This is the last weekly update before the Passover. We have never before been faced with a situation quite like this where we cannot assemble in person, yet we have the technology to still be with one another through the electronic miracles of our age. Let’s be thankful for that.
Mark Welch has summarized some of the meetings we had this past week in which we made some early determinations regarding United Youth Camps at an online meeting with our camp directors. The decisions that were made for right now can be found in this announcement: www.ucg.org/members/news/united-youth-camps-2020-announcement. Mr. Welch also shared some important instructions regarding the Passover, Night Much to be Observed, the upcoming Annual Holy Days and how we will be “taking up” the offering that is customarily done on these annual Sabbaths. His message with this information and the next part in his series of congregational survey results can be found here: www.ucg.org/members/news/personal-from-ministerial-and-member-services-april-2-2020.
I ask all those reading this to look out for one another. In this time of congregational isolation, take time to think of your brothers and sisters in the faith. Are there some you haven’t heard from in a while? Take the time to contact one another via mail, phone, email, or text. We are asking all our ministry to make sure they connect with every person who attends their congregation and to be absolutely sure that they have what they need for the Passover service and to check on their well-being overall.
If you have not heard from your pastor for a long time, you may want to give him a call. Ask him how he’s doing. Let’s stay in close contact with one another.
Preaching the Gospel
I’d like to comment about how in this unprecedented time we are fulfilling our mission, as Christ commanded.
A Wall Street Journal headline summed up the current COVID-19 disruption: “A $3.6 Trillion Wake-Up Call.” Right now, 2.3 billion people—roughly a third of the world’s population—is on mandatory lockdown.
As many are waking up and seeking meaning to it all, the Work of God boldly continues its mission to proclaim the coming Kingdom of God and warning the world of the consequences of its sins that are leading mankind toward extinction. This message is being taken to heart as people are stirring from slumber and searching for answers for life’s meaning.
Last Sunday’s Beyond Today telecast on WGN drew twice the number of typical telephone responses. The program was Gary Petty’s “The Message of the Anti-Christ.” His opening words in this program were: “The time is NOW to get on your knees before the Almighty God and study this Bible!” It appears that many more than usual took his words to heart.
With this sudden crisis (and opportunity), the Beyond Today editorial staff totally revamped the next issue of the magazine last Friday. We will be featuring articles capitalizing on people’s heightened attention in the wake of the current crisis as they are concerned about their and their children’s health and livelihood.
In the previous issue of the Beyond Today magazine we asked our readers to respond to a survey about the magazine. We were encouraged by the results that are just now beginning to come in. We asked 23 questions and many responded with comments. The initial responses are overwhelmingly positive. In a few weeks’ time, we will publish a more comprehensive analysis for you.
Here are a few of the verbatim comments:
I think the magazine is wonderful. I just wish it came out monthly or that you could put more pages in the bimonthly issues. I just received the March/April issue and I am amazed how up-to-date you are with current worldly issues. I can’t see how anyone could find fault with your magazine, again it’s wonderful. I treasure every issue and re-read them constantly, big tick from me.
I study each story and underline things that stand out to me. I also take time to look up the scriptures in the Bible that give me the whole picture as to what you are saying. Your little booklets are ever helpful to me.
I look forward to receiving each new magazine, as I always learn something new. I read it from cover to cover. May God continue to bless your mission of bringing the “Word” into many homes.
I really enjoy reading the magazines. I am also grateful that they are free, because I cannot afford to give a donation at this time. I thank God that I am able to get them, because they are a great help. I even share them with others as well. I thank God for you all.
Fantastic magazine. You don’t sugarcoat the truth. People need the truth and nothing but the truth. Keep up the word of God in my mailbox! Thank you.
I LOVE this magazine and I eagerly look forward to the next issue. I will continue to contribute ($) in the future! I find this magazine thoughtful, insightful, engaging and educational. Just an F.Y.I., I’m especially interested in prophecy—especially ‘end of the age’ ‘end times’ Bible prophecy. Thank You sincerely for your hard work in presenting this magazine for us to learn from.
Thank you for your continuing support of our busy team of magazine writers and editors. They are doing a wonderful job in bringing the good news of the Kingdom of God to our world.
Preparing a People
This Sabbath will be the fourth Sabbath in a row where we are not able to meet together in person in the vast majority of congregations around the world. However, that has not deterred our ministry from using the latest innovations to reach our brethren as never before, not only on the Sabbath, but midweek in Bible studies and other meetings. As I said last week, some of these innovations may continue after the current crisis to reach our brethren.
Each Sabbath we stream services, offering the latest news from the home office. That is at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Other pastors had been streaming church services for shut-ins, but now their online service is the only service for their entire congregation and the tone has been one of greater inclusivity for all the viewers. Last night we listened to a Bible Study by Donald Ward from his home entitled “The Coronavirus in Light of Bible Prophecy.”
Many pastors are now webcasting their services. I received this interesting report from Chuck Smith, senior pastor for the Caribbean:
“It was nice seeing you on our webcast and having you join us for our ‘Sabbath together.’ We use Zoom and we have openings for 100 connections. Jeff Lockhart has a mini studio in his home complete with green screen, lights and cameras. He is able to give live sermons once or twice a month to Jamaica from his home.
“We contacted all the brethren in the Islands and here in South Florida and let them know what we were doing on Thursday so they could prepare for the Sabbath. Since we have almost 300 total people, we still expect more to join next Sabbath. This week we had a total of 71 connections and 8 countries online with us: United States, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Lucia, Grenada, Jamaica, Dominica, St. Vincent and one from Canada. Next week we hope to add Bahamas and Guyana.
“My sermon title was ‘How Much Darkness is in You?’ In preparation for Passover, we need to think about Jesus’ adage in Matthew 5: ‘You are the light of the world…’ We must find and remove any darkness remaining within us.
“We intend to continue the webcast for as long as this COVID-19 crisis prevents us from gathering on the Sabbath. Services begin at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time. All who desire can stay on and fellowship afterward—last Sabbath, this continued for about an hour.
“This week, we will record a Passover service to distribute to all the brethren for use in observing Passover at home.
“On a side note: our Trinidad congregation has been using Zoom for quite some time for those who are home-bound and those scattered on the islands around them to hook up and participate in Sabbath services. We have two in Grenada, one in Tobago, two in Dominica, and one in St. Vincent who regularly join them. Now that services are suspended, they have a Friday evening hookup for everyone to fellowship and encourage one another.
“Services are also suspended in Haiti. Deacon Joseph Jean and his assistant travel around each Sabbath to visit and encourage brethren in their individual homes.
“Beginning this week, either Jeff or I will record a short weekly video to encourage the brethren and keep them updated on any news we need to share. The video will be sent via email.
“Thanks for your support and encouragement. The home office is doing an amazing job of serving everyone during this unprecedented crisis.”
May God protect and keep you and your families in these times of peril. Let our prayers be as the incense of the saints as described in the Book of Revelation. Stay Strong, Stay Safe, Stay Faithful.