Convention Planners Make Tough Decision

Nothing quite like this has been seen before — at least not in recent memory.

Wars and plagues have throughout history altered the lives of whole populations. But when public health officials asked the country to join together and take practical steps in slowing the spread of COVID-19, churches, schools, businesses, and others had to change their plans — as did the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies.

Pastor Dave Carlson, convention host and planning committee chair, was obviously disappointed when it became apparent that this year’s convention slated for late April in San Diego, California, would have to be rescheduled.

“We had high expectations and tremendous early response from ministers, both from the U.S. and Canada,” he said. “We told the hotel there would be at least 420 nights reserved, but we had almost reached 1,000 when we had to cancel.”

The enthusiastic response was just one factor that made the decision so difficult. It was also hard to imagine losing the chance to hear the dynamic speakers or miss the opportunities for mingling and connecting. There were also activities for kids and youth that had to be set aside. “We had around 85 children already signed up for their own events,” said Carlson.

So this year will go down in the history of the FCA as the year the convention was cancelled. Planners are working with the US national board to determine how best to reschedule the California event. When new information becomes available, notice will be distributed to the membership.

Meanwhile, those who have already registered for the convention will want to check out these further details:

  • Your personal hotel reservation at the Bahia Resort Hotel has already been cancelled. There is no need for you to call the hotel.
  • You may, however, reinstate your hotel reservation at the convention rate for personal travel if you wish by calling Bahia Resort Hotel (858-488-0551). Remind them that you were previously reserved to attend the FCA convention so you can receive the convention rate.
  • Meanwhile, your FULL convention registration cost will be refunded automatically. Funds will be credited (within four weeks) to the account you used to charge the costs.
  • You should, however, remember to cancel your own airline reservations. Airlines have taken a tremendous hit during this recession (as have many businesses), but they are working as best they can to accommodate their passengers.

One thing God’s people are certain of is that there is no problem or disappointment that can defeat God’s purposes. They know that the Lord will see them through any crisis.

Just as he’s done for his people through wars, disease, and pestilence all through the ages.

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday
.
—Psalm 91:4-6

Why Watching TV News Is Bad for Your Health

by Richard Doebler

Little wonder that a story about a scary virus goes viral.

Sensationalism sells advertising. So it’s easy to understand why media outlets are motivated to tell the most compelling, even shocking stories. Routine stories cannot compete for attention — not in the crowded arena filled with alarming reports and frightening, disturbing events. 

Most reporters (tabloid writers excluded) pride themselves on being “objective, neutral and unbiased,” but it’s no surprise they are inclined to tell stories that grab attention — stories that sell. And if a story “goes viral,” so much the better. 

We might have expected as much. News hounds thrive on the sensational. Just as “rubbernecking” drivers steal a glance at a freeway crash, we can’t help being curious. We want to see what “crashed.”

It turns out a lot has crashed — not because of the virus itself, but because of society’s reaction to it. One observer speculates there will be more bankruptcies in America caused by COVID-19 than deaths. And the resulting frenzy feeds a cycle: reports lead to reactions, leading to more reports. News of cancelled classes, tournaments, churches, and sporting events send a message: “Be afraid! Be very afraid!” 

Public service announcements to stock up on groceries and sanitizer send a message: “This is bad! This is very bad!” The stock market tanks and we get the message: “We tried to tell you. This is the new normal in America.” Every report (people under quarantine; test kits unavailable; overwhelmed hospitals; government inertia) generates more alarm. The growing angst leads to more of the same.

This public fascination with tragic, shocking stories helps news outlets sell their broadcasts and publications. It’s almost addictive: terrible news creates a desire for more — a “snowball” effect. Incessant news of the sensational increases alarm and anxiety, so readers and listeners want more. 

But not everyone. Some people, quite understandably, choose to break the cycle. They opt out of news entirely; they refuse to ingest the negativity. Others find refuge in a caricature of news, relying on late-night talk show monologues as their primary source of information. What they typically get is specious or, at the least, misleading. 

In an old English folk tale, an acorn falls on the head of Chicken Little who jumps to a conclusion and then announces to all who will listen that “The sky is falling.” He easily convinces his barnyard friends to believe the news, and they all suffer the consequences of being misled.

Amid all the hysteria, it would be good to pause for a moment and reflect about the consequences: What is true? What is exaggerated? What is a balanced perspective? How should we then live?

As Christians, we can process the flow of information with a biblical view in place. We can do this for any alarming news, including pandemics. How can we do this? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Maintain perspective. Even when global catastrophes or evil tyrants come, events of the day should not determine your well-being. God is still on the throne. Evil comes and evil goes; things improve, things get worse. “The sun comes up, the sun goes down…. The wind blows south, the wind blows north…” (Ecc. 1:5-6, CEV). To everything there is a season (Eccl. 3:1). In times of trouble, remember that better times will come.

Exercise discernment. Learn to separate fact from fiction. Don’t believe everything you hear. Examine everything carefully and only hold on to the good things (1 Thess. 5:21). We need more than a reality check; we need a spirituality check! We need to practice seeing the difference between good and bad (Heb. 5:14). It’s the truth that will “set you free” (John 8:32).

Focus on the good. As you maintain perspective and exercise discernment, you’ll be able to focus more on things that can build you up. Since God is good (all the time), your thoughts and prayers can center on God and his purposes. You’ll be able to take captive (lock up) the thoughts attempting to remove God from his throne (2 Cor. 10:5). You can learn to think straight — guarding your heart (Prov. 4:23) — or as one version puts it: “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (GNT).

Give your worries to God. Reduce your anxieties through prayer, petitions, and giving thanks to God for all he has done (Phil. 4:6). The result? The incomprehensible peace of God will guard your heart (so you’ll feel better) and your mind (so you’ll think more clearly) (Phil. 4:7).

Reshape your mental habits. As God takes your worries and your thought life is redeemed, you’ll be more able to overrule fears, negative thinking, and the lies that would normally confuse and disturb. Get rid of negative and destructive thinking even more by filling your head with noble, pure, and praise-worthy ideas (Phil. 4:8).

Be transformed. Work constantly to be thoroughly transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23). It’s not enough merely to think the right thing. What’s important is that you do the right thing. Follow through from healthy thoughts to positive action! Allow your renewed mind to reshape your behavior, indeed, your entire life! 

With these steps in mind, how might we process the news about COVID-19? Is there anything we can say that will diminish fear and anxiety?

Start by maintaining perspective. Let’s track down the fuller story. What if we asked ourselves how the severity of the Coronavirus compares to other health threats and diseases. Do we (or did we) react to other threats the same way? Did we panic over measles, for instance? Did we shut down the NBA because of whooping cough?

Consider influenza, for instance. In the five months from October, 2019, through February, 2020, over 34 million Americans contracted the flu (despite a massive 174.5 million immunizations [see here]). More than 350,000 have been hospitalized, and over 20,000 have died (see the CDC website). That’s more than an average 130 deaths per day with about 0.56% of those infected dying. See note below.

Early statistics on the Coronavirus indicate it is more virulent than Influenza A and B. Worldwide numbers (as of March 12, 2020) report 134,488 sickened by the disease. Of those, 4,970 have died [see here]. That means about 3.7% of those who get it have died from it — more than the flu, but still not nearly as dangerous or fatal as other diseases. 

Every day around the world nearly four times as many people die from measles as are dying from COVID-19, according to the Information Is Beautiful website. Differences are even more dramatic when comparing deaths due to tuberculosis: 48 times more people die from TB (3,014 each day compared to 62 from Coronavirus). Keep in mind also that 99% of those under 60 who catch Coronavirus will recover. (Of course, numbers and comparisons may change as more data becomes available.)

We should take normal precautions in dealing with Coronavirus, of course. Like we would for any contagious disease. Practicing good hygiene, washing our hands, using disinfectant, covering our cough or sneeze — all of that. The saying, “cleanliness is next to godliness,” though not in Scripture, is still a good maxim to follow.

For the believer, however, our trust is ultimately in God. We focus on his goodness and give him our worries. Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Rom 14:8). Paul said, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” (Phil. 1:21, NLT).

First-century Roman citizens were impressed by the early believers’ actions when plagues and pestilence ravaged Rome. While senators and aristocrats fled the city with their families to avoid sickness and death, believers waded into the chaos, caring for the sick and dying. Their fearless response to human suffering caused many to rethink their own world views. [See Christian History magazine, Issue #101.] Mother Teresa made a similar impression on the world with her compassionate care for the poor and dying in the gutters of Calcutta. 

The question remains: what can the church today do to help in the current epidemic of fear?

As Christians we can live each day for Christ, looking for ways to be light to the world (Matt. 5:14). We can dare to stay in our place, steady and confident, helping others in need, fulfilling our call, and trusting God with the outcome. 

As citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), we need not fear sickness or death. Our goal and destiny is to one day live eternally in God’s presence where tears are wiped away and death is no more.

Richard Doebler is FCA Media editor. He was formerly an FCA pastor in several churches and an associate editor of Leadership published by Christianity Today.

Other resources:
Dealing with a Virus by John Sprecher, US FCA Lead Elder. Click HERE.
NW FCA — and Coronavirus by Dan Eide, FCA pastor. Click HERE.

Note: Because many cases of influenza go unreported, the CDC reports an estimated range of impact. Numbers cited reflect the low end. The upper end numbers are: 49 million cases; 23 million medical visits; 620,000 hospitalizations; 52,000 deaths.

NW FCA — and Coronavirus

by Dan Eide

The coronavirus pandemic has very much affected the Northwest part of the U.S. as well as the FCA churches there. At this point in time:

  • Per the governor of Washington State, all churches with 250 and greater must suspend services, or ensure no greater than 250 gather at any one time.
  • Many churches, including less than 250 people are suspending services and live streaming their services.
  • Microsoft, Boeing and Amazon have had their employees telecommute as much as they are able. Businesses, especially Chinese-owned businesses, are being financially impacted due to fear of the virus.
  • Washington State announced on March 12  that all public and private schools in three counties (King — including Seattle, Snohomish, and Pierce) must suspend classes until April 27th. (Most of the FCA churches in the Northwest are within these 3 counties.) With the closing of public and private schools, it is unclear how this will impact youth and children programs in churches. It appears, however, this will have severe impact on education process for students, especially for families with special-needs children who typically would be in school will now have to figure out how their family life will need to adjust.
  • The I-5 freeway corridor running through King, Snohomish, and Pierce County — usually some of the busiest in the nation — is strangely no longer congested.
  • Hospitals have tents set up outside entrances to exam people before being cleared to enter buildings — or turned away.
  • All venues for large groups, such as sporting and entertainment events, have been told to cancel.
  • So far 31 people have died in Washington State because of COVID-19.

Our churches in this 3-county region will be impacted in numerous ways, including how they receive regular tithes and offerings. Many congregations already have systems for online giving in place. Those who do not yet have online giving as an option will face real challenges, especially considering the fact that ministry and missions work are not suspended during this time. Other normal church expenses, such as rent, mortgage, and utilities also remain in place.

Many churches are responding with more strategic communiques to their people during this time. Emailing members about church news, events, and ways to donate are helping during this unusual time.

This pandemic is especially beginning to take a toll on those with preexisting mental health issues. Many find the meeting place of church to be a place of great comfort to be loved on by the Body of Christ. Ministry to them will continue, but things will be different, and the coming weeks will reveal increased stress on everyone in our region.

In light of all that is happening around our state and nation, the believers here in Washington seem strong. However, churches that were previously under stress are especially vulnerable during this uncertain time. The Church in Washington State, along with their Shepherds and the individual members, all covet the prayers of saints around the nation.

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
(Eph. 6:18).

Dan Eide is pastor of Sisco Heights Community Church in Arlington, Washington.

Other resources:
Dealing with a Virus by John Sprecher, US FCA Lead Elder. Click HERE.
Why Watching TV News Is Bad for Your Health by Richard Doebler, FCA Media Editor. Click HERE.

Dealing with a Virus

by John Sprecher

Every day seems to bring new developments and revelations about the advancing Coronavirus (COVID-19.) At first it seemed far away in China, but now that it has come to most of our states and localities, we are faced with the prospects of dealing with a pandemic.  Schools and businesses are closing and there is the possibility that public meetings, including churches, could be forced to close.

Are you and your congregation prepared for the possibility of not being able to meet publicly for a season? If we are honest, our thoughts go to offerings, budgets, logistics, and a myriad of other practical concerns that come with a disruption of the normal congregational schedule. There are resources that can help with some of those concerns, and if you are already doing online giving, that may be less of a concern — unless we end up with widespread unemployment.

The greater issue we need to address is how do we, as the people of God, respond to the very real needs that are and could be manifesting themselves, such as panic, shortages of food and water, living under quarantine — the list goes on. In times of great need, the opportunity to love our neighbor and care for the sick and needy becomes an opportunity to share the love of Christ, bringing hope and comfort to our community.

Plan for the disruptions in your normal schedules. But more importantly, create a care plan for the members of your congregation and mobilize your people to bless and care for your community.

John Sprecher is the U.S. Lead Elder of the FCA

Download the free resource guide from Christianity Today for churches on the Coronavirus. Click HERE.

Other resources:
NW FCA — and Coronavirus by Dan Eide, pastor of Sisco Heights Community Church in Washington. Click HERE.
From Rich Doebler, FCA Media editor: Why Watching TV News Is Bad for Your Health. Click HERE.

 

 

 

2020 Convention: US Ministers Plan Dialogue and Discussion

When the Fellowship elders met in San Diego last November, they prayed for God’s direction regarding the ministries shared by FCA members — not just for the next decade but beyond. God gave them inspiration and vision, also prompting them to issue a special call to ministers across the U.S.

As a result, they are inviting all U.S. ministers attending the international convention next month to join with them for an extra session prior to the official start of the convention on April 27. The invitation includes two distinct opportunities for ministers:
…..(1) A prayer and worship gathering on Sunday, April 26 beginning at 7 p.m.
…..(2) A meeting for dialogue and discussion on Monday, April 27 beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Both the prayer and the discussion time are open to all ministers attending the convention. You will have the chance to hear about recent developments and strategies — as well as be able to join in the conversation with the U.S. national board and regional elders.

Fellowship elders, who are ministry leaders from various geographical regions of the FCA, hope the dialogue and discussion will further refine the ministry and direction of the Fellowship. They are eager to hear what God is birthing in the hearts and spirits of pastors across the country, and they want to provide the opportunity for participants to identify core ministry values that unite our unique Fellowship.

“This is a chance to provide feedback about key characteristics of what it means to be an ‘FCA church,’ or an ‘FCA minister,” writes Sam Snyder, pastor of Cross Culture Community Church in Minneapolis and current president of the FCA Board. He notes that as a Fellowship we already have, “shared beliefs and practices about what is most important in what we do in ministry — and how we do it.” He anticipates the time in San Diego will expand and articulate the things we already share.

FCA leaders expect the pre-convention gathering of ministers will also help gauge “the pulse” of the Fellowship for the future. Recalling that the FCA was birthed nearly a century ago (in 1922) at a fellowship gathering in St. Paul, Minnesota, Snyder observes that further defining “why we do what we do and the way we do it” will help the ministers and churches of the FCA as they seek to move forward into the next 100 years of ministry together.