Pastoral Letter from Pastor Jon
Dearest Christ Church Family,
These are dark and challenging times for our nation. The same is true for the church. This perfect storm, a tempest fueled by Covid-19, racial tensions, violent riots, media hysteria, unbelief, and a massively consequential election cycle, has fostered considerable fear and confusion in our day. Anxiety, depression, and suicide have skyrocketed as a result of social isolation. Marriages are under strain. Travel schedules are disrupted. In many parts of the country, draconian measures have been imposed upon small businesses, schools, and churches, while abortion clinics and casinos remain open and political protests/riots continue to swell. It’s all so chaotic and overwhelming! Most of us are frustrated with it all. Some of us are even growing disillusioned and losing hope.
Rather than resign yourself to a feeling of hopelessness, however, I strongly encourage you to remember God’s unshakable truth and steadfast promises. “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Prov. 30:5). Rather than give in to irrational fears incited by sensationalistic news, vicious anarchists, and unreliable public officials, let me encourage you to hold fast your confession (Heb. 4:14)— a confession that magnifies the sovereignty of God, exalts the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ, esteems the church’s ministry and mission, emphasizes the true and temporary nature of life in this world, and underscores the second coming of Christ. In other words, as pilgrims, let us face our present circumstances by faith, not by sight; with obedience, and not compromise.
Our current context, while difficult, is an opportunity for spiritual growth, loving fellowship, and bold mission. To be sure, these godly endeavors will all look somewhat different for a while. But we can trust the Lord with that! Life for most Christians around the world is unpredictable and dangerous (think of believers in North Africa or China), yet it doesn’t stop them from seeking God and making disciples.
Dear believer, don’t despair or resign yourself to self pity. The last thing you need to do is hide yourself away and rely upon our own wisdom and strength to carry on. No, as I’ve been preaching these past two weeks from Hebrews 4:14-16, we must “confidently draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” What you need right now is not more cable news, Netflix, and Instagram. What you need, what I need — indeed, what everyone needs — is Jesus Christ and the abundant grace and truth that are found in him. We need Jesus and regular exposure to his life-giving Word! Whether the sun is shining or the storm clouds are bursting overhead, the grace of Christ is sufficient for you. Christ’s strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor .12:9). And let’s not forget, you also need the church. We all do! A Christian without the church is like a soldier without an army — alone, wandering, malnourished, and unprotected. We all need the visible church— the mother of all believers. The entire New Testament assumes that every sincere believer will be an active member of the local church. It’s a non-negotiable in the Christian life!
The church is misunderstood and devalued in our day of autonomous and consumer-driven spiritualities, even among many Christians. Nevertheless the church remains the very means through which our risen and exalted Savior cares for his sheep. It is through the Word, sacraments, and prayer — in the Spirit-filled context of the local church — that Jesus feeds and strengthens the faith of his people. Jesus is building the church (Mt 16:11). Jesus loved the church so much that he gave his life for her (Eph. 5:25). Shouldn’t we cherish her too? Shouldn’t those for whom Christ died be a priority in our lives, even (and especially!) during a pandemic?
Christ Church Presbyterian (est. 2013)
The month of June marked seven years since our first worship service, and four years since our particularization as an official PCA church. Our God is faithful! Believe it or not, close to 500 people have joined Christ Church over the past seven years. The highly transitory nature of the Charleston region has made it extremely challenging to retain members and maintain growth. Scores of families have moved away over the past five years. Indeed, just this past month four of our dear families moved to different states — the Battes, Ellisons, Justices, and Buchanans. We will miss them very much, and pray for God’s riches blessings upon their future.
New Location | Renovation
Like pilgrims and exiles, we’ve been meeting in different locations since 2013. We are like Reformed and Presbyterian Gypsies! Trying to find a suitable church home for our congregation has been a huge challenge. Thankfully, in January, God answered our prayers. We signed a 5-8 year lease on an 8000 square foot facility in Mount Pleasant. The building at 486 Wando Park Blvd. is in a fantastic location, a short distance from I-526, within a main artery of the greater Charleston area. The renovation is coming along very well. Jake Earle and Ralph Charles have been busily overseeing the project, giving countless hours to making sure that everything is being done according to plan. Much progress is being made, and we hope to occupy the building by October. Like you, I can hardly wait! Everything will be new — new sanctuary, new chairs, new pulpit furniture, new nurseries, new bathrooms, new offices, new kitchen, new vestibule, and new lobby/fellowship area. All new! And it’s going to be beautiful! Our own Cathy Paterson is leading the charge on design and finishes. I’m so happy for our congregation, and for those to whom we’ll be able to show Christ-centered hospitality on the Lord’s Day and during the week.
Have you given towards the renovation fundraising campaign? It’s a worthwhile investment towards the making of disciples for generations to come. Please help us to reach our $420,000 goal today.
The Lord’s Day | Church Attendance
Our congregation has not gathered together for Lord’s Day morning worship since March. We’ve been only live-streaming morning services, and about 40% of the church attends “in-person” evening worship. It’s been hard, and many have felt sad, spiritually dry, and disconnected from church life. I want to remind everyone how critical it is during this strange season to maintain a consistent and spiritually attentive Lord’s Day schedule, even if only online. You need the means of grace. You need Christ. You need his life-giving word preached to your soul. Unless you are providentially hindered, commit yourself and your family to “attending” the livestream services while they are occurring at 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. It can never be the same as attending in person, of course, but there is something dynamic to “attending” while the service is live-streaming. There’s more of a sense of being together during a live service. Moreover, while many may have good intentions about viewing worship at a later time, the services can often be relegated to “I’ll get to it eventually” status.
If you are not in the high risk category for the virus, I want to encourage you to attend evening worship in person. If you have small children that have a hard time sitting quietly through the service, commit to at least one parent attending the service. This will encourage your souls in Christ and renew fellowship with the saints. Many wear masks and we take fellowship outside after the service. I fully recognize that there are certain risks to doing anything right now — getting gas, buying groceries, going to work, eating out, hanging out with friends and family, etc. However, I believe that none of these activities are nearly as important — and worth the risk — as the worship, discipleship, and witness of the church. Everyone needs to proceed in good conscience as it concerns the virus, and we will respect everyone’s decision. However, if the risk is minimal for you to attend, and there aren’t other extenuating circumstances that prevent you from coming, I warmly encourage you to worship with us.
CCP— Midweek Ministry
Next week there’s a lot happening at Christ Church. There will be a one hour congregational prayer meeting on Zoom— Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. I will lead a brief devotion, and afterward we will go before the throne of grace together. Mark your calendar for this rich time of prayer and fellowship. We have so much to pray for! On Wednesday, Andrew and Lizzie Godwin are hosting a youth event at their house at 7:00 p.m. Your junior and senior high kids won’t want to miss this evening of fun and fellowship. On Thursday morning the Men of the Covenant will continue our study of the book of Joshua at 7:00 a.m. on Zoom.
Finally, next Friday, I will commence a weekly ten-minute devotional series on Charles Hodge’s classic little book entitled, The Way of Life: Christian Belief and Experience. First published in 1872, this rich volume touches upon several key doctrines — The Veracity of the Word of God, Sin, Conviction of Sin, Justification, Repentance, Faith, Holy Living, etc. I hope that you will be blessed by this weekly time of Christian discipleship. Details on the best online platform for the video devotionals are forthcoming.
My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, these are truly dark and challenging days for our nation, and for the body of Christ. Now more than ever we need remember God’s love for us in Christ. Now more than ever we need to reestablish our priorities for ourselves and for our families. Now more than ever we need to live by faith, and remember those precious and powerful words from Paul’s letter to the Romans — “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).
Your Pastor, Servant, and Friend,