact.
I’m assuming some of you are troubled by what’s going on in our nation today. And where things have been going in say the last decade. The national trend isn’t towards wisdom and Jesus’ ethics. Religious freedoms are under attack. I’m not talking about COVID restrictions. Various businesses and other entities are suffering as a result of COVID, not just churches. I’m talking about threats like Christian business owners in the wedding industry being forced to accommodate gay weddings or Christian universities being forced to accommodate gender identity in their dorms. See
And public opinion on moral issues is quickly changing in a direction contrary to Scripture. What do we do?
I was troubled yesterday when I saw that a Star Wars actress was fired for a string of social media posts she made that had a conservative bent. Not that I agree with everything she said. Note I am not saying I agree with her views and I am not promoting what she said. My point isn’t to advance her cause. I’m just saying that she was fired for expressing views that don’t fit with the narrative our popular culture is pushing. According to Lucasfilm, Gina Carano was fired because “her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.” The straw that broke the camel’s back was her post that compared what’s going on in America today to what went on in Nazi Germany. The point she was making is that atrocities committed against Jewish people were successful because the German government was successful in turning German citizens against the Jewish people. She compared it to what’s going on in our culture today. I take her to mean that our government is acting in a way that promotes hatred against anyone who doesn’t conform to certain ideologies. Like how our culture is essentially saying if you don’t endorse the LGBT and gender-identity movement, you’re an “abhorrent and unacceptable person.” If you don’t want boys competing against girls in high school sports, you’re a transphobe. Her analogy says the government is inciting this hatred against Americans with conservative values that don’t affirm liberal values. I would say language from certain political leaders and media outlets does promote the shaming of people who aren’t going along with liberal values, like the sexual revolution.
As Jesus’ followers who subscribe to the authority and inerrancy of the Bible, not the authority of popular opinion, some of the views we hold are seen as "abhorrent and unacceptable." In case someone’s offended that she made light of the Jewish plight and was insensitive, others had no qualms about comparing Trump to Hitler.
The catchword for this phenomenon is “cancel culture.” Wikipedia says this about “cancel culture”:
“Cancel culture (or call-out culture) is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles - either online on social media, in the real world, or both. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to be "canceled." Merriam-Webster notes that to cancel, as used in this context, means "to stop giving support to that person" while Dictionary.com, in its pop-culture dictionary, defines cancel culture as "withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive." The expression "cancel culture" has mostly negative connotations and is commonly used in debates on free speech and censorship.”
Certain viewpoints are deemed socially unacceptable. No other view allowed. You deserve to be cancelled if you hold to a view that is “objectionable or offensive.” Why I am so outraged is the fact that one side isn’t even allowed to reason without being canned and deemed “objectionable or offensive.” We’ve reached a point in our society where there are cultural pressures that dictate one side can say whatever they want and their view is encouraged, but the other side needs to remain silent or be cancelled.
This doesn’t mean that we have to assume every person that we come across in Palermo wants to cancel us for our moral values. Many in our town may be out of touch with popular culture or don’t share the values of popular culture. Many in our town likely support free speech and are willing to dialogue, even if they disagree with us. But there is an increasing influence of national media outlets that is perhaps shaping the values of the people of Palermo. How did the LGBT movement win out? They used film and TV to shape the minds of Americans.
The entertainment industry has shaped the values of our nation. And in many cases, there’s no room for dialogue.
I’ve commended tolerance for one another with different political views. I’ve commended critically evaluating each policy on a case by case basis rather than approving every policy of a political party because they’re the “right” party. We engage political parties like the prophets engaged Israel, calling each party out in the areas where they diverge from biblical convictions. And then, desiring a society where there is peace, tranquility, and justice where the gospel can freely flow (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Tim 2:1-4), we vote for the candidate, regardless of party, that we deem to best uphold the public good (Jer 29:4-7). My goal isn’t to endorse a certain party or bash another. Just looking at where we find ourselves as a nation and culture today.
My goal here isn’t political persuasion. My goal isn’t to bind your conscience to a political party. My goal isn’t to debate the merits of each party. My goal certainly isn’t to instigate division among us. My goal is help those of you who are disillusioned by what’s going on in our nation. Those of you troubled that your values are under attack. Those of you concerned that your freedoms are under attack. Those who are grieved, angered, and confused. To help those of you who are asking the question, how do I respond in a God-glorifying way? I write to help you respond in a biblical fashion.
How not to respond
1) In fear
Instead of worrying, we seek to spread the gospel and mature spiritually, trusting that God will provide for all our needs as we follow Jesus (Matt 6:25-34). Trusting God, his character, his power, and his wisdom, is the antidote to fear. Fear paralyzes killing mission. Faith empowers mission. When the gospel is opposed we proclaim boldly, because we trust God is with us, God values us, God will reward us, and nothing can happen to us unless God wills it (Matt 10:26-33).
2) In self-pity
We’re called to be a thankful people, not whiners (1 Thess 5:18).
3) In despair
We’re called to rejoice, even in the worst of circumstances (John 14:1-3; Phil 4:4-7; 1 Thess 5:16).
4) As complainers (1 Cor 10:10; Phil 2:14-16)
Mere complaint won’t profit our souls. We rejoice even in unfavorable circumstances (Phil 4:10-13).
5) Retreating by isolating ourselves from the world
We’re called to be in the world, not of the world, so remain on mission even when our culture is unfavorable to us (John 17:14-19). Jesus is with us regardless of our circumstances, and his command to make disciples isn’t conditional on favorable conditions (Matt 28:18-20).
6) Be silent
When cultural norms conflict with gospel norms, we keep proclaiming the gospel, but we do so wisely (Col 4:5-6). Satan and our flesh work against us to create fear (Rom 8:15), but the Spirit creates boldness in us (2 Tim 1:6-7). Fear is natural in cases of opposition, but the Spirit enables courage in us. Even the apostle Paul needed prayer to help him with fears about proclaiming the gospel (Eph 6:18-20).
7) Lash out on social media
We need to speak wisely (Col 4:5-6) in ways that build up, fit the occasion, and give grace to our audience, not speaking in ways that corrupt (Eph 4:29). We want to communicate in ways that avert anger, not in ways that stir up anger (Prov 15:1). A gentle tongue, or communicator, is life-giving (Prov 15:4). Challenge positions humbly. Don’t exaggerate or engage in personal attacks.
8) Act in hatred
Jesus calls us to love our enemies (Matt 5:43-47). A great way to commend the gospel is by responding kindly when wronged. We demonstrate the reality of gospel claims, like the transforming presence of the Spirit who frees us from slavery to sin, when we respond to opponents with kindness, gentleness, and patience.
9) Cave in to the pressure to conform
We’re called to live differently (1 Pet 4:1-5) and we’re called to be transformed by the Word, not the voices of our culture (Rom 12:1-2). Since the whole world lies under Satan’s influence (1 John 5:19) and the entire human race is infected by a sinful nature (Eph 2:1-3; 4:17-19), it’s reasonable to assume that, in many ways, the culture is shaped by forces contrary to God. This isn’t to dismiss common grace whereby God has blessed the nations by delegating rule to human governments (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-17) and retrains sin so that the human race isn’t as bad as it could be. In Romans 1, we see God’s activity of restraining sin. That God gives people up to their sinful desires (Rom 1:24-28) means that God also restrains the ungodly from sinning. See Romans 2:14-15 for the conscience as a restraining mechanism.
10) Follow conspiracy theories with no basis, which is a form of worry
Why do conspiracy theories exist? Dan Darling gives three answers. See
First, institutions have failed us which has created a lack of trust. Second, in an internet world, anyone can say anything. Claims don’t need to substantiated and gatekeepers have been eliminated. Fact and opinion are now blurred. Third, due to media bias, there’s a lack of trust in the media. So a lack of trust combined with free access to a mass readership is a breeding ground for conspiracy theories. How should we respond to conspiracy claims and the movements breeding them?
First, assume outlandish claims aren’t true. Yes, conspiracies do exist. Jesus was conspired against (Matt 12:14). Sin is present in human hearts. Institutional structures are infected by sin. Recognize sin where it exists. Grieve over moral decline. This world does lie under Satan’s sway (1 John 5:19). Satan’s influence argues for and against conspiracy theories. Some hidden sins that will one day be revealed (Matt 10:26) are influenced by Satan. On the other hand, conspiracy theories may be deceptions of Satan used to distract our focus, damage our witness in the world, and breed division in our churches. Division in the church is a mark of Satanic influence (Jas 3:13-18). Satan can deceive us through manmade philosophies and traditions which are not of Christ (Col 2:8). Myths and speculations were a problem in the Ephesian church (1 Tim 1:3-4). So Paul told Timothy, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness (1 Tim 4:7).” So Scripture clearly warns us to beware of silly myths, “which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith (1 Tim 1:4).” Some swerved from sincere faith and “wandered away into vain discussion (1 Tim 1:6).” Don’t be led astray by unfounded speculations (see 1 Timothy 1:3-4). Deception comes in many forms, so be careful that your thought life and your allegiances are shaped by Scripture, not human speculations (Col 2:8). Limit your concerns to facts not fiction. Carefully research the basis for claims. Are they credible? What’s the actual evidence? Is the movement behind the conspiracy theory promoting faith contrary to the Christian gospel? Is the movement behind the conspiracy theory promoting ethics contrary to the Christian standards?
Second, see the good, not just the darkness. See your world through a gospel lens, not through the speculation of internet watchdogs who don’t share your allegiance to Jesus. Recognize common grace where it exists. Gregg Allison says common grace “consists of the blessings of God given to all his image bearers in many realms.” We might think of the arts, science, medical advancement, human government, or social structures like the family and marriage. See the good God has wrought in our society. Recognize the Spirit’s work where it exists. See the good God has wrought in his church. Some churches are caving. Some churches are retreating. But other churches are becoming healthier and engaging their world. Don’t focus solely on the negative. Remember God’s on the throne working out his eternal plan right now. Remember Jesus is building his church right now. See your world through a narrative where God is ruling and at work, working all things according to his will and for our spiritual good (Rom 8:28-29; Eph 1:11). More on this later.
Third, focus on what you do know. Meditate on what you know to be true of God (Phil 4:8). Don’t be weighed down by outlandish claims. There’s enough reality to be concerned about, so live in the real world as it truly is. The challenges of daily life are enough without conspiracy theories. Concerns that actually exist are enough for our hearts to bear. We don’t have to weigh ourselves down with worries about claims that don’t actually exist. So why worry about unsubstantiated claims (Matt 6:34)? Conspiracy theories divert our attention and weigh us down with worry. Fight the fight of faith against worry with prayer and God’s Word (Phil 4:6-8).
Fourth, don’t be distracted from our mission “to glorify God by building a community that is growing in Christlikeness and making new disciples.” Mistaken worry takes the place of gospel mission. Am I worried about the spread of the gospel like I’m worried about conspiracy theories? Am I worried about encouraging my brothers and sisters in trial like I’m worried about conspiracy theories? Am I worried about meeting the needs of my brothers and sisters like I’m worried about conspiracy theories? Am I worried about my Christian witness to my neighbors like I’m worried about conspiracy theories? Do I focus more on conspiracy theories than my spiritual maturity? Let’s get our focus where it belongs.
Fifth, resolve not to spread falsehood. The 10th commandment is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Exod 20:16).” Paul instructed the church, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another (Eph 4:25).” What does this have to do with conspiracy theories? God calls us to be people who speak what is true. If we believe something that isn’t true, and then spread what isn’t true (like spreading unfounded conspiracy theories on social media), we are bearing false witness. And we’re also harming our own reputation, and the church’s reputation. If we are a people who spread discredited lies, why should people believe us when we proclaim the gospel? We must beware of attaching ourselves to fictions. If you have questions about a particular theory, get in touch and we can examine the claims.
How to respond
1) Live by faith
When the prophet Habakkuk was troubled by wickedness in his own culture (Hab 1:2-4) and God’s promise that a wicked empire would overtake his nation (Hab 1:12-2:1), part of God’s answer was “but the righteous shall live by his faith (Hab 2:4).” See the present situation as an opportunity to live out your faith in Jesus. An opportunity to draw on God’s strength (2 Tim 4:16-18). An opportunity for God to show himself strong in our lives and in our church.
2) Be clear on where your allegiance lies
We follow Jesus (Matt 12:30; 16:24-26), not a political party or a cultural movement. We only align ourselves with a party or a movement as a consequence of our discipleship. We judge a party or a movement to serve God’s purposes and be in line with God’s will. Or we deem a candidate to be the best option in serving the public good (Jer 29:4-7). But the root of our commitment to any party or candidate or movement is determined by our prior commitment to Jesus and God’s Word.
3) Be clear on where your help comes from
Our help comes from God, the one who created all things (Ps 121:1-2). If the church is helped by a political party or through human government, it’s only because God determined to use that entity to serve the church. God uses human rulers to serve his purpose (Jer 25:9), and he uses human governments to benefit citizens (Rom 13:4). If the church is served by a certain political party, remember God is the ultimate agent who helps his people. In your time of need, turn to God, trust in God, not a political party or a cultural movement.
4) Trust that God is sovereign
The Bible depicts God as one who works all things according to his will (Eph 1:11). One who works all things for good, which, in context, means he works all things for the maturity of his people (Rom 8:28-29). One whose purposes can’t be thwarted (Job 42:2). One who sends his servant into a foreign land as a slave through means of the sinful designs of his brothers, all to preserve his people Israel from famine by elevating that servant to second in command in Egypt (Gen 45:5-8; 50:20). One who so meticulously controls our world that a sparrow can’t fall to the ground unless God wills it (Matt 10:29). One who predetermined the time periods and boundaries of every nation (Acts 17:26). One who removes rulers and establishes rulers, giving wisdom as he sees fit (Dan 2:20-32). One who does whatever he wills with no one able to oppose him (Dan 4:35; Ps 115:3). What I’m saying is that the sovereign God of the universe is where we should place our trust, not a particular president, not a particular party, not a particular movement. God is ruling amidst the moral confusion in our land today. God is the one who removes his restraint and gives a people over to their sins (Rom 1:24-28). God is the one who uses his church in the midst of such times. As God raised up Esther to be queen “for such a time as this (Est 4:14),” God has sovereignly decided to place us in this culture and this local community for this time.
5) Trust that God will cause his church to flourish amidst opposition
The true church will not fail because Jesus ensures its success (Matt 16:18). The gospel will successfully be proclaimed to all nations, then the end will come (Matt 24:14). God’s sovereignty assures his church will succeed, even amidst opposition. God is planting healthy churches today. God is moving existing churches towards greater health today, even using cultural decline to mature his church.
6) Look forward to the new heavens and new earth as you endure opposition and grieve over the breaking of God’s law
Peter assumes Christians are looking forward to a “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Pet 3:13).” We should be comforted that one day sin will end. We won’t sin. We won’t be sinned against. The world (that evil system that lies under Satan’s sway and opposes God), the flesh, and the devil will be defeated and righteousness will abound. Anything we suffer in the present is temporary. Our own sin will cease. Being sinned against will cease. And sinful societal structures will cease.
The Psalmist loved God’s law so much that he shed tears over the fact that God’s law was disregarded (Ps 119:136). Grief and sadness is an appropriate emotion when immorality increases.
8) Be angry
The Psalmist was seized with indignation when God’s law was forsaken (Ps 119:53), because he loved God’s law to the point where he hated falsehood (119:128, 163). Paul’s spirit was provoked by the idolatry he saw in Athens (Acts 17:16). Anger is an appropriate emotion when immorality increases.
9) Cast your cares on God
At the beginning I’ve highlighted some concerns are legitimate. And I’ve said base your cares on facts not fiction. And I’ve said grief and anger is appropriate, so cast your cares on God (Phil 4:6-7; 1 Pet 5:7) and entrust your soul “to a faithful Creator while doing good (1 Pet 4:19).”
10) Call out to God for wisdom
Maybe you don’t know how to think about a matter of public policy. Maybe you don’t know how to respond to an accusation. Maybe you don’t know what to think about someone’s claims, like a conspiracy theory. So call out to the generous God who promises wisdom when we call out to him in confident trust (Jas 1:5)
11) Be clear on our mission
Our mission isn’t establishing a utopia. Our mission isn’t controlling congress. Our mission isn’t eliminating poverty. Sinful individuals and sinful structures will exist until Christ returns. Our mission is to make disciples from all nations (Matt 28:19-20). We contribute to God’s mission by equipping the saints for ministry (Eph 4:11-12), being a community of salt and light that commends the gospel (Matt 5:13-16), sending out missionaries from amongst us, supporting missionaries from other local churches, and engaging in mission in our own community. And while we can’t eliminate structural sins, we can alleviate the suffering of our fellow humans in our own community (Jas 1:27). Some of God’s people are called to serve in human government to affect public policy for the good of our land and its people (Jer 29:4-7; 1 Tim 2:1-2). Pray for and support such people.
12) Support your fellow believers who are affected by cultural changes
The believers addressed in the book of Hebrews had experienced public reproach, imprisonment, and the plundering of their property, so fellow believers in the community had compassion on those in prison (Heb 10:32-34). Compassion would have included visiting those in prison and bringing them food, water, and clothing. Prisoners in those days were only provided with daily rations intended for their survival, the bare minimum. So these Hebrew prisoners were dependent on fellow believers to bring them food for nourishment and clothing for warmth. In doing so, the visitors publicly identified with their suffering brethren and helped them in their time of need. If Christians lose their business because of something like the Equality Act, we follow the NT pattern by alleviating their suffering. In the early church, those with resources help those in need (Acts 4:32-37).
13) Renew your minds
Many of the ideas coming out in our culture today are revolutionary. Things never heard before. Ideas with an origin foreign to us. It can be hard to counter an idea when it’s so novel or bizarre to us that we have no idea where it came from. To counter these ideas we need to think within a biblical framework. Gerald’s Sunday school class taught us the easiest way to identify counterfeit cash is by meticulously studying the real thing. Having a firm grasp on truth enables us to identify falsehood. So we renew our minds with God’s Word (Rom 12:1-2). Instead of merely dwelling on the negative, or conspiracy theories, we can to saturate our thoughts with God’s Word (Phil 4:8). Without a firm commitment to Scripture, and without a firm grasp of Scripture, we open ourselves up to deceptive philosophies (Col 2:8), whether the sexual revolution, or conspiracy theories, or cultural movements that contradict God’s Word.
14) Protect and train young minds
Young people in our day will be exposed to sinful practice and philosophies that we would never have dreamed of in our youth. It’s like new sins are being invented yearly. This requires protecting young minds from destructive influences. Film and TV shaped the nation’s sexual morals. If we don’t guard what our young people are watching, they’ll follow suit with the whims of our culture. However, we can’t just guard. We need to disciple too. We need to help young people fight the sin that’s in their own hearts. We need to help them process sinful attitudes, sinful habits, and temptations they struggle with. We can’t just say the world is wrong. We also need to show them what God says, logically explaining how following God’s design leads to human flourishing. And how following the sinful whims of man leads to destructive consequences. We can help them interpret and apply Scripture. We can argue from Intelligent Design for a Creator. We can argue for reliability of the Bible. We can engage in presuppositional and evidential apologetics, showing why the Christian faith is credible and why unbelieving worldviews are not. Showing the inconsistency of unbelieving worldviews. Showing how morality depends on a divinely given standard. Helping them to process life in terms of God’s revelation. Modern trends can’t be ignored. They need to be engaged with gospel solutions. We need courage and confidence to answer the tough questions.
15) Endure insults
The Christian response to slander is suffering for righteousness’ sake without fear, being prepared to honor Christ, being ready to make a defense for our hope, conducting ourselves with gentleness and respect, and suffering for doing good, not because we’ve inflicted evil on others (1 Pet 3:13-17). In doing so, we follow Christ’s example. Being slandered is an opportunity to engage our neighbors and live out the gospel’s claims about the Spirit’s transformation of sinners.
16) Be merciful
And we’ve embraced the gospel and been converted, we’ve experienced God’s mercy. As a result, God calls us to extend the same mercy to sinners that he extended to us. God says forgive like you’ve been forgiven (Matt 6:14-15; Eph 4:32). If we believe what the Bible says about slavery to sin (Rom 6:6, 17-18; Eph 2:1-3; 4:17-19), we should feel sorrow for those who are destroying themselves through sinful patterns of life. We empathize with those who've been sinned against. We empathize with those who struggle with sin. We want people of all backgrounds feeling welcome around us. We’re not going to welcome non-Christians into our membership, and we’re not going to change our doctrine and conduct to fit with cultural norms, but non-Christians should feel comfortable around us in the sense that they know we care about them, we want them to come to our services, and we’re willing to help them where possible.
17) Love your neighbors
The second greatest commandment is the command to “love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31).” This includes conservatives and liberals. Homosexual and straight. A person’s opposition to our value system, or even their opposition to our rights protected by the Constitution, isn’t grounds for failure to love them. God calls us to love and befriend all sorts of people (Matt 5:43-47; 9:10; Luke 14:12-14). Our neighbors include those who oppose us. Loving our neighbors requires that we be a merciful people.
18) Engage in conversations about thorny issues
We’re called to wisely engage outsiders, which includes knowing how to properly answer their questions (Col 4:5-6). It’s assumed that as we identify as Christians in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our families, in our workplace, questions will come up. We need to be prepared to answer questions beforehand. We need to have a clear grasp of the gospel. We need to be able to work the gospel into conversations about politics or sexual morality or social justice. Our goal isn’t to convert someone to a political party. Our goal is to help them embrace Jesus as Savior and Lord. We talk with unbelievers about uncomfortable topics. And we do so with confidence in the power of the gospel and the power of God’s Word. Wisdom in conversation requires that our speech fit the occasion (Eph 4:29), and that we’re not repeatedly badgering people who don’t want to hear (Matt 7:6). I’m not saying cause division and animosity in the workplace. I’m saying when people ask questions be ready to provide gospel answers (1 Pet 3:15).
19) Speak to the shortcomings of liberal viewpoints
As we engage, point out where liberal viewpoints diverge from Scripture. Point out why God’s design is best. Point out the dangerous consequences they haven’t considered. God’s truth is always wise. Point out the places where they borrow capital from the Christian worldview (e.g., moral convictions rooted in Scripture), and places where they assert their own ungrounded autonomy. This assumes a firm grasp of Scripture and ability to skillfully apply it. The goal isn’t winning an argument. The goal is bringing the gospel to bear in our conversations and commending the gospel to unbelievers. Whether liberal or conservative, we can’t assume a political party’s policy is infallible like God’s Word is. Show the fallibility and point to a greater hope.
20) Speak to the shortcomings of conservative viewpoints
As we engage, point out where conservative viewpoints diverge from Scripture. Point out why God’s design is best. Point out the dangerous consequences they haven’t considered. God’s truth is always wise. Point out the places where they borrow capital from the Christian worldview (e.g., moral convictions rooted in Scripture), and places where they assert their own ungrounded autonomy. This assumes a firm grasp of Scripture and ability to skillfully apply it. The goal isn’t winning an argument. The goal is bringing the gospel to bear in our conversations and commending the gospel to unbelievers. Whether liberal or conservative, we can’t assume a political party’s policy is infallible like God’s Word is. Show the fallibility and point to a greater hope.
21) Proclaim the gospel
We can naturally work this into conversations. A good model is God → man → Christ → response. Enter conversations gently reasoning from Scripture, revealing God’s holy character and moral law, revealing man’s sinful condition and guilt, revealing Christ’s suffering on the cross as the ultimate display of God’s justice and mercy and self-giving nature, that he died as a substitute for our sins, and call sinners to repent and believe.
22) Appeal to our constitutional rights
Paul had no qualms about appealing to his rights as a Roman citizen. When Paul’s rights were violated he appealed to his rights (Acts 16:37-38; 22:25-26). This is modeled today through organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom.
If you’re concerned don’t just worry or get angry. Don’t lash out on social media. Don’t run with ungrounded conspiracy theories. Find out what’s actually going on and support Christians whose Constitutional rights are being taken away by prayerfully and financially supporting organizations like the ADF.
Engage your world with the gospel, trusting in the power of the Word of God to convert sinners (Rom 1:16-17; Jas 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23-25). Look at what the book of Acts has to say about the triumph of the Word of God in the early church:
Acts 6:7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
Acts 12:24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.
Acts 13:49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.
Acts 19:20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
Acts 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Live a gospel-transformed life that commends the truths we proclaim (Matt 5:3-9), trusting that sinners will be drawn to glorify God (Matt 13-17; 1 Pet 2:12-13). And pray for unbelievers, trusting that God will draw sinners himself in answer to your prayer (Matt 7:7-11; John 6:44; 1 Tim 2:1-4; Jas 4:2). We can’t do this in our own strength. We need the Spirit’s help (Acts 1:8; Phil 2:12-13; Col 1:28-29). So call on God to make you courageous and compassionate and wise in gospel conversations. God ordained that you would live at such a time as this.
Tomorrow and going forward we will only have one service at 9am. There will be no 11am service. The sanctuary will be open for 50 people and the gym will be open to 50 people, so we can have 100 total. Last night the churches received permission to have multiple gatherings of 50 in the same facility. To comply the door between the sanctuary and the gym will be secured. In the gym we will have chairs and a live feed of what is going on in the sanctuary. It will be first come first serve so the sanctuary will be closed off once we reach 50 in there. If you're in the gym you will be limited to the gym bathroom. If you're in the sanctuary, you will be limited to the downstairs bathroom. Sorry for the late notice but we thought it best to go to one service this weekend.
Palermo Christian Church,
Given the latest guidelines from the state, this is what the elders have come up with for services starting May 31. We will have two Sunday morning services starting this weekend. The 9am-10am service will be for people with last names starting A-K. The 11am-12pm service will be for people with last names starting L-Z. The Sunday evening service at 6pm and the Wednesday prayer meeting at 6:30pm will now be open to everyone since those meetings shouldn’t exceed 50 people.
Why are we doing this? Yesterday I got confirmation from the Christian Civic League of Maine that the person who wrote the Governor’s policy said only 50 in a building at a time regardless of the building size or the number of separate rooms. They were pushing for number of people allowed based on seating capacity, but didn’t get it. It seemed feasible and reasonable to divide our people between the sanctuary and the gym into two separate gatherings and keep one 9am-10am service, but that would be in violation of the current orders. So we opted for two services on Sunday morning. We have divided you up by last name in order to prevent us from exceeding the maximum capacity of 50 people per gathering. What do you do if you come with someone else and your last names are on conflicting services (e.g., Adams and Mahar)? If you’re in this position, pick the service of your choice. What if you’re assigned to 11am-12pm and that doesn’t work for you? Then contact someone scheduled for the 9am-10am service and agree to switch services. And make sure the numbers add up. Let the usher that greets you know that you switched when you arrive. This is inconvenient, but it is imperative that you keep to the service you’re assigned to so that we don’t have to turn people away because we’re at capacity.
What should you expect this Sunday morning? The only unlocked doors that you can enter through will be the sanctuary front door and the sanctuary side door by the entrance with the accessible ramp. You will be greeted by an usher who will guide you to your seat. Please do not walk immediately to your seat. The usher will show you where you will sit. In order to make sure that we can fit 50 in the sanctuary while maintaining appropriate physical distancing, people need to be seated strategically. If someone sits in the wrong place, it could throw off the whole arrangement and take away a good number of seats. So please let the ushers show you to your seats. When the service is over you will be dismissed by row in order to ensure social distancing is maintained. There will be no nursery, Junior Church, Sunday school, or fellowship time this weekend. These are currently on hold while we seek to get our worship gatherings in order. Don’t worry about following previous service schedules. There will be no greeting team. The ushers will be composed of elders and trustees. The current focus is getting Sunday morning services back up and running. We’ll reevaluate other ministries in the coming weeks.
What safety precautions are we taking? We will do our best to comply with the guidance we’ve received from the state. The pews will be sanitized before you’re seated. This includes in between morning services. Buddy Spaulding is overseeing this aspect and I assure you he is taking this seriously. Physical distancing will be maintained by keeping seating between different households at 6 feet apart. This is why it is critical you let your ushers determine your seating. Doors will be propped open to reduce common contact surfaces. Hand sanitizer will be provided as you enter. Paper bulletins will not be passed out. You can pick them up on your own. The offering plate will not be passed by row. It will be located somewhere near the sanctuary entrance at the determination of our ushers. They can help you locate the offering box. Cloth face coverings are encouraged, but not required. The ushers will be required to wear face masks. Please maintain physical distancing and refrain from hugging, hand shaking, etc.
What should I do if I’m at risk? Do not feel obligated or pressured to come. If you are concerned about your safety you are welcome to stay home. There is no pressure to attend. Use your best judgment. The live streaming will continue to be offered for the 9am-10am service. We can faithfully follow the guidelines given to us, but we cannot ensure there will be no risk if you gather with us. Please be advised that the guidance given to the churches encourages the following high-risk persons to make use of remote options like the live stream:
● People 65 or older
● People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled including:
▪ People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
▪ People who have serious heart conditions
▪ People who are immunocompromised: Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune system weakening medications
▪ People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
▪ People with diabetes
▪ People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
▪ People with liver disease
For the Governor’s guidance to the churches see:
For how to protect yourself see:
What’s next? Like you, we don’t know. Maybe we’ll have to wait for months to get back to one service? Maybe things will advance quicker than originally planned? Be prepared for either case. But let’s rejoice that we can gather this weekend and see people we haven’t been around for quite some time. That we can worship the Lord together in-person. And let’s look out for one another and do the best we can to protect one another. Before we regather on Sunday, I’d like us each to ask ourselves a question. How can I glorify God this Sunday given the present restrictions? Let’s ponder that as we prepare to gather. Thank you to those who’ve made the live stream work and thank you to those of you who are doing your best to ensure our safety and follow the guidelines we’ve been handed.
Palermo Christian Church,
Last night the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) issued a recommendation that gatherings of 50 or more people should not take place in the U.S. for the next 8 weeks. In the midst of national and local efforts to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, our church must respond. One difficulty we face is the fact that we are supposed to gather regularly:
Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
So fellowship must be maintained throughout Coronavirus protocols. Your contact with the people of God is essential to your spiritual and emotional well-being whereas amusements like sports are not.
How do we do this when we are advised to cancel our public meetings? How do we do this when gathering with others might put ourselves or those we love at risk? How do we do this when our employer is placing restrictions upon us so that we don’t bring the Coronavirus into our workplace?
First, we are working to set up online access to the worship service for this Sunday. Sunday morning gatherings will be temporarily suspended for now. In their place we will have a video recording of the sermon given over the internet (http://www.palermochristianchurch.org). Stay tuned for details concerning when videos will be put on the website. Likely the message and worship music (if possible) will be pre-recorded and put on the website for Sunday morning. I am working with Sandy and the worship team to make broadcasting worship music over the webpage legal as well. This means that use of the facilities for the public are temporarily suspended. This includes basketball, Tuesday walking, Boy Scouts, etc. Youth Group is temporarily suspended.
Gathering for worship through video is a temporary compromise because of necessity laid upon us, not an ongoing convenience we should desire. Convenience and ease should never replace the live gathering of God’s people (see https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/church-online-coronavirus-age).
Second, I have reached out to small group leaders and Sunday school teachers to continue to keep in contact with their group members and students. Hopefully we will continue to “gather” with one another through mediums like Skype, Google Hangouts, or Facetime.
Third, the only meeting we will continue is the Sunday evening service. For those regretting that prayer meeting is cancelled, Sunday evening functions much like a prayer meeting. Be advised that we are taking precautions for these meetings. The front door will be the only access. Door handles, doorknobs, hand rails, etc. will be sanitized. People coming out will be forced to use hand sanitizer upon entry. People will be required to sit a safe distance from one another. Here are some guidelines for those of you wishing to come out for Sunday night:
Do not come out if you are an at risk individual, those with existing health conditions and 60 years or older. The California governor has advised all those 65 and older to stay home.
Do not come out if you are sick.
Do not come out if you have been exposed to someone with the Coronavirus.
Do not come out of guilt or fear you are disobeying God. Be responsible and wise.
In Philippians 1:21-24, Paul said this:
Philippians 1:21-24 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
If you are at risk, please don’t reason that it is better for you to come out because death is beneficial for you. Instead, think about others. Think about how your departure will affect others. Who will be grieved if I perish because of carelessness? Who will I no longer be able to serve if I perish because of carelessness?
So for now we will continue Sunday night service, this is a fluid situation and we don’t know what restrictions will be added by Sunday, but we will do so with responsible precautions and strong suggestions for many of you not to attend. For your good and the good of others.
Fourth, I can be reached at my email (email@example.com) or phone (207-480-9021). If you need pastoral assistance contact me. If you know of people who need pastoral assistance, contact me. I cannot abandon my post nor can I be reckless. Myself and Sandy will maintain office hours. Pastoral visits are available to those confined to their home. I will take the necessary safety precautions to ensure your safety as best possible.
Fifth, personally stay in touch with others in the body. Continue to encourage one another, to rejoice with those who rejoice, to weep with those who weep, to counsel one another, and to pray for one another. Use the means available at your disposal: phone calls, texting, Facebook, internet meetings. The body remains the body even as we practice social distancing. Let's keep in contact with one another, edify one another, and do what we can given the present circumstances.
I am about to recommend that most of you don't show up tomorrow for our 9am worship service. After careful research I want to advocate caution and wisdom for your protection. Don't worry if you are scheduled to teach Sunday school or perform worship or watch the nursery or serve for the fellowship time or whatever. The state guideline is no gatherings over 250. And sane church leaders have recommended no services over 100. But many of you fall under the at-risk category and I would hate to have you perish prematurely because you were not well-advised. Please serve the body by not coming if you are sick. And please serve the body by not coming if you are at risk. If that leaves 10 of us that is okay. Your well-being is what matters. Please, for your own well-being, read the following data and make an informed decision.
1) Nearly 5,000 dead
2) Over 130,000 confirmed cases
3) 3.4% mortality rate (common flu mortality rate is 0.1%)
4) 15% mortality rate for those 60 years or older (take existing health conditions into account here)
5) 22% mortality rate for those 80 years or older
6) 85-89% have minor conditions often unnoticed
7) High risk: those 60 and older or those suffering from chronic diseases
8) Virus enters through your mouth, nasal route, or eyes from droplets caused by coughs or sneezing
9) Six feet is safe distance
10) Incubation period is 2 to 14 days
11) Symptoms are same as the common flu for 85-89%
12) Severe and critical symptoms such as respiratory distress and pneumonia for 11-15%
13) Vaccine may take 12-18 months to develop
1) Frequent hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds
2) Don't touch your face
3) Minimize physical contact: shaking hands, hugging, kissing, etc.
4) Keep your distance from sneezing and coughing people
5) Stay home when you're sick for the safety of others
6) Don't travel where the virus is known to be
7) If you are elderly or chronically ill avoid crowds and close contact
Sources (both articles written by Christian medical doctors with sound theological convictions)
What are the motives behind preventing large crowds from gathering?
1) Protecting at risk people
2) Stopping the spread of the Coronavirus
3) Preventing our hospitals and health care system from being overwhelmed and unable to care for the sick
4) For the church our motive is love for the vulnerable, not fear or panic or self-protection