June 16, 2020
We look forward to this Sunday’s time of worship on June 21st!
We have held two morning services for the past two Sundays, but could have accommodated everyone who attended in just one service each Sunday. So, for this Sunday we are only planning to hold one service at 10:45 a.m. However, we do want everyone to be here who desires to be, so if our RSVP’s exceed the capacity of the sanctuary, we will either have overflow in fellowship hall or we will add the 9:00 a.m. service back, depending on how many the overage is. When you RSVP, please be sure to answer the two questions regarding your willingness to sit in overflow or switch to 9:00 a.m. if needed.
To request a seat at the 10:45 a.m. Sunday service on June 21st, please follow these specific instructions.
You may only request seats for people in a household unit who can sit together. If you need to request a seat for someone outside your household unit, please do so in a separate email.
Send an email no later than Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. to: RSVP@bethelgrace.org with the following info in this order:
- How many seats are you requesting?
- List names of all individuals for the seats requested. If any of the individuals are under the age of 18, please list age next to name. (Note: Children of ALL ages must remain with parents during the entire service. There will be no children’s ministry.)
- If we have more seat requests than we can accommodate in the sanctuary at 10:45, would you be willing to sit in overflow in fellowship hall?
- If we have more seat requests than we can accommodate in the sanctuary at 10:45, would you be willing to change to a 9:00 a.m. service?
- Email address
- Phone number
- Please type “June 21st” in the subject line.
You will receive an email response within 48 hours to confirm your seat request or let you know if we filled up before your request was received. If you do not receive a response within 48 hours, then your request was most likely not received. Be sure to send your email to RSVP@bethelgrace.org.
We will not be receiving RSVP’s by phone call or text. We have identified the Bethel Grace Congregants who do not have email. We are reaching out to them by telephone. All others must RSVP by sending an email to RSVP@bethelgrace.org.
Unfortunately, requests received at any other church email address cannot be honored or responded to. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate these unusual time
God is good, and He is worthy of our praise!
June 11, 2020
Dear Bethel Grace,
“I was glad when they said to me ‘Let’s go to the house of the Lord!’” Psalm 122:1
It is so good to be gathering again! After three months of online gatherings, more and more is opening up. We had our first church services last weekend. Our Agape young adults group met last Friday night. And, our Doxa Youth Ministry is coming back next Tuesday, June 16th! Furthermore, youth summer camp at 1000 Pines is “ON” for late July! Yahoo!
As you scroll down in this email, you will see the protocols we laid out anticipating our first Sunday back. They will be in effect until Sunday, June 21st. After that, we will reevaluate based on input we receive from public health officials. For now, I would like to highlight just a couple of them.
The CDC has advised people of “higher risk for severe illness” to continue staying home. You can see those details below. We are passing that word of advisement on to you, but we not necessarily imposing it. We trust you can make a wise decision for yourself.
Face masks are required. All attendees must keep them on the entire time on campus, including the whole worship service. Pastors and worship team will not be wearing face masks while on the platform leading the service but will have them on otherwise. We realize there are questions and different perspectives on the effectiveness of the masks. Yet, we aim to do this not begrudgingly, but with love and concern for all in attendance. We do not want anyone to inadvertently contract or spread coronavirus at Bethel Grace. It's a serious health concern for some people. There will be some in attendance with greater sensitivity than others. Let’s humble ourselves and do this with care for all who come. We will continue the use of the face coverings for the next couple of Sundays at least. And, with the same concern, we will maintain physical distancing of 6’ both inside and outdoors.
In all of this, I praise God for the work of the Spirit. This week I heard feedback from a number of you related to Sunday's services. Even after wearing masks in church, people have testified to the joy and energy being imparted to their soul being at the gathering. Similarly, I've received continued encouragement about the effectiveness of the 10:45 a.m. live stream from those remaining at home for now. God is working and moving among us even amid these temporary measures. Hallelujah!
We praise God for the ongoing generosity of the Bethel Grace family! The provisional budget for Weeks 9 and 10, which included Sundays May 31st and June 7th, required an offering of $20,000. A total of $22,885 was given to our general fund. This is $2,885 over budget. That places us $1,517 behind budget for the year. Thank you!!!
This Sunday we will continue our series “Refuge and Strength.” I look forward to sharing a message from Psalm 57. It's presents a sobering picture at how harsh and cruel human beings can be, and how the soul can be bowed down as a result of it. But even more, this Psalm presents the Most High God who is close to His people with His mercy and power. He revives the soul and strengthens the heart. Please dig in and see what's there as we look forward to Sunday.
See you soon, Bethel Grace!
For the elders,
• On June 7th, 14th, & 21st, we will hold two identical in-person worship services at 25% of our sanctuary seating capacity. They will be at 9:00 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. We will also livestream the 10:45 a.m. service.
• Due to the limited capacity seating, RSVP will be required for the services. An email will be sent out at approximately 7:00 p.m. on Monday evening giving instructions about how to request a seat or seats. That info will also be posted on our Facebook page and website. Please be watching for that e-mail and follow the specific instructions.
• Please do not come if you have any illness symptoms or any fever, or if you have been around someone who has COVID-19 or has been exposed to COVID-19.
• The CDC advises anyone who is at “higher risk for severe illness” not to attend until all restrictions are lifted. This includes anyone with underlying health conditions, which the CDC includes as: chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, HIV, diabetes, severe obesity, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, serious heart disease, cancer, anyone who is immunocompromised, as well as, those age 65 and over.
• We don’t want anyone to feel obligated or pressured to come immediately. We will continue live streaming and if you feel more comfortable remaining at home for now, please do so.
• There will be no separate children's ministry. Children will need to sit with their parents/grandparents. We will provide kids activity packets.
• We will be maintaining social distancing of 6’ both inside and outdoors.
• Please be prepared to greet others with joyful happy hand waves. Hugs and handshakes will resume a little later down the line.
• A cleaning crew will work during and between the services to keep restrooms clean and all high touch surfaces disinfected.
• The sanctuary will be opened for entry 10-15 minutes before the service begins. You will be attended to a seat by an usher. The sanctuary seating will be prearranged for individual, couple and family seating sections throughout. (You might not get your usual seat! Sorry! )
• If you arrive more than 15 minutes before the start of the service, please remain in your vehicle. Line up on the patio for entry will begin at the 15 minute mark.
• Masks will be required. They must remain on during the service and for your entire time on campus. Let's do with love and concern for all in attendance.
• We have installed hand sanitizer stations throughout the campus. The CDC has emphasized the value of their use.
• Offering boxes have been installed. There are four total: one in the foyer, one on the sound booth near the center doors, and one by each side aisle near the foyer doors. We will not be passing offering plates during the service.
• Restrooms will be available, but we ask that you only use them if absolutely necessary.
• Services will be approximately one hour in length. Musical and singing elements will be included. Pastor and worship team will not be wearing face masks while leading the service, but will have them on otherwise.
• Everyone will be asked to exit the sanctuary promptly so we can clean for the next service. Ushers will dismiss the congregation row by row.
• Only Sunday morning worship service will initially open up. We look forward to regathering Sunday Bible Communities when the time is right.
• We hope to hold our first communion service in July.
May 30, 2020
Dear Bethel Grace,
“Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” Psalm 67:3
We have identified June 7th as the Sunday Bethel Grace will begin resuming “in-person” worship and fellowship. As that day approaches, we want to communicate with you as clearly as we can. We want you to have a well-defined picture of what’s to come. The weeks ahead of us will be in some ways unusual. Still, the Word of God nourishes, the fellowship of the saints encourages, and the house of worship will be filled with joy.
Some Bethel Grace people will gather as soon as things start opening up. Others will find wisdom in giving it a bit more time. As the time draws near, we are praying for you and the Lord’s clear direction as the right time for you. We hope the details that follow will aid you in that decision. We provide this information humbly, to keep you amply informed.
We are doing our part to work in cooperation with the guidance of the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Local civil and health authorities have asked us to communicate some of this information to you. Beyond that, most of this comes from the elders to you as we look forward to some Bethel Grace specifics.
Here is what you need to know.
- On June 7th, we will hold two identical in-person worship services at 25% of our sanctuary seating capacity. They will be at 9:00 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. We will also livestream the 10:45 a.m. service.
- Due to the limited capacity seating, RSVP will be required for the services. An email will be sent out at approximately 7:00 p.m. on Monday evening giving instructions about how to request a seat or seats. That info will also be posted on our Facebook page and website. Please be watching for that e-mail and follow the specific instructions.
- Please do not come if you have any illness symptoms or any fever, or if you have been around someone who has COVID-19 or has been exposed to COVID-19.
- The CDC advises anyone who is at “higher risk for severe illness” not to attend until all restrictions are lifted. This includes anyone with underlying health conditions, which the CDC includes as: chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, HIV, diabetes, severe obesity, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, serious heart disease, cancer, anyone who is immunocompromised, as well as, those age 65 and over.
- We don’t want anyone to feel obligated or pressured to come immediately. We will continue live streaming and if you feel more comfortable remaining at home for now, please do so.
- There will be no separate children's ministry. Children will need to sit with their parents/grandparents. We will provide kids activity packets.
- We will be maintaining social distancing of 6’ both inside and outdoors.
- Please be prepared to greet others with joyful happy hand waves. Hugs and handshakes will resume a little later down the line.
- A cleaning crew will work during and between the services to keep restrooms clean and all high touch surfaces disinfected.
- The sanctuary will be opened for entry 10-15 minutes before the service begins. You will be attended to a seat by an usher. The sanctuary seating will be prearranged for individual, couple and family seating sections throughout. (You might not get your usual seat! Sorry! )
- If you arrive more than 15 minutes before the start of the service, please remain in your vehicle. Line up on the patio for entry will begin at the 15 minute mark.
- Masks will be required. They must remain on during the service and for your entire time on campus. Let's do with love and concern for all in attendance. (Amended)
- We have installed hand sanitizer stations throughout the campus. The CDC has emphasized the value of their use.
- Offering boxes have been installed. There are four total: one in the foyer, one on the sound booth near the center doors, and one by each side aisle near the foyer doors. We will not be passing offering plates during the service.
- Restrooms will be available, but we ask that you only use them if absolutely necessary.
- Services will be approximately one hour in length. Musical and singing elements will be included. Pastor and worship vocalists will not be wearing face masks while teaching and singing.
- Everyone will be asked to exit the sanctuary promptly so we can clean for the next service. Ushers will dismiss the congregation row by row.
- Only Sunday morning worship service will initially open up. We look forward to regathering Sunday Bible Communities when the time is right.
- We hope to hold our first communion service in July.
Whew! I realize that is a lot to take in. Thank you for your attention to these details. Following through with them rises out of love for our neighbors and fellow Bethel Grace family members.
On another hopeful note, the state of California has asked churches to re-open public gatherings under the current measures for a three week provisional period. If things go well, it’s expected that a number of the limitations will be further loosened. Some churches are even waiting until later in June to open when things may be a bit more normal. If the picture painted in this message has been “a bit much,” there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
I look forward to seeing you soon, Bethel Grace. Be on the lookout for the Monday evening message on the RSVP plan!
As for tomorrow, we will see you on live-stream at 10:30 .m. I look forward to singing praises, and bringing a message about the gift of the Holy Spirit. Please read Acts 2 in preparation for that.
Dear Bethel Grace,
Hallelujah! Things are opening up again in L.A. County!
We have identified Sunday, June 7th as our day for reopening Sunday services at Bethel Grace.
Believe me, it’s enticing to try and open things up this Sunday, May 31. Yes, our hearts long to be together in person. Yet, as the president encouraged the governors last week in his call to reopen churches: "The ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams, and other faith leaders will make sure that their congregations are safe..." We are taking that seriously.
Thank God the death toll of COVID-19 has not been as high as once anticipated. But it's still an awful infirmity, especially for certain segments of the population. Larger gatherings, with people assembled close, raise the potential for the spread of the virus. We'd hate for any of our attendees to inadvertently spread or acquire this virus, so we are working diligently to apply measures for a safe, healthy opening. The Lord calls us to walk in faith, and to have prudence.
The president, governor, and L.A. Board of Health have all pointed us to the CDC's Guidance for Communities of Faith. Churches are called upon to put the proper distancing and disinfecting procedures into place before gathering for services. We are working diligently to apply those measures in a way fitting for Bethel Grace. As we weigh all things up, we are confident we will be able to do those things well by June 7th.
In accordance with the guidelines given, our initial attendance will be limited to a 25% seating capacity of our sanctuary. For Bethel Grace, that is an attendance of roughly 50 people in the pews in addition to those leading the service from the platform and sound booth. Having surveyed the congregation, and having made phone calls to the church family, many Bethel Gracers will choose to stay home initially. We totally understand and respect that decision, and in some cases advise it. We believe two morning services will accommodate all who would like to attend. We are looking at having one at 9:00 a.m. and the second at 10:45 a.m. The live-stream will continue as well at the 10:45 a.m. service.
We are also working on an RSVP system so we can anticipate who will come and to direct some people to one service or the other if necessary. Once that system is in place, you will be advised over email how to access it. With that RSVP request, we will be sending you some information about what to expect on the Sundays ahead and how things will be coordinated.
The leadership and staff at Bethel Grace continue in the effort to get everything in place, including all the people that will be needed for the task at hand. Please pray for the volunteers being gathered and trained to help with all the cleaning, greeting, guiding and ushering that will need to be ramped up on Sunday mornings.
Be reminded of these thoughts I shared with you about six weeks ago in an April 15th email. Now, finally, the time is just ahead of us to not only picture these things but experience them:
"Pray with us as we consider what Sundays at Bethel Grace may look like in the months ahead. Picture multiple Sunday services, each with plenty of space between those in attendance. Picture the people gathered wearing face masks. Picture hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the property. Picture cleaning and disinfecting happening through the day.
"But better still: picture joy in the Lord that cannot be hindered. Picture loving smiles under those face coverings. Picture hearts warm with fellowship. Picture minds engaged in God’s Word. Picture hearts and hands lifted in praise. Picture pews being occupied again. Picture the body of Christ joined in worship. Picture new people introduced to the church through our live stream now showing up in person.
"We are trying to anticipate how things will be so that we can prepare accordingly. Through it all, our eyes are on the Living God. Though times, circumstances, styles and seasons change, our God remains the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the sovereign Lord. He does not change. He is the everlasting rock. He is our peace, our stability and our firm foundation. We worship him!"
It’s almost time Bethel Grace! Amen!
Survey Results. Thanks to each of you who participated in our “Regathering Survey.” It was very helpful and informative for our planning. That survey was just sent with an email of this message to the church. If you did not receive that email, contact me at email@example.com.
Giving Report. Thank you for your continued investment in and generosity to Bethel Grace. The provisional budget for Weeks 7 and 8, which included Sundays May 17th and 24th, required an offering of $20,000. A total of $13,284 was given to our general fund. This is $6,716 under budget. That places us $4,412 behind budget for the year. Thank you as you continue to consider your offerings to the Lord’s word at Bethel Grace.
This Sunday. Please join the Bethel Grace Live Stream at 10:30 a.m. This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. It’s the day that recalls and celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church as recorded in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit is the precious gift of the Messiah to His people. This Sunday we will reflect on that gift together.
God is good! He is leading and guiding, forming and filling all things, for His glory and our growth in Christ.
For the elders,
May 14, 2020
Dear Bethel Grace,
This week’s elder meeting included groaning, prayer and longing for the people of Bethel Grace. This was after hearing the possible extension of LA County's stay at home order to the end of July. Even in our frustration, we continue with unswerving confidence in our God. Christ is leading and guiding. He is sovereign and at work for our good in this present trial.
Scripture instructs us to be submissive to governing authorities with the knowledge that the Lord has set them in place (see Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1-11, and I Peter 2:11-17). To honor this call of God upon our lives, we continue our effort to work within the boundaries handed to us, and make to the most of all the opportunities we have:
We will continue live-streaming worship at 10:30 a.m. Smaller groups will continue fellowship through the week. God’s Word is not chained, and its power is also transmitted through the internet. Faith comes by hearing. Christ is being proclaimed. His name is being spread. His honor is being exalted. Our prayers are being lifted up. Our songs of praise are rising to heaven. His truth is reaching into our hearts.
We are making efforts toward a drive-in service. We expect they will be opened in L.A. County ahead of indoor services and may already be permissible. We are obtaining the resources to transmit to car radios. Pray that an evening parking lot service can happen in the weeks ahead of us. After our first experience, we will make a decision about the practicality of using that technology.
We can respectfully appeal to the governing authorities to adjust their mandate. In an email sent to Bethel Grace, I attached a letter written by a Pacific Church Network pastor. It provides you with pattern you can adjust and send via email or direct mail. In fact, the attached version is the my adjusted version. I sent it today and plan to adjust it for other civil authorities. One of our great freedoms and responsibilities in this nation is to speak up and appeal to those in elected positions. You're encouraged to do so. If you are reading this on Facebook and would like a copy, please leave a comment below.
We are preparing to open Sunday morning worship as soon as at all possible for those who are comfortable attending public gatherings. We are stocking up on disinfectants, extra face masks, and forming a seating plan for physical distancing. We want to open. Keep in mind, that when the church building does reopen, it will be different for a time. But it will be good. We long to see you: however, many of you in vulnerable categories may choose to wait for a while, until you feel more confident about physical attendance.
As many of you may know, a coalition of California churches are planning to reopen on May 31st in a measured act of civil disobedience. The Bethel Grace elders have not seen it fit to take that step at this point. This is based on our prayerful consideration of such measures from a biblical perspective. However, we call Bethel Grace to unity and prayer for churches on both sides of this decision.
Let’s pray, with united hearts, for the churches that will reopen on May 31st. Let’s pray that they will not face penalty for their gathering. Let’s pray for the health of those who gather. If COVID-19 spreads among any of these churches, it will likely lead to more stringent measures for us all. Please pray that this will not be the case and they will do well in their distancing and disinfecting, in addition to their singing and preaching.
Let’s pray for the churches that are waiting to reopen Sunday services. At this point, the clear majority of churches I'm in contact with are in this category. Pray that their congregants will have patience and endurance, being ministered to effectively, joyfully and potently by live stream and outdoor options.
Many churches will choose to open May 31st. Many others will not. Please pray for and practice the unity of the Body of Christ. My great concern is that the enemy will spread division among the church. Many of you have read the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. That book depicts battle training in the demonic world. It’s a sobering account of how higher demons might prepare other evil spirits for warfare against the church. Someone wrote “A COVID-19 Screwtape Letter” which I’ve included below. I encourage you to read it as a reminder that one of the chief tactics of the enemy is conflict.
Satan would love to create division among the Body of Christ. But our God is greater. Our God is stronger. Our God is higher than any other. His Spirit is in us. Filled with His power, we bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). During times like this, we must make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3)
Several more important announcements:
Prayer Meeting. Next Wednesday evening, May 20th, we will have another church prayer meeting on Zoom at 7 p.m. This one will be a bit more interactive than the National Day of Prayer. Earlier I mentioned appealing to governing authorities. How much greater is the power of appealing to our God. We will continue prayerfully over the matters in this email, calling on the Lord together.
Regathering Survey: Please see the Google Form in this link. We would love for you to share your perspective with us about regathering. We want to know what the church family is thinking in relation to these things.
Vacation Bible School. Sadly, we are cancelling this summer’s vacation Bible school. It was planned for late July. This week long event requires a massive amount of planning, administration and volunteer support. This current season has not allowed the clarity and definitiveness required for such an event. Please pray for Lisa Smeaton and her leadership team as they plan alternative ways to minister to children.
Giving Report. Thank you for your ongoing generosity and giving to Bethel Grace. The provisional budget for Weeks 5 and 6, which included Sundays May 3rd & 10th, required an offering of $20,000. A total of $21,680 was given to our general fund. So for, we are $2,303 above budget for the year. Thank you!!!
This Sunday, we will worship the Lord. It’s on my heart to talk with you about the sovereignty of God in the midst of all that is happening in our lives. Even now. He is reigning supreme carrying out His unswerving purpose for each Christian and each church. Please spend some time reading through Romans 8:18-39 in preparation for that.
For the elders,
April 30, 2020
Take heart, Bethel Grace!
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
What a difference between 'losing heart' and 'taking heart.' Losing heart comes when we think things are out of control and there is nothing good in sight. Taking heart happens when we have living hope and confidence in good things to come.
Jesus pulls no punches with His disciples. He says life in this world includes tribulation. That word indicates times of mounting pressure and hardship. But in those troubled times, He says to TAKE heart. Now, that's the exact opposite of what we'd expect. When hardship drags on, we are prone to LOSE heart. But Jesus says TAKE heart. Why? Because HE reigns over all, and HE has overcome the world. Because the victory over sin and death is in HIS hands, and He shares His reign with His church.
The mind stayed on Christ is life and peace. Even in a troubled setting. How are you doing keeping your eyes on Jesus? In the effort to stay informed on all things coronavirus, are you keeping your heart and mind anchored in the truth and love of God? Are you abiding in Christ? Is His word in you and is your prayer lifted up to Him?
Let His peace and power be the tone that is evident in your social media posts, phone calls, and Zoom meetings. We are not those shaken like leaves. We are positioned and poised in our Messiah.
This week Gavin Newsom laid out a plan for California to begin its gradual “reopening” in the ongoing battle with COVID-19. While small businesses will be cautiously opening in the weeks ahead, he declared that places of worship (along with theaters, gymnasiums, social halls, etc.) will be able to assemble again in the months ahead. Please pray for the Bethel Grace Elders as we process that, take counsel with churches of kindred heart, and discern how to respond in the way God desires.
Meanwhile, His truth goes marching on. The Word is spreading through the internet streams, through the Zoom meetings and through the telephone lines. Please keep loving one another and reaching out to one another. Keep on looking out for your neighbors, family and friends and serve them in Jesus' name. Not only does Christ desire us to take heart, but to take action in the things that spread the knowledge of His Name.
It is now the end of April. Typically we have our Annual Business Meeting at this time. Even though we were not able to meet in person, I am happy to let you know the annual report for the 2019-2020 Church Year has been produced. If you're reading this on our website and have not received the report over email, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send one to you. May the Spirit keep all our eyes open to how He has been at work in our midst!
I have another positive giving report to share with you. On behalf of our staff, missionaries and leadership, thank you for your ongoing generosity. Our provisional budget required $20,000 for the two week period including April 19 & 26. We received $17,193. Because of a generous Easter offering, we are currently $623 ahead one month into this fiscal year. May God bless your faith in giving!
This Sunday please join our live stream at 10:30 a.m. as we think about the reign of Jesus Christ. We will be back into the Gospel of Luke. After spending April “flashing forward” to the resurrection appearances, now we take ourselves back to the days leading up to the crucifixion. Jesus is teaching in the temple courts. His adversaries have been trying to stump Him with questions, but have failed miserably in their attempts to discredit him.
Now, Jesus has a question of His own. With this question, he stumps them. But more than that, Jesus is triggering their thinking and ours. He is moving us toward an elevated view of His person and reign over all things. I look forward to sharing that with you. Read ahead in Luke 20:41-44.
How many of you have ever owned a pair of Nikes? "Nike" is the Greek word for victory. “Nikao” is the verb to have victory or to conquer. Going back to where we started in this email, that's what Jesus says in John 16:33. “Take heart; I have overcome (nikao) the world.’’ In other words, I understand Jesus is telling us, “Don’t lose heart. Take heart. Let your heart be strong and filled with faith. I have victory over the world system. I have conquered and nothing will subvert my Kingdom.”
Christ is on the throne. In the end, we will reign with Christ through eternity.
In His Love,
April 23, 2020
Dear Bethel Grace,
This week we are experiencing a change in the weather. It is heating up and getting very hot. This corresponds to a mounting frustration and angst that is growing in the world around us.
It was six weeks ago today that COVID-19 took the United States by storm. We’ve been “sheltering at home” for 42 days. Forty. Two. Days. And it appears we will be called to do so for several more weeks. The stress and frustration of it all is increasing. We want to get back to the free and open way of life we cherish. We want workplaces open and the economy rolling. We want to worship gathered with people in a location away from the living room. And, we want to mitigate the spread of a terrible virus.
The perspectives are varied. The passion is surging. In the midst of all of this, I am praying that we will all keep our hearts on what is sure, that God is on His throne. His love is steadfast and sure (Lamentations 3:22-23). His wisdom is beyond our searching out (Romans 11:33-36). He is at work in all of this for our good and growth in Christ (Romans 8:28-29). As Paul encouraged the church in Philippi, we shine like stars in the darkened sky as we deny ourselves the inward compulsion toward murmuring, and when we serve others with Christ-like love instead. Praise God, He gives us not only the ability but also the desire to live this way (See Philippians 2:1-16).
I was encouraged to see a post on our Facebook BGBC Private Page this week. Our sister Janelle Powers asked the church about practical ways they are seeking to show hospitality and service to neighbors. It was great seeing the varied responses. Praise God for how Bethel Gracers are searching for ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus in their sphere of influence. Amen, and may the Lord continue to give ideas, energy and follow through.
We appreciate your prayers as we anticipate entering into the first of the President’s three “open up phases.” He has provided guidelines for easing the “shelter at home” order. You can find those guidelines and phases in the link if you are interesting in reading them. They will be applied at the state level across the nation. I understand that our governor is looking for a sustained two week downward trajectory of diagnoses and hospitalizations before entering phase one. That phase will allow places of worship to open again for public gatherings with social distancing measures. Pray for us as we do all the planning required to accommodate such distancing and to allow people to come assemble together without concern of contracting the virus.
Meanwhile, God's Word goes forth and ministries continue. Thank you for being a part of the Sunday morning live stream each week. I am also thankful for the content being produced by different staff and leaders at Bethel Grace. Pastor Chris has been releasing two teaching videos weekly, one to our Doxa Youth Ministry and another to our Agape Young Adults. Lisa has been releasing a children’s ministry teaching video each Sunday morning. Some Sunday Bible Communities and Home Fellowship Groups are meeting online with the Zoom internet resource. If you are interested in participating in one of those, please let me know in a reply to this email.
This Sunday we will continue in our “ALIVE AGAIN” April series in the Gospel of John. This week we will be in John 21 with a message titled “Restored by the Risen Lord.” We will see the Lord’s special attention upon Simon Peter, who had recently denied knowing Christ three times. Previously wracked with guilt, Peter is now restored and renewed by the grace of Jesus. What an encouragement to all of us who know what it is to fall short in so many aspects of our walk with Christ.
Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help you, your family, or your neighbors during these strange days. God IS AT WORK in us. He will cause us to will and to work for His good pleasure. Through His Spirit-filled church, He sheds light in a dark world. Let’s be sensitive and obedient to His prompting.
See you soon,
APRIL 16, 2020
Dear Bethel Grace,
Over the last week we’ve listened with interest as the coronavirus measures continue to unfold.
Last week the state of California extended its shelter at home directive until Friday, May 15. That’s a full month away. On Tuesday the governor laid out a checklist of six indicators that will signal the ability to modify the stay at home order. He said that there is no precise timeline, but that he does not foresee mass gatherings (groups of 100s, 1,000s, or 10,000s) happening in June or July. When smaller gatherings are able to resume, things will look different. There will be fewer tables in restaurants and waiters will be in face coverings. Classrooms will be reconfigured and opened with smaller capacity.
These things have the attention of our church’s leadership and staff. Pray with us as we consider what Sundays at Bethel Grace may look like in the months ahead. Picture multiple Sunday services, each with plenty of space between those in attendance. Picture the people gathered wearing face masks. Picture hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the property. Picture cleaning and disinfecting happening through the day.
But better still: picture joy in the Lord that cannot be hindered. Picture loving smiles under those face coverings. Picture hearts warm with fellowship. Picture minds engaged in God’s Word. Picture hearts and hands lifted in praise. Picture pews being occupied again. Picture the body of Christ joined in worship. Picture new people introduced to the church through our live stream now showing up in person.
We are brainstorming with you. We are trying to anticipate how things will be so that we can prepare accordingly. Through it all, our eyes are on the Living God. Though times, circumstances, styles and seasons change, our God remains the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the sovereign Lord. He does not change. He is the everlasting rock. He is our peace, our stability and our firm foundation. We worship him!
Thank you, Bethel Grace, for your amazing generosity. We are now into our provisional budget for the 2020-2021 church year. It’s similar to last year’s budget, slightly increased for inflation. A congregational vote to approve this budget will occur when the church membership is able to gather for a business meeting again. Even with the new budget set in place as the framework, we have not implemented increases in spending.
That being the case, thank you for your continued giving. As you can see in this report, giving is above budget for the first two weeks of the church year.
Offerings for April 5 & 12, 2020
$100 Summer camp
Thank you for a wonderful Easter offering. I can assure you that church staff is working as hard as ever, that missionaries and local outreaches appreciate our ongoing financial support, and we are so blessed to be able to own and maintain the property that God has given us. Thank you!
This Sunday we will continue in our “ALIVE AGAIN” April series in the Gospel of John. This week the risen Christ appears to “doubting Thomas.” That’s how we remember him, right? But is that moniker fair? As we will see in John 20, Thomas gave the most robust confession of the deity of Christ in the Gospel of John. This story is filled with power to help us be men and women of bold, strong, steadfast faith in the Messiah.
Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help you, your family, or your neighbors during these strange days. God IS AT WORK in the midst of them. People are tuning in to the things of Christ. May the Lord lift our hearts in faith.
For the elders,
April 9, 2020
This is a difficult season. Praise God He is seated with power on His throne of grace. As a ministry friend of mine pointed out, “The Trinity did not have an emergency meeting over the coronavirus.” His good and glorious purpose is at work also in the midst of frustrating and painful circumstances. The Living God presides over this. It's in His plan and under His control. He is close to us, with His love, forming and fashioning us through the trial. I pray this update finds you abiding in the mercy and power of our Lord.
Here is the latest from Bethel Grace in view of all things COVID-19.
Due to the orders coming from our president, governor and local authorities, the Bethel Grace campus remains closed to ministry gatherings and events until May 15, 2020.
We are live-streaming a time of worship every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on our YouTube page.
Our BGBC Private Page is the best place to share personal prayer requests and check in on how others are doing.
Projections indicate that the weeks in front of us will be the most difficult in terms of coronavirus spread. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, or are sick in any other way, we want to pray with you and to help however we can. You can let us know in a reply to this email. Let’s also diligently pray for hospital and health care workers into the days and weeks ahead.
If you are beginning to experience acute financial need because of loss of wages, we want to know and may be able to help.
A team of Bethel Grace volunteers remains on standby for anyone who needs help gaining resources. They are prepared to shop and make deliveries. Thomas Nishimoto and Sierra Woods can be reached at (562) 445-0187 as they coordinate the effort. Please reach out if you have any needs.
Here is the Bethel Grace giving report for the last week of March and the end of our 2019-2020 church year. We saw a marked increase in giving compared to previous weeks. Week 52 received a total of $7,665 given to the $9,615 weekly requirement. We finished the church year at $494,718 modest 1.1% under our $500,000 annual budget. We are grateful for all that has been contributed!
Your continued faithfulness and generosity is needed and appreciated. Please find "giving" at www.bethelgrace.org for the various methods of giving to the Lord’s work with Bethel Grace.
The ministry staff of Bethel Grace continues to work hard. There has been no need to scale back hours or pay at this point. That being the case, some members of our administrative office staff have chosen to take leave during the stay home order. Pastors and ministry directors have continued in their ministry efforts without interruption. Moving ministry online and working from home has required adjustments but we are thankful to remain busy in His service.
Typically the Lord’s Supper is served the first Sunday of the month. We will resume the celebration of the communion when the church is gathered in person.
Easter Sunday draws close. A brief series in the Gospel of John called “Alive Again” will begin this Sunday. It's based on Palm Sunday and the resurrection appearances of Christ. The power of Christ released into the lives of Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, "Doubting" Thomas, and Simon Peter will be relevant in their portrayal of His power and authority for us. We are also planning a series of live-stream devotionals that we'll call "Good Friday in Real Time." Different Bethel Grace teachers will live stream on our Facebook page at critical points through the day, reminding us what was happening to the Lord at that time.
Many churches have seen a spike in their online viewership. People everywhere are logging on to video services. A number of you have informed us that you have friends and family members watching. Amen to that! Moving into this very special month, remember the Gospel of John was written “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:21).” Pray with me that this April series will be used to reach new people for Christ and to build up the church. Please share our YouTube page with the people in your life.
The Lord will continue to be our strength, Bethel Grace! He is our refuge, our shelter and the rock upon which we are built. We hold fast the confession of our hope, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).
In His Love,
March 24, 2020
Dear Bethel Grace,
Greetings from the Bethel Grace Elders and Staff! I hope this message finds you feeling well and resting in the power, providence and love of God.
Not much has changed since the last update during this “COVID-19 Season.” For now, I want to give several important reminders. I also want to provide the giving report typically printed on the back of the Sunday bulletin.
- All “in-person” Sunday services and ministry programs at Bethel Grace are cancelled until April 19th in accordance with state and local orders.
- A time of worship will be live streamed each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. It was a joy to go back and observe the greetings and encouragement during the service! Let us continue to worship together!
- We want to help any members of the Bethel Grace family in need. Thomas Nishimoto and Sierra Woods are spearheading the effort for anyone who needs help gaining resources. They are coordinating a team that is prepared to shop and make deliveries. Thomas and Sierra can be reached at (562) 445-0187. Please reach out if you have any needs.
- If you are sick, or diagnosed with COVID-19, we want to know and to pray for you.
- If you are beginning to experience acute financial need because of loss of wages, we want to know and may be able to help.
- The situation is fluid. Our elders are gathering weekly by teleconference to evaluate and seek God’s wisdom.
Here is the giving report for the last two weeks.
As you can see, a combined total of $2,974 was given to our general fund over the two week period, which averages just under $1,500 per week. This level of giving is much lower than usual and needed. Given the circumstances, it’s not unexpected. However, if giving remains this low for an extended period, difficult decisions will need to be made in relation to ministries, missionaries and Bethel Grace staff.
This Sunday is the 52nd and final Sunday of the 2019-2020 church fiscal year. Your generosity is appreciated to help us finish the year on budget. Checks may still be sent to the Bethel Grace office, but online giving is appreciated during this season if at all possible. Please direct all offerings to the Bethel Grace General Fund.
As we continue to heed the “Safer at Home” ordinance, the need for faith, patience and endurance will become increasingly important. Praise God, this is the work the Holy Spirit in us. Among other things, the fruit of the Spirit is patience, the ability to endure hard times (and hard people!), with strength and joy in the Lord.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.“
May the Spirit of God continue to bring the harvest in your life!
For the elders,
March 20, 2020
Dear Bethel Grace,
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Praise God for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. By the gracious gift of God in Christ, even sinners like us are now counted among “the righteous.” Whatever is happening in the world, we can be glad in the Lord. We have a Savior whose love is beyond measure. He is with us, and He will be praised even in the midst of a pandemic.
Here is the latest in view of COVID-19.
As stated earlier this week, we are doing all that we can to comply with the guidance and instruction coming from national and local health care specialists and governing authorities. From the president of these United States to L.A. county officials, we are operating in the mind that God has positioned them and empowered them for the common good of us all (see Romans 13:1-7).
On March 19, L.A. County issued the “Safer at Home” public health order. We advise you to read it and to take it seriously. We are called by God to be submissive and humble citizens in the land we live. It honors the Lord when His people are gracious and helpful in the public arena. And our compliance is an expression of love toward anyone who might become seriously sick from the continued spread this virus.
As far as Bethel Grace is concerned, the order prohibits any public or private gatherings more than 10 people. This is in effect until April 19th. All “in-person” Sunday services and ministry programs at Bethel Grace are cancelled until that time. We are still regarding the situation as fluid as each day seems to introduce to information. Our elders will gather to reevaluate on a weekly basis, even if we are now exploring online ways to meet.
The good news is we can continue to provide the Sunday morning live stream with a team of 10 people. And that’s what we plan to do! We will continue to live stream a time of worship in the Sundays ahead at 10:30 a.m. I look forward to opening Luke 20 with you once again. We will see the unparalleled wisdom of our Messiah in Luke 20:19-26. I find this familiar passage to hold great relevance for our situation. “Live-chat” will be enabled during the stream, so be sure to greet one another and type your AMENS! We will worship the Lord with gathered hearts, if not with gathered bodies. The Spirit will continue to join us together in the bond of faith.
A few more details:
There is a graveside service is being held tomorrow, March 21st, for our sister in Christ, June Furry. It’s scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at Forest Lawn Cypress. Forest Lawn is under the same 10 person restriction for all gatherings, indoor and outdoor. So we are asking that Bethel Grace people NOT attend. However, if you have a memory or tribute about June on your heart, please send it to me in a reply to this email. I’d love to share it with her family.
We want to help any members of the Bethel Grace family in need. Working with our deacons and deaconesses, Thomas Nishimoto and Sierra Woods are spearheading the effort for anyone who needs help gaining resources. They will mobilize a team of people that has come forward to help with shopping, deliveries etc. Thomas and Sierra can be reached at (562) 445-0187. Again, your deacons, deaconesses and others want to help. Please reach out if you have any needs.
Finally, if you have not joined the social media platform of Facebook, now might be the time. Many Bethel Gracers are there. We have a group called “BGBC Private Page” where we share encouragement, support and any needs. After creating a Facebook profile, please follow this link and give it a try as a way to stay in touch.
"Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous!" If you are in Christ, you are going to outlast anything this fallen world throws your way. And He will help you keep your head and heart in His peace in the midst of it. Let's ask God for more of His Spirit's power in us to shine with the light of Lord in this shaken world.
March 17, 2020
Dear Bethel Grace,
Praise God for all He is to us and for us. He is our strength. He is our shield. He is our refuge. He is our shepherd, carrying us forever, which most certainly includes times such as these.
Here is the latest from the Bethel Grace elders in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are doing all that we can to comply with the guidance and instruction coming to us from national and local health care specialists and governing authorities. We are operating in the mind that God has positioned them and empowered them for the common good of us all (see Romans 13:1-7).
We advise you to heed the call for social distancing. Our president has urged upon us the seriousness of the situation. We take him at his word. As of March 16, L.A. County has issued an order to prohibit gatherings of 50 or more. President Trump also urged yesterday that people not gather in groups of 10 or more for the next two weeks. These requests complicate things for each local church ministry, including ours. The elders and ministry staff of Bethel Grace greatly appreciate your prayer as we seek adjustments that will allow ministries to continue. Our elders are planning to reach out to you by phone this week to hear how you’re doing and what your needs are.
All “in-person” Sunday services and ministry programs at Bethel Grace remain cancelled for the month of March. We are regarding the situation as fluid. Our elders will gather to reevaluate on a weekly basis. But be advised this may very well extend into, if not through, the month of April.
We will continue to livestream a time of worship in the Sundays ahead at 10:30 a.m. Sunday’s livestream service was well received and helpful to the many who voiced their feedback. “Live-chat” will be enabled during the stream, so be sure to greet one another and type your AMENS!
This week’s Life Touch directory photo sessions are cancelled. You will be receiving automated phone calls from Life Touch reminding you of this week’s scheduled appointments. IGNORE THEM. They were set up at a prior time and could not be undone. We have rescheduled all appointments, at the same weekday and time, for June 2-6.
To the parents and families of youth and children in our church, be looking for messages from Pastor Chris and Lisa. They are working hard on ways to adjust student ministries and AWANA in view of the requirements of the day. Likewise, Pastor David will be in touch with our music ministries providing pertinent updates.
Pray for Easter weekend. We are thinking through ways to approach that high holiday, and we know the Spirit will fill our hearts with resurrection joy one way or the other.
One challenge we face pertains to the special business meeting scheduled for March 29, 2020. This was to be our meeting for approving the budget and officers (elder, deacon, deaconess and church clerk) for the next church year, beginning April 1. According to the provision for emergency conditions in Article V, Section 4 of our church bylaws, our elders will implement the 2020-2021 church budget provisionally on April 1, 2020. We will hold a church vote on the same budget as soon as circumstances allow. Further, we will extend the tenure of Elder Jeff Coulter, who was due to rotate off of board, until new elders are voted on. We will invite the involvement of elder candidates Bob Lamm and Darrel Nishimoto with ex-officio status until their nominations can be affirmed by the church. Our hope is to affirm the budget and officer candidates at our annual meeting planned for April 26, if that meeting can happen. We will also present candidates for a membership vote at that time.
For all who are part of a Sunday Bible Community studying “The Gospel Project,” it will stay on its calendar course when groups meet again. In the meantime, leaders will send out weekly teaching emails for connection and those precious "fill in the blanks."
As for a few more odds and ends, all food related events for March & April will be canceled (including Pot Luck Heaven 2 and our Fish Taco fest). The "Here Below" youth talent show likely to be rescheduled in late May
This Saturday a graveside service is being held for our sister in Christ, June Furry. It’s scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at Forest Lawn Cypress.
Given the guidelines from government officials to work from home as much as possible, we will reduce our office presence. Please contact any staff member by email if we can help you in any way. See the staff page at bethelgrace.org for addresses.
The financial needs of the ministry will continue through this season. We appreciate your continued faithfulness and generosity in giving. Gifts may be given in multiple ways. Find our online giving at www.bethelgrace.org or mail checks to Bethel Grace Baptist Church, 17909 Carpintero Ave., Bellflower CA, 90706.
We will continue to be the church, spreading grace and truth, lifting up worship and prayer, and providing the perspective of God’s Word in ways appropriate to the time of trial we are in. Please continue to live as an ambassador for Christ!
For the elders,
March 12, 2020
Dear Bethel Grace Family –
Here is the latest on the state- and nationwide coronavirus emergency as it pertains to Bethel Grace.
This week, our governor called for the cancellation of gatherings of 250 people or more and for smaller gatherings to be held only if “social distancing” of six feet between people can be maintained. Furthermore, the mayor of Los Angeles called for the cancelation of gatherings of 50 people or more. These measures are consistent with our president’s declaration of national emergency.
Out of a sense of love and concern for the health of our family and our neighbors, we will not hold a gathered morning worship service this weekend, Sunday March 15. Further, Sunday services will be cancelled for the rest of the month of March. We will keep you informed of any changes or developments on a week by week basis.
Please understand that this is not a capitulation to a government sanction hindering the worship of our God. This is compliance to a wider effort to reduce and eradicate a rapidly spreading disease. This is with concern for the health of our church family, and with a humble spirit receiving the guidance of health care officials. This decision has been made with input and counsel from pastors and churches of kindred heart.
Meanwhile, the Word of God goes forth. Our ministry team will gather to lead an online Sunday morning worship time for us all to participate in. Please plan to gather Sunday morning with your family and any friends you might feel able to invite into your home. Log on to our Bethel Grace Live Stream YouTube Page at 10:30 a.m. We will sing praises, dig into the Word, and praise Jesus together that way.
To access the live stream, go to www.bethelgrace.org. Find “RESOURCES” on the top bar. Under RESOURCES, go to “SUNDAY LIVE STREAM.” It will take you to our YouTube page where the stream of the service begins at 10:30 a.m. I look forward to seeing you there, Sunday morning. I hope you will chime in on the comments and give greetings to others. Maybe even a few “Amens?!”
Here are some additional measures and reminders:
The church office will remain open and ready to serve you. Please keep us informed of any prayer requests or needs you have by calling the church office at 562-804-4561 or by emailing email@example.com.
Through March, all Sunday morning and midweek programs, including Sunday Bible Communities, Doxa, Men’s Fellowship, AWANA, Choir, and Agape are cancelled. Home fellowship small groups may meet at the discretion of their leaders.
This Sunday night’s “Here Below” Doxa youth ministry talent showcase and coffeehouse is postponed. We hope to hold that wonderful event as soon as circumstances allow. More on that as developments unfold.
We are contacting Life Touch Directory administrators to reschedule this week’s photo sessions at a later time. Photo sessions will not take place next week.
Please take advantage of the resources and updates to be posted on our church website and social media pages, including Facebook and Instagram. There are opportunities there to communicate with people online.
We want to know if you find yourself sick, quarantined or restricted in any way. We want to pray for you and help any way we can.
We welcome you to contact us if this season of quarantine causes you financial hardship. We may be able to help.
We encourage your ministry to family, friends and neighbors who are fearful or struggling with the stress of these days. We are praying for you as you engage your sphere of influenced lives (SOIL). If you think they would like to communicate with a pastor or church leader, let us know.
The financial needs of the ministry will continue through this season. We appreciate your continued faithfulness and generosity in giving. Gifts may be made through our website at www.bethelgrace.org or mailed to Bethel Grace Baptist Church, 17909 Carpintero Ave., Bellflower CA, 90706.
The elders and staff of Bethel Grace will continue to work hard in their efforts to provide care and guidance for us all. Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns.
This is a time of adjustment, but even more it’s a time of ministry as ambassadors of Christ in a shaken world. Let’s all look for opportunities to reach out to people in ways appropriate for the time. May the Lord give us all His peace that surpasses all understanding! Christ is here, seeing us through every step of the way!
In His Love,