Coronavirus Update

Please continue to reference this page for the latest devotional updates, encouragements, and guidelines for attending services on Sunday. We will provide updates weekly.

IF YOU PLAN TO ATTEND

Please Follow These Safety Measures

  1. Wear a face covering (3 years of age and up; more on this below).
  2. Maintain social distancing of at least six (6) feet at all times.
  3. Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer.
  4. Stay home if you or anyone in your household has felt unwell, has a cough or shortness of breath, has had a temperature of 100.4 or higher in the last 24 hours, or have come in contact with anyone confirmed to have COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
  5. Please refrain from hugging, shaking hands, high-fives, or other forms of physical contact with those outside your household.
  6. To allow us to pray and to support contact tracing that may be appropriate, we request each member who tests positive for COVID-19 to inform the church staff as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please reach out to a member of the staff.

Face Covering Guidelines

We are asking that everyone 3 years of age and older wear a face-covering throughout their entire visit while indoors on our campus. Those with preexisting medical conditions, children 2 years of age and under, and those who would have difficulty putting on and taking off a face covering are exempt from this requirement. Please contact our staff with inquiries about this guideline.

We’ll let you know if this current safety measure changes.

to our guests

We are eager to welcome you on Sunday! We currently set aside a few seats for those who are new to visiting CLC, and we will do our best to accommodate you. If you are able to join us, please do complete an “Introduce Yourself” card either online or by filling out a card in-person (notify a greeter if you completed a card, or drop it off in our offering boxes). We have a gift for you just for filling out the card. Simply let a greeter or member of the staff know, and we’ll make sure you receive it before you leave.

When you arrive…

  1. Please arrive between 9:45-10:00 am.
  2. Please find a greeter (they will be looking for you). Greeters will help you find a seat. If you’re new to CLC, they will also help you discover more about our church and our campus. Please stop by the information table to grab some free resources during your visit.
  3. Once in the building, please use the hand sanitizer provided for you at the entrances.
  4. Be encouraged to fellowship with those around you while ensuring that you keep a safe distance of at least six (6) feet from others.
  5. Once seated, please remain in your seat until the conclusion of the service. If you need to use the restroom, please use the restrooms assigned to your building. We are limiting usage to one person per restroom to help you reduce close-contact with others. 

A few more things

  1. We have created a “wiggle room” for young children in EDU room 101. This room is simply a way to serve young children (with one accompanying parent) who need a few minutes to release energy, eat a snack, or gather their composure. Face coverings are required for this space, and we ask that no more than five children be present in the room at a time.
  2. The coffee bar will remain closed. If you’d like to bring a water container, you are welcomed to do so.
  3. Parents are asked to keep an extra close watch over their children.
  4. There is a box designated for offerings located in both the Main Hall and East Hall. We are not currently passing offering plates during our service.

October 8, 5:30 pm update

DEVOTIONAL

Church family,

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

According to God, through the writings of Paul, joy is always possible because of Christ. “Rejoicing always” presupposes an “always joy” to be had. While most of us would not argue against “all things are possible in Christ” logic, a study of our hearts during difficult seasons may reveal unbelief. Do you believe and experience the “continual (always) joy” during hardships and trials? This certainly doesn’t mean that we won’t walk through valleys of grief, brokenness, struggle, and darkness. No, the Bible is clear that following Christ in a fallen world ensures these valleys. Likewise, the Bible is clear: regardless of the mountain or the valley, there is a joy available to all who trust, believe in, and walk with Christ.

Writing from prison in Philippians 4:4, Paul repeats himself for clarity: in all of life, rejoice. This means that there is a “continual (always) joy” for our lives. One pastor helpfully commented that we should “never settle for a God who cannot satisfy you in a prison cell.”

Philippians unpacks Paul’s apologetic for “continual (always) joy,” and I trust it will serve us as we seek to remain anchored in the “continual (always) joy” that Christ provides. He states in 1:20-21 that joy was constant in his life because nothing could take Christ from him. Even the worst possible thing, earthly speaking, death, would usher him into the presence of his joy (Rom 8:37).

Paul didn’t stumble on joy in Christ because he couldn’t find it elsewhere. Philippians 3:5-6 reminds us that he tasted earthly pleasures deeply, but when Jesus saved him, he surrendered a life of shallow, earthly joy for a life anchored in deep, abiding joy (Phil 3:7-8). When Paul found the pearl of great price, all other pearls suddenly faded in color. His love for the things this world promises (comfort, ease, prosperity, and self-interest) gave way to a more profound love that would keep him afloat during the hardships of life (2 Cor 11:25-27).

If you’ve lost much, let Christ dazzle you, thus reminding you that He is far superior to what has been lost. If you have much, let Christ dazzle you, thus reminding you that He is far superior to everything you have. Rejoice in the Lord. Because of Christ, we never have to be without joy again!

LATEST COVID CONSIDERATIONS

This past Sunday provided a sweet grace for our church family as we saw a handful of children and volunteers return to our CLK classrooms. With increased precautions and safety measures in place, we continue to prayerfully take steps towards resuming our efforts of providing age-specific, biblical instruction to our children. As a reminder, if you would like for your child/children to participate in CLK during October, please RSVP online. If you are willing to serve our children and their families during these phased reopenings, please email Jenny. As we continue to plan the next steps that we will take as a church family to resuming our ministries and gatherings, here is a glimpse into some of our planning.

  1. Continued Sunday evenings. We have explained in past COVID updates our rationale for reserving the ordinances for those times that we can all gather together, literally coming together in one place at one time together. Our Sunday morning service does not provide us with that option as we are continuing to maintain social distancing measures. As long as we continue to live stream our service in the East Hall, we understand that to mean multiple gatherings. As such, the ordinances should not be administered during those times. This means that we will continue our once-a-month Sunday evening gatherings to sing, hear from God’s word, listen to testimonies, and observe the ordinances. We are hopeful that baptism will happen regularly because we are prayerful that many will follow Him in obedience through faith and repentance. Join us, Sunday evening (Oct 25) for our evening gathering (time TBD).
  2. Sunday morning accommodations to participate in services. After initially opening the office building to provide overflow seating, we realized that it was more beneficial to keep everyone located in the Main and East Halls for worship services. Therefore, it is our plan to fill the Main Hall and East Hall to capacity each week. If we maximize our capacity in both venues, we will begin to responsibly fill in empty pews (seat individuals in the center of the pews) in the Main Hall as needed. We will continue to maintain social distancing of 6 feet in the East Hall. Since masks are required inside our facilities, this new accommodation in the Main Hall continues to comply with local city ordinances and requests (Executive Order 2020-30 states that masks are required in any indoor location, other than a home or residence, when not maintaining social distancing of at least six feet from other persons).
  3. Livestream disappearing, eventually. We have written previously on our convictions about why live streaming our services is not a viable, long-term strategy. We do praise God for the gap it has filled during these extraordinary circumstances. While we do not have a specific date in mind yet, we are planning to remove our service’s live stream to the general public. What will this mean? It means that our Main Hall will return to primarily accommodating the in-person participants by removing cameras and special lighting, providing lyrics via screens and not booklets, and mixing the audio for the benefit of those in person as opposed to those online. Most importantly, with a full return to the Main Hall, we will avoid encouraging a violation of Hebrews 10:23-25 in our ministry practices. For our members who are continuing to quarantine, we are prepared to provide a password-protected link for a real-time ability to participate in the services. Our sermons will continue to be made available online after our services for all to listen to.


Please pray for the elders as we seek to prayerfully chart a course for God’s glory and good. Please pray for the staff and our deacons—that we would serve the church in how we execute the charted course. I pray that you can feel how we are seeking to serve and consider our church family in these decisions. Thank you for your support thus far.

Lastly, I wanted to say “thank you” for the Christ-like tone and unity displayed in our first churchwide discussion on race and racial reconciliation. I praise God for a spirit of love, transparency, and openness. May this continue in the days ahead in our conversations and relationships with others. Love requires us to love, listen, and move towards one another. May that mark CLC for generations to come. We have the privilege of laying a God-honoring foundation for this!

I love you. You are prayed for.

By Christ’s wounds and for His glory,

-Justin

September 20 Outdoor Gathering 

We are gathering together Sunday at 6:30 pm to celebrate and observe the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper.

Church family and other guests,

What a joy it will be to gather together Sunday evening! Our elders and staff have earnestly been praying for this service and you. We have asked God that many of you would come. We’ve also petitioned Him for this service to be refreshing, encouraging, and celebratory. What a joy it will be to see and enjoy pictures of the gospel on display as the baptism waters stir, and what a reminder of grace it will be to commune together in commemorating Christ’s death. We’re thankful for the space afforded to us on our property to do this outdoors safely. We hope many of you will join together for this gathering of the saints of CLC.

We wanted to share some important details with you about the gathering. For those who attended the gathering in August, the experience will mainly be the same.


Here is what you need to know.

  • When to arrive

    • We suggest arriving around 6:15 pm.
    • Park in any of the paved lots. Do not park in the grass lot.
  • Social distancing

    • You must maintain a distance of at least six (6) feet between you and other parties.
  • Masks

    • We encourage all attendees to bring a mask, even if you plan not to wear one during the service.
    • Masks will be required if you need to use the restroom facilities.
  • Seating

    • There will be two sections available in which you may sit. Each section will be marked by a large grid covering most of the field. Please follow the protocols for each section.

      • Mask only

        • Proceed to the grass lot by walking on Empedrado. From there, a masked usher will direct you to your seating zone. Greeters will be present to show you where to go.
        • A greeter will help you find a place to sit. Please maintain social distancing while seated in the field.
        • Bathrooms for this section are exclusively located in the office building. Limit bathroom usage to one-person/family unit at a time. Please wear a mask while indoors.
        • Please remain in the mask-only section. If you have any questions or needs, find a greeter who can help you.
      • Mask optional

        • Proceed to the grass lot by walking toward the playground on the south side of the building. Greeters will be present to show you where to go.
        • Bathrooms for this section are exclusively located in the East Hall. Limit bathroom usage to one-person/family unit at a time. Please wear a mask while indoors.
        • A greeter will help you find a place to sit. Please maintain social distancing while seated in the field.
        • Please remain in the mask-optional section. If you have any questions, find a greeter who can help you.
  • What to bring

    • Your phone — you will need it to access hymn lyrics and the congregational response to welcome new members.
    • Hat/sunglasses (if you desire)
    • Chair and/or blanket to sit on. We will provide chairs for those in need.
    • Bug spray (if you desire).
    • Be encouraged to bring a face mask.
  • Distribution of the Lord’s Supper

    • The elements will be available at the entrances and a few spots surrounding the seating areas on tables. Avoid gathering in groups to retrieve the elements, and please remain clear of the tables once you have the elements. If you have any questions, find an usher who can help you.

Again, we’re so excited to gather together Sunday evening at 6:30 pm. If you have any questions, please reach out to a member of the staff at your earliest convenience.

See you Sunday

September 3, 4:30 pm UPDATE

This update contains a devotional about steadfastly remaining in gospel-centered community, ministry updates, and important news about our Sunday protocols during September.

DEVOTIONAL

Beloved,

Romans 12:10 provides a framework for helping us understand what we mean when speaking of living together in gospel-centered community. Living in gospel-centered community means that we commit to, love, and selflessly consider one another in light of the gospel. It certainly involves more than that, but it can’t mean anything less.

If you seek to live in this kind of selfless, others-pursuing community for any time, you eventually realize that meaningful community isn’t perfect, and it regularly misses the mark. We’re not immune to being offended, experiencing disappointment and failure, misunderstanding others (and being misunderstood ourselves), suspicion, jealousy, covetousness, selfish ambition, gossip, slander, impatience, and the sinful judgments of others. Not only are we sinned against, but we are often equally guilty of sinning against others in these ways. Because we’re imperfect, it is good to remember that conflict is something God uses to build unconditional love for one another. As one author stated, “Conflict is the construction area where humility is built. It is the radiology department where pride is exposed. It is the field where our treasure is unearthed. It is a discipline God uses to make us holy and bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

As we faithfully commit to one another through genuine love, God uses our conflict to teach us “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another” (Eph 4:1-2). Forbearing and forgiving others put the beauty of Jesus’ gracious love on display for us. Through the difficult moments in community, God often leads us toward the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3). I pray that each of us would pursue the promise of gospel-centered community by purposing to love one another when conflict arises. I praise God for the countless evidence of grace that marks CLC in this way, and I pray for even more grace in the days ahead.

UPDATES

  1. For our latest ministry-related updates, check the Spotlight each week. The Spotlight is sent out via email and social media every Wednesday.
  2. Our live stream will continue through September. You can access it each Sunday at 10:00 am on our Facebook page and at covenantlifetampa.org/live. Services begin at 10:15 am.
  3. Masks continue to be required indoors during the month of September. Those exempt from this measure are children two (2) years of age and under, and those requiring a medical exemption. Please contact the staff with any questions.
  4. Those who indicated their desire to join our worship services in-person will receive an email each week detailing their seating location. Because of the recent increase in attendance over the past several weeks, we anticipate that the process of seating people will fluctuate. Please check your email often throughout the week for any updates to these procedures.
  5. Our safety measures are listed on our website at covenantlifetampa.org/coronavirus-update/. Please check that page before visiting each week and contact our staff with any questions.
  6. We have begun using Planning Center Online (PCO) to schedule greeter, bookstall, audio, and media volunteer positions. If you have indicated you would like to serve, please check PCO to accept serving invitations and block out dates when you will not be available.

UNDERSTANDING THE UPDATES

Over the last several months, we have prayerfully interpreted the information surrounding COVID-19 and then planned accordingly with our church’s interest in mind. When many decisions need to be made in a relatively short amount of time, we know that a gap can emerge between the dilemma and the decision. To foster unity and remove ambiguity, we want to share the following plans with you.

  • Multiple rooms are open for our worship services. The pandemic has caused us to enact extraordinary measures regarding our worship services. We believe that God’s design to gather churches for worship does not include separating the church into different times and spaces. Therefore, our measures to live stream our service are temporary and will conclude once we can gather as we did before COVID-19. In the meantime, we have three spaces on campus (Main Hall, East Hall, and our Office Building) for you to participate in the Sunday service with your faith family and others.
  • A word about social distancing capacity. Each week, the number of members and visitors attending our service continues to grow, causing us to keep a careful eye toward our social distancing capacity. This is where your survey input will help us tremendously. As we continue to grow closer to our max seating capacity in each of the spaces, we realize that we may have to change our scheduling or seating plans for this month. We will keep you posted if any changes are warranted.

I want to encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities to come together for our services. Even when you are seated where you do not prefer, consider others by being joyful in God in all things. Our community thrives when members believe that there is joy in selfless giving; this is the economy of God’s kingdom. Please fill out the survey emailed earlier this week to help us plan.

  • Opening up a wiggle room for toddlers. With the return of more families to our services, we believe it is helpful to have space for parents to take their toddlers during the service when the little ones become restless. This room is simply a way to serve young children (with one accompanying parent) who need a few minutes to release energy, eat a snack, or gather their composure. Masks are required for this space, and we ask that no more than five children be present in the room at a time. We hope that this service encourages more families to come to participate in our in-person services. The wiggle room is located in EDU room 101.

I want to encourage us to be graciously accommodating to families and young children who are participating in the service. Let the noises of young children be a welcomed sound in our services. Church, let’s not underestimate what Isaiah 55 says about God’s word that goes forth. Oh, that salvation would spring up in our children’s hearts as they sit under the preaching of God’s word!

  • Plans for a phased reopening of CLK in October. We have prayerfully discussed this for months and believe that we are nearing the time to partially reopen our CLK ministry. You will receive more information later this month about the different phases, new safety measures, and updated protocols for CLK. We want to learn all we can from watching how public and private schools handle reintegration. We also are in communication with several other local churches who have already opened up their children’s ministry to learn all we can. We understand that not all will want to participate in CLK right away, and that’s something we support as well.

I want to encourage you to please pray for wisdom and unity as we continue to watch, learn, and plan during this month. Also, pray for Jenny Fugler and the classroom coordinators as they diligently craft a plan to reopen CLK.

These days continue to be bittersweet for us. It has been such a joy to see many of you, yet it doesn’t feel complete as we cannot see all of you. By way of living out Philippians 2, for those attending in-person, let’s work to remember our brothers and sisters who are not present physically with us on Sundays. Let’s go out of our way to consider and love them. For those who are not yet attending our Sunday service, be encouraged to fight against sinful frustrations. Ask God to help you genuinely rejoice that others are participating in something that you desire for yourself. What a joy it is to do life together for such a moment as this. May God be glorified in our community. You are loved.

By Christ’s wounds and for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

August 13, 2:30 pm UPDATE

This update contains a devotional about God’s grace in making us His own, our latest ministry updates, and an update about the future of these emails.

DEVOTIONAL

Beloved,

We woke this morning, and one of the highest privileges facing us throughout our day is the opportunity to worship our God. When we come together corporately to listen and respond to God Himself, know that this access was not earned lightly. In fact, the opportunity to worship God is accomplished by the same means as our salvation is. Indeed, this has made the entirety of the Christian life possible. Ezekiel 11 captures this reality. Take some time to read this passage now.

What is stunning about this chapter is that it is situated amid one of the saddest, tragic, and mournful portions of scripture in the Old Testament (Ezekiel’s vision of the Spirit of God departing from the temple). Yet, this dark backdrop helps this passage serve as a giant spotlight that pierces through the darkest night. Ezekiel asks a question of God, “will You make a full end of the remnant of Israel?” God’s answer to that question is breathtaking in Ezekiel 11:19-20: “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

The answer to their sin was that God would give them a new heart. For their disobedience, He would cause them to walk in His ways. Mercifully, His attitude towards this rebellious and adulterous people was to be their God. This is why we can worship together and individually. This is the remedy for fearful souls, this is the hope for hearts that have grown cold to the things of God, and this is the security we have—in Christ, we will never be cast away. God is resolved to transform a people and make them His own. In Jesus Christ, this is precisely what He has done. Jesus didn’t come to commend or flatter friendly, respectable, upright people. The Light of the world pierced our darkness to transform our rebellious hearts to know Him and love Him. Brothers and sisters, each day, the opportunity to worship Him awaits. Each Lord’s Day, the privilege to gather together with other rescued and redeemed sinners awaits us. May we be found joyful in the Lord and faithful in His appointed means of grace.

LATEST UPDATES

  1. We are planning to continue our live-stream of our Sunday morning services throughout August and into September. We have prepared resources designed to help ready your heart before the Sunday service, and materials that will help children follow along throughout our time together. If you need any assistance with these resources or accessing the live-stream, please let us know. The live-stream feed will begin at 10:00 am in time for the 10:15 am start.
  2. We will host an outdoor Baptism and Lord’s Supper service this Sunday, August 16, at 7:00 pm. Please make plans to join us, and see the Spotlight for more information.
  3. If you did not complete the August survey and would like to attend a Sunday morning service, please reach out to the staff. All who indicated through the August survey that they desire to attend are invited to do so each week until further notice.
  4. To allow us to pray and to support contact tracing that may be appropriate, we request each member who tests positive for COVID-19 to inform the church staff as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please reach out to a member of the staff.
  5. We continue to require masks for those attending our Main Hall service and East Hall live-stream. Excluded individuals include those with underlying medical conditions (for inquiries, please contact the CLC staff) and children under two (2) years of age.
  6. Foundations continues this Sunday, August 16, at 9:00 am in the church offices and online. If you know someone who would like to be a part of this class, email cjackson@covenantlifetampa.org.
  7. Covenant Connections videoscontinue to be released every week. Please make the most of this opportunity to learn about other members, develop better relationships, and pray more precisely for them.

A PURPOSE FULFILLED

When we discovered how COVID-19 would disrupt our corporate gatherings, we understood that our Sunday rhythms would change. More significantly, the unique spiritual good that comes only from our corporate gatherings would be greatly missed. While teaching, singing, and praying can be facilitated online, our vision for this local church has never included that. We believe this because the grace experienced in a gathering isn’t only received by individuals, but is also produced through those who encourage, challenge, inspire, and serve others together. Who among us has not gathered with little joy only to be lifted up to proper heart posture through an interaction with a church member (Ps. 133:1)? Who among us hasn’t been filled with comfort having heard a sister sing triumphantly through her brokenness (Col. 3:16)? When we hear another brother pray over the church, even amidst a season of his own anxiety, who is not strengthened in their faith (Phil. 4:4-9)? Or, when seeing a brother visibly moved by the glories of Christ heralded from God’s word, who among us isn’t drawn to praise the living God (John 17:22)? Who among us hasn’t been inspired to faithfulness in evangelism by seeing the baptism waters stirred or called to repent of sin (or hold another accountable for their repentance) in taking the Lord’s Supper together (1 Cor. 11:29)?

This is a glimpse into the spiritual good that occurs weekly in our gatherings together. Once that was restricted due to COVID-19, we wanted to send weekly emails to encourage your heart to worship. We aimed to help you consider God’s word, update you on the latest happenings in the life of CLC, and keep God-glorifying exhortations before you. We pursued this as a way to maintain unity while our gatherings were suspended. We believe that in God’s mercy, He allowed these weekly updates to serve a useful purpose by reminding us of God’s hope for Covenant Life Church, and to keep us united in our endeavors to please Him with our lives.

While we long for a future day of resuming our regular gatherings together, God, in His kindness, has given us opportunities to gather in less restricted ways over the next few months. We are planning on hosting outdoor services once a month on Sunday evenings. As the weather changes later this year (albeit from hotter to slightly warm), we will consider hosting Sunday morning services outdoors. Thus, we believe that our corporate interactions will resume the spiritual good that God blesses us with when we gather together. Therefore, we will send out one COVID update email per month within the month’s first week. We pray it will serve the church in similar ways going forward.

Thank you for reading these updates the past few months and allowing us to pastor you, in part, from letters and emails. We long to be together again. We pray that this Sunday night will be a foretaste of that. It is a joy to be your pastors; to pray for you, labor on your behalf, equip you for ministry, weep with you, rejoice at God’s work in you, and walk this journey to glory with you. Thank you for the ways you pray for, trust, and follow us (as we follow Christ). To God be the glory in this church now and evermore!

By Christ’s wounds and for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

August 6, 2:30 pm UPDATE

This update contains a devotional about the God-ordained enduring nature of the church, our latest ministry updates, and an exhortation to gather with the church.

DEVOTIONAL

Dear church family,

Jesus’ church is unstoppable. Nations rise and fall, wars uproot and destroy, secular philosophies come and go, hostile opposition persecutes and rages, human pride boasts and flexes, pandemics spread and kill. But, His church remains.

Jesus put it this way, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it” (Matt. 16:18). There is no stopping what God is doing, no matter what might be happening. The glorious reality is that He invites us to participate in a harvest that He has already secured for Himself. 2020 began with much anticipation. Our year at CLC started with high hopes of celebrating a decade of God’s sustaining grace. Then COVID-19 struck our world, and what ensued can seem like a massive pause to the high hope of mission and joy found in following God. Yet, praise God that things are not always as they seem. When all around seems to slip, when normalcy is far off, and when brokenness comes in waves, we can agree with David at the end of Psalm 16 when he says, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

In this season of genuine suffering and loss, there is a special gift of grace hidden when we are stripped from what we are dependent on and distracted by. Even now, there is security and joy untouched by trials and disappointments. This is what David discovers in this psalm as he faces his own dangers, and this is the invitation to us. 

Covenant Life Church, there is one thing sure, dependable, and that always delivers: the perfect, unchangeable, immovable, faithful, loyal God who gives Himself to us for our good. We don’t know a fraction of what He is doing during this season. But, we do know that our well-being, satisfaction, and all that makes life worth living are found in Him. This is the God we cling to as the pandemic continues, and this is the God we worship and joyfully obey. He is sovereign over all and good in all. Because He has purposed it, His church remains. 

Take time to confess your doubt and hindrances to Him. Thank Him that His purposes will be accomplished through His church. 

LATEST UPDATES

  1. We are planning to continue our live-stream of our Sunday morning services throughout August. We have prepared resources designed to help ready your heart before the Sunday service, and materials that will help children follow along throughout our time together. If you need any assistance with these resources or accessing the live-stream, please let us know. The live-stream feed will begin at 10:00 am in time for the 10:15 am start.
  2. All who indicated in the August attendance survey that they would like to attend worship services are invited to come each Sunday this month. No RSVPs will be required, although you will still be assigned to the Main Hall or East Hall and weekly informed of that assignment. If you have any questions, or if you would like to attend but did not complete the survey, please contact the staff.
  3. To allow us to pray and to support contact tracing that may be appropriate, we request each member who tests positive for COVID-19 to inform the church staff as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please reach out to a member of the staff.
  4. We continue to require masks for those attending our Main Hall service and East Hall live-stream. Excluded individuals include those with underlying medical conditions (for inquiries, please contact the CLC staff) and children under two (2) years of age.
  5. Foundations continues this Sunday, August 9, at 9:00 am. If you know someone who would like to be a part of this class, email cjackson@covenantlifetampa.org.
  6. We will host our regularly scheduled Members’ Meeting this Sunday, August 9, at 4:30 pm via Zoom. A link to the meeting will be included in the agenda email being sent today.
  7. We will host an outdoor Baptism and Lord’s Supper service on Sunday, August 16, at 7:00 pm. Please make plans to join us, and see the Spotlight for more information.
  8. Covenant Connections videos continue to be released every week. Please make the most of this opportunity to learn about other members, develop better relationships, and pray more precisely for them.

DO NOT FORSAKE THE GATHERING

The author of Hebrews calls us to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

But what about assembling during a pandemic? How do we think about what it means to gather during extraordinary times? By necessity, most churches are considering what aspects of ministry can be facilitated virtually and, even more foundationally, what ministries should not be performed remotely. These questions cause us to back up and ask more fundamental questions, such as, “What is a local church?” and, “What is she commissioned to do?” Jonathan Leeman helpfully notes: “a local church is a group of Christians who regularly gather in Christ’s name to officially affirm and oversee one another’s membership in Jesus Christ and His kingdom through gospel preaching and gospel ordinances.” 

Our church has upheld that definition, and the pandemic has led us to wrestle with the questions addressed above. We have agreed that while the natural home of the preaching of God’s word is the gathering/assembly of God’s people, distance and separation do not render the preached word powerless. Singing in isolation, while separated from the intended edification that happens when we hear one another, does not make singing praises to God null and void of meaning and benefit. While not ideal, prayer requests can be published, and prayers can be effectively offered over home screens. Updates and decisions regarding our membership and ministries can be facilitated via online forms of communication during extraordinary times. 

Even though we can make temporary concessions in the areas mentioned above, our elders believe we cannot concede our convictions on how we observe the ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s Supper). We believe that the ordinances, by their very nature, are intended to be administered when the church gathers as one (“coming together” is mentioned five times in 1 Corinthians 11 when speaking of the Lord’s Supper). Thus, we do not administer the ordinances in our Sunday services now because we are physically unable to all come together in one assembly (due to social distancing guidelines). Yet we are convinced that our identity as a church is fundamentally tied to our regular celebration of the ordinances.

Our hope is that we can gather monthly on Sunday evenings to sing, pray, and administer the ordinances as a gathered church—one body in one location. We are praying that the Spirit will use our witness and faithful proclamation of the gospel to save many and to keep the baptism waters stirring. We also are praying that God’s sustaining grace through the Lord’s Supper would richly satisfy us during these services. Meeting outdoors, combined with our social distancing measures, provides us all the opportunity to gather together. While our Sunday morning services are our attempts to move closer to our regular gatherings, these Sunday evening services remove numerical restrictions and allow our church to gather for administering the ordinances. We pray that our church family is faithful to the call of Hebrews 10 by making every effort, within the bounds of a prayerful, biblically informed conscience, to join our gatherings. 

We genuinely miss you. While it has been so good to see some of you on Sundays, we miss seeing all of you gathered together. We long for the return of that day. We hope to wisely and lovingly shepherd this church through challenging days. If we can better care for you, please let us know. You are loved. Grace and peace.

By Christ’s wounds and for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

July 30, 9:00 a.m. UPDATE

This update contains a devotional on biblical repentance, the latest church-wide updates and announcements, and an encouragement to seek God’s kingdom first.

DEVOTIONAL
I have been thinking much of repentance recently. I repented of my sin when I came to Christ, but was that the end of my repentance? Sadly, sometimes the answer to that question is yes. How about you? Are you genuinely repentant for your sins, or are you proud of your self-reliance?
Without repentance, we have no friendship with God. In fact, we are enemies of God. Pride is the antithesis of repentance, and God resists the proud (James 4:6). Yet, the Lord repeatedly reminds us that his door is open to those who repent (Rev 3:19-20). Remind yourselves of God’s message of repentance to us in the New Testament.

In Mark 1, both John the Baptist and Jesus introduced the kingdom to the people of Israel through repentance. Take a look with me at some of these instances.
1:4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

1:14 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Paul, speaking to the elders of the Ephesian church in Acts 20, explained that the message of salvation was a call to repentance.

20:21 …solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

God has warned every person, everywhere, to repent because judgment is coming through the same man who can save them. Acts 17:30-31 says, “30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

It is worth noting that our commission as the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ includes a call to preach repentance. Read what Jesus said in Luke 24:46-47: “46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.”

UPDATES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

  1. We are planning to continue our live-stream of our Sunday morning services throughout August. We have prepared resources designed to help ready your heart before the Sunday service, and materials that will help children follow along throughout our time together. If you need any assistance with these resources or accessing the live-stream, please let us know. The live-stream feed will begin at 10:00 am in time for the 10:15 am start.
  2. We’d like to thank everyone who completed the attendance survey for August. The survey results, along with our combined social distancing seating capacity in the Main Hall and East Hall, allows for all who desire to attend the opportunity to gather each Sunday in August. No RSVPs will be required, although you will still be assigned to the Main Hall or East Hall. An email will be each week with that information. If you have any questions, please contact the staff.
  3. To allow us to pray and to support contact tracing that may be appropriate, we request each member who tests positive for COVID-19 to inform the church staff as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please reach out to a member of the staff.
  4. For those planning on attending the service in the Main Hall or the East Hall, we now have boxes designated for giving in each place. Feel free to come ready to worship God through giving.
  5. We continue to require masks for those attending our Main Hall service and East Hall live-stream. Excluded individuals include those with underlying medical conditions (for inquiries, please contact the CLC staff) and children under two (2) years of age.
  6. Foundations begins this Sunday, August 2, at 9:00 am. Included in this session is the option to attend online or in-person. If you know someone who would like to be a part of this class, email cjackson@covenantlifetampa.org. We’ll communicate all the essential details to potential attendees directly.
  7. We will host an outdoor baptism service on Sunday, August 16 at 7:00 pm. Please make plans to join us! The invitation is open to all, and no RSVP is necessary. We will take measures to ensure social distancing, and there will be mask-required and mask-optional seating areas available. Please bring a blanket or lawn chair, bug repellant, and a pair of sunglasses/hat if you desire. We will provide drinking water and extra chairs.
  8. Covenant Connections videos continue to be released every week. Please make the most of this opportunity to learn about other members, develop better relationships, and pray more precisely for them.


ENCOURAGEMENT TO SEEK GOD’S KINGDOM
How do we seek repentance? I have an easy answer to this question.

I do not know.

What I do know is that if you seek Christ fully, unreservedly, with your whole heart, He will grant you repentance. It simply comes back to Jesus’ familiar words from the Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Repentance is more a gift from God to us than something we create on our own.

Let me share this counsel from a godly pastor to a member of his church struggling with fear anxiety and depression.

“Suppose I discover myself in the pit of despair. What do I do? Or suppose I am just beginning to slide into it. Obviously you meet this struggle all the time in the book of Psalms. What I do is simply to admit that I am doing it, that I am slipping. I then face up to any anger within me that I may feel toward people and forgive them. I remember what Jesus Christ suffered in paying for my sins and then ask Him for grace to forgive others the way He forgave me. Then I repent of my unbelief. That’s the big deal for me.” (The Heart of a Servant Leader, C. John Miller)

He goes on to say sinners have a sure hope. Why? Because sinners can repent. We are despairing, angry, disappointed, and bitter. Why? We are not viewing our circumstances as God is. The answer is not more understanding. It is repentance of our unbelief, our willful disbelief in God’s goodness and His promises.

Brothers and sisters, seek Christ first this week and practice repentance. Repentance is confessing and turning from your sin. Find a brother or sister to share your confession of sin with. Ask them to pray for you. Continue giving updates to them as you progress in holiness. Repentance within a gospel-centered community reminds us, through experience, of biblical truth—there is freedom and joy to be found when we confess our sins to one another.

Your elders love you deeply and pray for you regularly. We long to see you soon.

Bob (on behalf of the elders).

July 23, 9:00 a.m. UPDATE

This update contains a devotional on God’s provision amid our temptations, a request to report COVID-19 infections to the staff, our latest ministry updates, and encouragements for evangelism.

DEVOTIONAL
How have you found yourself tempted this week? The question isn’t if you’ve been tempted, but how?

In writing to the church at Corinth, Paul recounts the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings as a case study for how the church can avoid falling into evil throughout their spiritual pilgrimage (1 Cor. 10:6, 11-12). Paul reminds us of how God provided His sustenance to this community of believers, much like He did for their ancestors (10:3-4). He warns of the danger in yielding to temptation. Rather than making light of sins like idolatry, sexual immorality, and grumbling, he shows each is a warning sign on the path toward destruction (10:8-10).

Puritan pastor Thomas Brooks writes that Satan’s first tactic is “to present the bait and hide the hook.” Peter likewise exhorts believers to be sober-minded and watchful, remembering our adversary who prowls around ready to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). If we think our temptations are unique, it’s helpful to remember how saints throughout history have been tempted in much the same ways. During His own time in the wilderness (and all throughout life), our Savior faced similar temptations (even as us), yet always resisted (Heb. 4:15, Matt. 4:1-11).

Paul instructs further, writing, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

God was surely gracious to deliver us from spiritual slavery when we drew our first breath as babes in Christ. And each day thereafter, at every point we are tempted, He offers continued grace. With His Spirit, we’re enabled to face the deception and destruction of sin without giving up or giving in.

If you succumb to temptations this week or find yourself in need of help, please reach out and let someone know. The Lord promised not to leave us without a way of escape. Wherever temptation finds you this week, don’t forget His provisions!

REPORTING COVID-19 INFECTIONS
To allow us to pray and to support contact tracing that may be appropriate, we request each member who tests positive for COVID-19 to inform the church staff as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please reach out to a member of the staff.

LATEST UPDATES

  1. We are planning to continue our live-stream of our Sunday morning services throughout July. We have prepared resources designed to help ready your heart before the Sunday service, and materials that will help children follow along throughout our time together. If you need any assistance with these resources or accessing the live-stream, please let us know. The live-stream feed will begin at 10:00 am in time for the 10:15 am start.
  2. We continue to require masks for those attending our Main Hall service and East Hall live-stream. Excluded individuals include those with underlying medical conditions (for inquiries, please contact the CLC staff) and children under two (2) years of age.
  3. Foundations begins on August 2 with the option to attend online or in-person. If you know someone who would like to be a part of this class, email cjackson@covenantlifetampa.org. We’ll communicate all the important details to potential attendees directly.
  4. Please complete the attendance survey for the month of August. Invites will be sent out each week based on the results of the survey. Completing the form only takes 1-2 minutes and helps us ensure that we have a seat for you. We look forward to seeing many of you on campus each Sunday!
  5. For those planning on attending the service in the Main Hall or the East Hall, we now have boxes designated for giving in each place. Feel free to come ready to worship God through giving.
  6. We will host an outdoor baptism service on Sunday, Aug. 16. Please make plans to join us. We will send an invitation survey next week.
  7. Covenant Connections videos continue to be released every week. Please make the most of this opportunity to learn about other members, develop better relationships, and pray more precisely for them.

EVANGELISM
Jesus told His disciples, “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). As a local church, few things come close to being as celebratory as new conversions. Last month, God graciously allowed us to bring several new members into membership, including three who were baptized. On Aug. 16, we’ll have the chance to gather again for worship as we baptize and bring into membership other men and women!

Whenever our church hears testimonies of salvation (outdoor baptism service), our hearts ought to well up with thanksgiving. These reminders also ought to motivate our generosity—to give away the gospel message we’ve been entrusted with.

Do you find yourself preoccupied with what others think? Do you regularly let your fear of others’ perceptions overshadow your desire to make God’s glory known? (It saddens me to consider the times I’ve made excuses for why I didn’t share the gospel with someone.) Since the gospel will indeed offend, we must pray for boldness (Eph. 3:12). We can also trust God will use our less-than-perfect attempts to deliver His perfect salvation message to others. Most people also won’t respond in faith the first time they hear, so we make evangelism an ongoing pursuit.

As another month of COVID-19 passes, it’s easy to think opportunities are scarce. While the pandemic requires many adjustments, we never hit pause (or snooze) on fulfilling the Great Commission. It’s always encouraging to hear how members use Zoom calls, socially distanced get-togethers, and other unique opportunities to share Christ in this interesting cultural moment. If you have stories of creative ways you’ve engaged with friends, loved ones, or acquaintances, consider sharing to help spur others on. Evangelism is a church-wide affair, and those who excel can encourage and involve those who are struggling.

We can never coerce our friends into becoming Christians. The Holy Spirit must intervene to bring about new birth. As we pray and share, we can trust God will sovereignly use our proclamation in bringing about conversions. This week, look for ways to encourage fellow members to be faithful. Keep praying our hearts would so be filled with love for Jesus that we can’t help but share His goodness and grace to others.

In Christ,

Kevin (on behalf of the elders)

July 16, 4:00 P.M. UPDATE

This letter contains a devotional on abiding in God’s word and power, our latest ministry updates, and an encouragement for unity.

DEVOTIONAL

We have spent some refreshing and convicting months in the letter of James. Before we go on to Habakkuk, let us look one more time at James 1:22-25.

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

A pastor writing to a missionary many years ago wrote, “But we must not pretend to be firm in our faith when events shake us…But in all this, do not lose sight of the goodness of God and the sovereign power of God.” Satan aims to get you to focus your attention on his strength and conclude that his wickedness is sovereign.

How do we, the people of God, avoid deluding ourselves? We abide by God’s word. We must read it, study it, and do it. We humble ourselves, submit again to God, and resist the Devil. Christians have lived through pandemics, persecutions, and perils of all kinds in the same way. Humility and submission are our greatest strengths. Do not neglect what God has given to us and commanded us.

LATEST UPDATES

  1. We are planning to continue our live-stream of our Sunday morning services throughout July. We have prepared resources designed to help ready your heart before the Sunday service, and materials that will help children follow along throughout our time together. If you need any assistance with these resources or accessing the live-stream, please let us know. The live-stream feed will begin at 10:00 am in time for the 10:15 am start.
  2. This Sunday and through the rest of the month, we continue to require masks for those attending our Main Hall service and East Hall live-stream. Excluded individuals include those with underlying medical conditions (for inquiries, please contact the CLC staff) and children under two (2) years of age.
  3. For those planning on attending the service in the Main Hall or the East Hall, we now have boxes designated for giving in each place. Feel free to come ready to worship God through giving.
  4. We will host an outdoor baptism service on Sunday, August 16. Please make plans to join us.
  5. Covenant Connections videos continue to be released every week. Please make the most of this opportunity to learn about other members, develop better relationships, and pray more precisely for them.

UNITY

Why is unity so hard for the church? Romans 12:16 commands us to be of the same mind toward one another. 1 Corinthians 1:10 tells us to agree and that there be no divisions among us, but that we be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1 Peter 3:8 instructs us to be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit. Yet, Christians are often at odds.

Unity requires work, humility, and sacrifice. You will be offended. You must show forbearance. You will be repeatedly sinned against. You must be patient and long-suffering. But unity is always worth pursuing and preserving. In Philippians 1, Paul tells the church that the spreading of the gospel brings him joy. In Philippians 2:2, Paul tells the church that his joy is completed—is made perfect—when we are of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. He says in verse 3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Excel in humility and sacrifice. When unity is hard, fight for it all the more. Unity does not mean sacrificing gospel truth. Let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.

One way we can pursue unity in how we care for one another during the turmoil caused by COVID-19. As we experience a surge in cases, please be mindful of your exposure. Do not attend in-person worship services if you have been exposed to someone with the virus in the last 14 days. Give grace to those who hold different convictions, but be ready to sacrifice your preferences out of love for others. We will be wearing masks in our services through July, except for those leading us from the stage.

Your elders love you and are continually praying for you. Do not hesitate to contact any one of us if we can serve you in any way.

In Christ,

Bob (on behalf of the elders)

July 10, 12:00 P.M. UPDATE

This update contains a devotional on finding refreshment, our latest ministry updates, and reminders for enjoying God’s word.

DEVOTIONAL

When you consider the past several months, what thoughts enter your mind? Are you prone to frustration or fatigue? Do you find yourself tempted to grumble, either internally or out loud?

We may never understand why certain things happen. Our finite perspectives offer limited knowledge. Only God, in His all-wise providence, understands the purpose in every event and sees what tomorrow will bring (Matt. 6.34, James 4.13-14). When difficult or unexpected seasons confuse us or catch us off-guard, these circumstances also provide us with new opportunities to seek comfort and refuge in the person and presence of Christ.

In 2 Cor. 6, after Paul lists his share of afflictions, hardships, and distresses, he writes of being “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (v. 10). As many comforts are lost, may we also keep in view what has been gained, and can never be taken away. Because of Jesus, the Father’s love and acceptance are now ours (John 14.6). The same Christ who has broken sin’s power has given us entry into new life with Him (2 Cor. 5.17).

Have the days or weeks left you feeling weak, parched, or just plain tired? May we remember that in Christ, there’s enough strength and refreshment to endure and seek joy in even the most difficult times. His deeds are mighty, He boasts excellent greatness, and His consolations can cheer us (Ps. 150.2, Ps. 94.19).

LATEST UPDATES

  1. We are planning to continue our live-stream of our Sunday morning services throughout July. We have prepared resources designed to help ready your heart before the Sunday service, and materials that will help children follow along throughout our time together. If you need any assistance with these resources or accessing the live-stream, please let us know. The live-stream feed will begin at 10:00 am in time for the 10:15 am start.
  2. This Sunday, we continue to require masks for those attending our Main Hall service and East Hall live-stream. Excluded individuals include those with underlying medical conditions (for inquiries, please contact the CLC staff) and children under two (2) years of age.
  3. For those planning on attending the service in the Main Hall or the East Hall, we now have boxes designated for giving in each place. Feel free to come ready to worship God through giving.
  4. Covenant Connections videos continue to be released every week. Please make the most of this opportunity to learn about other members, develop better relationships, and to pray more precisely for each of them.

ENJOYING GOD’S WORD

When you open up your Bible, what do you anticipate will happen? If we’re honest, some of us often set our expectations too low. How quickly we forget that simply by meditating on God’s word, we come into contact with unparalleled power and greatness.

Countless good books might be worth our time. How much more is a book divinely authored by the Holy Spirit worthy of our constant attention! Are you amazed at this invitation that’s always yours, to study the words breathed out by God Himself (2 Tim. 3.16)? It’s worth the effort to slow down, and calm and quiet yourself before God (Ps. 131.2).

Next week we begin a new sermon series on Habakkuk. Take time to read through this short book. Pray that this study will fill our hearts with yet more love for the One the prophets spoke of. Let’s join the Psalmist in praying that our eyes would be opened, that we “may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Ps. 119.18).

Your pastors love you. We’re praying for you and still long for a day to be together in person.

In Christ,

Kevin (on behalf of the elders)

July 2, 5:00 P.M. UPDATE

This update contains a devotional on how to handle burdens, our latest ministry updates, and a summer prayer list for CLC.

DEVOTIONAL

Covenant Life,

As we make our ways through this weary and tiring world, we each bear burdens. Physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and relational burdens abound. Stop for a moment to consider the troubles that have rolled up your back and onto your shoulders these last few days, weeks, and months.

Feel the weight.

Now, stop for a moment to consider what God calls you to do with those burdens. Remember the promised freedom.

Do you feel pressed down or crushed by your burdens? Are you desperate to know how to stand beneath them? God’s word speaks to the questions we have with the answers we need.

Paul reminds the Galatians that they must bear their burdens (Gal 6.5). There are certain privileges and responsibilities for each of us who follow Jesus that others cannot endure on our behalf. For example, the charge to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Matt 16.24) is a responsibility that no one can bear in our place. We, like Jesus, must endure for the joy set before us (Heb 12.2).

Paul also reminds these Christians that they are to share their burdens (Gal 6.2). While we must endure some difficulties alone, we should all aspire to shoulder many of the troubles suffered by other brothers and sisters. One of the sweetest gifts the Christian has, a gift unavailable to the world without Christ, is blood-bought fellowship. The ability to shoulder burdens, and the vulnerability to disclose those burdens to the church, is a distinguishing mark of every true Christian.

In Psalm 55.22, David counsels God’s people to cast their burdens. God stands ready to receive all that we throw onto Him. He doesn’t promise to remove the weight or the pain, but, as one author noted, “He will make you able to bear it with joy.” His resumè of faithfulness to sustain His people, provide for them, and not withhold any good from them is the blueprint for how He deals with us. You are not alone under your burdens. May we find joy in faithfulness to the faithful God who gives us everlasting comfort!

 LATEST UPDATES

  1. We are planning to continue our live-stream of our Sunday morning services throughout July. We have prepared resources designed to help ready your heart before the Sunday service, and materials that will help children follow along throughout our time together. If you need any assistance with these resources or accessing the live-stream, please let us know. The live-stream feed will begin at 10:00 am in time for the 10:15 am start.
  2. This Sunday, we continue to require masks for those attending our Main Hall service and East Hall live-stream. Excluded individuals include those with underlying medical conditions (for inquiries, please contact the CLC staff) and children under two (2) years of age.
  3. For those planning on attending the service in the Main Hall or the East Hall, we now have boxes designated for giving in each place. Feel free to come ready to worship God through giving.
  4. Make plans to join us for our online July Members’ Meeting, July 12, at 4:30 pm. We plan to vote on membership actions, a deacon, and hear ministry updates for the summer months. Following the MM, we will spend much-needed time in prayer together. Please join us.
  5. Covenant Connections videos continue to be released every week. Please make the most of this opportunity to learn about other members, develop better relationships, and to pray more precisely for each of them.

SUMMER PRAYERS FOR OUR CHURCH CULTURE

Someone asked me recently, “When you aren’t doing work tasks, where does your mind naturally drift?” While I don’t believe my mind drifts to one area exclusively, I do find that I often think about the current and future culture of CLC. I try to take those thoughts and formulate them into prayers that I labor through. Currently, I am praying through this list of hopes for the culture of CLC. I trust that many of you are doing this already, so please excel still more. For those that are not praying this way, I offer this list to you to serve as an example to carry you through the Summer months. I firmly believe that God’s desires and plans to use CLC for His glory and others’ good will unfold through the prayers of His people.

Triune God, graciously grant our church the kind of culture that is:

  1. God-saturated. Let the longings and desires of Psalm 63 mark each of us. May we never tire from pursuing You, for You alone satisfy.
  2. Christ-centered. May the reality of Christ’s supremacy in all things be seen in how we regard Him (Col 1.15-20; Heb 1.1-3).
  3. Spirit-dependent. As the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus (John 16.13-14), may we find ourselves seeking to be more filled and sustained in our love for Christ by that same Spirit (2 Thess 2.13, Rom 8.13).
  4. Bible-fueled. We believe that we are to be sanctified by truth and that Your Word is truth (John 17.17). Give us might in knowing Scripture. As Ps 119 invites us to feast on You through the Word, help us to respond earnestly!
  5. Faith-filled. Hebrews 11 promotes triumph for those who rely on faith. May our hope be fixed on You, our majestic God, and may our faith expand beyond what we think is possible.
  6. Holiness-pursuing. We know that holiness is an invitation to joy; without it, no one will see the Lord (Heb 12.14). We are most holy when we are most happy in You, o God, so may we pursue joy through Christ-likeness.
  7. Evangelistically zealous. Your mission is for us to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28.18-20; Acts 1.8; 1 Peter 2.9). We pray for opportunities to share the gospel, and that CLC would build a culture of evangelism together, working with one another in that endeavor.
  8. Disciple-making. We desire to grow, mature, and develop deep roots in You, o God. Help us to learn to walk in Jesus’ ways for joy (John 15.11) and His glory (1 Cor 10.31). May we have a web of life-giving discipling relationships, marked by sacrificial love, resolved to help others grow in Jesus.
  9. Ethnically-diverse. We know that Jesus’ redeemed bride is a remarkably diverse people (Eph 2, Rev 9). These people are who You are redeeming even now! May our friendships and life together—not merely our corporate gatherings—be marked by the diversity that honors you, o God.
  10. Forward-thinking. Lord, You have chosen to spread Your fame and Your saving goodness from one generation to another (Ps 145). May we grow to be more faithful, and may a generation of students and children grow up to have passion for the You, surety of the Bible’s trustworthiness, love for the gospel of grace, and openness to follow Your leading.
  11. City-loving. Your common grace, o God, is evident in the Bay area. Yet amidst the beauty, there is brokenness, and so we ask that You would help us spread loving care to the people of this and surrounding cities (Jer 29:7, Matt 22:39, 1 Pet 2:12). We pray expanded care to our city, for partnerships with like-minded churches, for the integration of faith and work, and more.
  12. Equipping and sending. God, our hopes go well beyond ourselves. While we have already given sacrificially over the last decade to fund church plants and missionaries around the world, we want to do far more. We want to send missionaries to the field in full-time and part-time ways. We want to see more churches planted throughout Tampa Bay and beyond. God, we beg You to give us faithfulness in equipping and obedience in sending (Matt 28:18-20, 2 Tim 2:2)

Join me in praying these prayers. Cry out for these things. Praise God for the evidence of grace He has already shown. Ask yourself, “How am I a part of God’s answer to these prayers?” I praise God for the ways these characteristics currently mark our church. But may the days ahead be an experiencing of more.

Thank you for loving Jesus and others well. It’s a joy to serve as your pastors. We love you and pray for you often. Let us know if we can further serve you. Have a good weekend.

By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

June 25, 2:30 P.M. UPDATE

This update contains a devotional on the need for making intentional efforts to consider others amidst trials, our latest ministry updates for this week, and practical considerations for loving one another.

DEVOTIONAL

Church family,

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul gave us a beautiful concept to consider in 1 Corinthians 13.5: “Love does not insist on its own way.” This expression of biblical love is a touching and moving thing to read about and observe…from a distance. Most of us affirm that this is the kind of love that is needed and that it is right to exercise. Yet when we are called upon to give consideration to the preferences or convictions of others, it does not feel or seem very lovely. It often hurts, is frustrating, and appears perplexing. And therein lies the rub—biblical love often feels like and requires self-denial.

Those eight words of 1 Corinthians 13.5 provide a succinct summary of Paul’s words to the church in Philippians 2.3-8. Throughout these COVID-19 updates we have labored to keep reminders before us all of the necessity of nearness to Jesus, and these verses capture the reason why. Love that does not insist on its own way comes only from having the same mind Christ had when He gave Himself to be crucified for us (Phil 2.5). It seems Paul has in mind the connection Jesus made in Matthew 22.34-40 about the two greatest commandments. As John Piper noted, “The first stupendous thing surrounding the commandment to love your neighbor as you love yourself is the commandment to love God as the greatest and foremost thing that is in the entire Word of God. The greatest and most important thing you can do is love God—love GOD—with all your heart and soul and mind.”

In light of all that is happening around us, God is providing us with many occasions to love others by not insisting on our preferences. As we think about how to best love others, we must realize that the first commandment to love God supremely in Matthew 22 makes the second commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves doable. I am praying that we would daily draw near to God, daily find a heart-filling satisfaction in Him, and daily experience His sufficiency that fills up all the aching corners of our soul. Then as our self-love finds fulfillment in loving God, we can excel in neighbor-love. Brothers and sisters, let us love God with all we have as though our joy and the joy of others depended on it. Let us love others the way we love ourselves. Let’s show and give others what we have found for ourselves in God!

LATEST UPDATES

  1. We are planning to continue our live-stream of our Sunday morning services throughout June. We have prepared resources designed to help prepare your heart before the Sunday service as well to help children follow along throughout our service. If you need any assistance with these resources or the live-stream, please let us know. The live-stream feed will begin at 10:00 a.m. in time for the 10:15 a.m. start.
  2. This Sunday we are continuing to require masks for those attending our Main Hall service and East Hall live-stream. Excluded from this requirement are those with underlying medical conditions (please contact us if that pertains to you) and children under the age of 2.
  3. For those planning on attending the service in the Main Hall or the East Hall, we now have boxes designated for giving in each place. Feel free to come ready to worship God through giving.
  4. Please continue to submit elder nominations through the end of the month. Nominations can be submitted through the member portal online (contact Charlie Jackson if you experience difficulty accessing the portal). Prayerfully consider those men who have served the church well through their ministry of the Word, prayer, discipleship, and other general care.
  5. The final Women’s Being and Making Disciples workshop is tomorrow night June 26 at 7:30 p.m. It will be hosted via Zoom. If you have not received the meeting invite, please contact Charlie ASAP.
  6. Weather permitting, we are planning to host an outdoor baptism service this Sunday, June 28 at 7:00 p.m. in the CLC grass parking lot. Please complete this short survey to indicate your plans for attending. Plan on bringing a chair and bug spray.
  7. Covenant Connections videoscontinue to be released every week. Please make the most of this opportunity to learn about other members with the hopes of developing better relationships and praying more precisely for each of them.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR NEIGHBOR-LOVE

As we continue to endure these unprecedented and difficult challenges of the days in which we live, the opportunities for disunity and discouragement will continue to grow. Consider just how many spheres we all operate in that could become an open door for disunity: politics, COVID restrictions and guidelines, injustice, responses to injustice, etc. An erosion of love for others often takes place when we find that our patience has waned to endure hard days, to forbear with others, and to insist on our own perspective. Personal preferences are not wrong, unless for something inherently sinful. But insisting on personal preferences is often very wrong because it is often very selfish. Insisting on our own selfish way burdens us and others with conflict and discouragement, and causes others to stumble (Gal 6.2) over temptation blocks of irritation, anger, resentment, and bitterness. As I have searched within and listened to members over the past few days, here are a few considerations that I pray will serve us well in the days ahead (however long this season may last).

  1. Be careful how you wield your conviction. I am helped by remembering that those with differing viewpoints are not the enemy (Eph 6.12) but rather are often well-meaning, blood-bought children of God who are seeking to honor their heavenly Father, just as I am. Sadly it is easy to inflict harm in how we hold our convictions by either slandering someone who holds another position OR by talking as though another position doesn’t have the same God-glorifying aims as yours. In other words, just because someone doesn’t adhere to (fill in the blank) as you do doesn’t mean that they do not care about the God-honoring values of (fill in the blank) like you do. May we learn the art of insisting on truth in love (1 Cor 13.1-3; Eph 4.15)
  2. Be willing to lay down your freedoms for the good of others. Sadly, when it comes to our freedoms our hearts have a tendency to fight for them, to clinch our fists around them, and to neglect to give the benefit of the doubt to others who are not persuaded as we are. All the while, we lose sight of the overarching reality surrounding our freedoms: they are called freedoms for a reason. We are free to lay them down for the good of others. Paul addressed this often in his writings (Rom 14; 1 Cor 6, 9, 10). Your use of freedom has an intended aim: the glory of God and the building up of others. If your use of freedoms is tearing down or dividing the body, for the glory of God check your heart! In other words, if others would be encouraged and loved by you not insisting on the use of your freedom (or not insisting others join you in your opinion on a debatable issue), then do not require others to bind their conscience to yours. May we learn the art of helpful dialogue around issues leaving the margin for unity amidst diversity as opposed to uniformity on preferential matters.
  3. Pray more than you discuss. Greater than our thoughts on how to love others is the submission to God’s ways in how we love others. Nothing is so valuable as prayer in the matter of loving others. Jesus said that “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15.5). Talking to God before talking to others will safeguard your heart, which is the wellspring of your tongue (Luke 6.45). Praying for those you disagree with will safeguard our hearts from despising those who disagree with us (Rom 14.3) and will help us align our motives with His (Rom 15.4-6). After talking with God, lean into the gift of a multitude of counsel that is found within your local church family.

Much more could be mentioned as we seek to put on neighbor love and give preference to the interests of others, but let’s begin focusing together on these considerations. Oh, that God would be pleased to meet with us in our efforts of loving Him and loving others. I pray you are being loved by others and are loving others during these difficult days. If we can better love and serve you in any way, please let us know.

 By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

 Justin (on behalf of the elders)

June 19, 1:30 P.M. UPDATE

Dear brothers and sisters,

Yesterday afternoon, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced a city-wide order requiring people to wear face coverings outside the home while indoors. The order reads, “Every person working, living, visiting, or doing business in the City of Tampa shall wear a face-covering in any indoor location, other than their home or residence, when not maintaining social distancing from other persons, excluding family members or companions.”

The City of Tampa is now implementing the same CDC guidelines that CLC has been abiding by in our services for some time. These extra measures are now being taken by the City to help curb the spread of COVID-19. In a spirit of unity, we will also take an extra measure above our current protocols for Sunday worship services.

This Sunday (6/21) and next Sunday (6/28) Covenant Life will require face coverings to be worn indoors before, during, and after worship services. Excluded from this requirement will be children under the age of two (2), those with trouble breathing, and those leading us in song, readings, prayers, and/or preaching while on stage. All others attending our services, including our stage leaders while sitting among the congregants, will be required to wear a mask or face covering. We will reassess this policy after our June 28th worship service.

This order applies to indoor locations only. We will not require masks to be worn at our outdoor baptism service, or outdoors before and after the Sunday morning services. Those who wish to wear a mask or face covering outdoors on our campus are encouraged to do so. We are prepared to ask people to put on their mask/face covering if social distancing of at-least six (6) feet is not maintained while fellowshipping outside.

We hope you will embrace these additional steps over the next two Sundays. We prayerfully look forward to the day when we can gather once again as a body on Sunday morning. Please let our staff and/or elders know if you have any questions.

We love you dearly and cannot wait to see you soon.

Charlie Jackson, Pastoral Assistant

June 18, 4:50 P.M. UPDATE

This update contains a devotional on the role of rejoicing as a Christian, our latest ministry updates, and two specific ways we can rejoice as a church family.

DEVOTIONAL

Beloved,

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks, a new glorious morn!” These words, penned by Adolphe Adame in 1847, capture a much-needed reminder for all who are weary from what God has allowed in 2020. (To be clear, I am aware that it is only June, and that this is a Christmas song. Yes, I am even breaking my own rule of “nothing Christmas” until after Thanksgiving.) These words are much-needed because the biblical command to rejoice is not rooted in circumstantial ease or comfortable living. These commands find their anchor in the unalterable character of God, the unparalleled mercies of Christ, and the unwavering hope of future glory.

Paul regularly applies these commands to his readers. He employs them, not as heavy burdens that weigh down the Christian, but as words of grace meant to call Christians to take their (and by extension, our) eyes and minds off of circumstances and self, and rivet (fasten) them upon the gloriously beautiful One. For example, Philippians 3.1 is a present tense imperative for believers to rejoice and keep on rejoicing. The object of this continual rejoicing is God. God commands His people to be continually engaged in the act of rejoicing in Him. In Romans 12.12, amid a section on the difficulties of this present life, Paul calls Christians to be “joyful (rejoicing) in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.”

Just as the story of Jesus the Son didn’t end with the death in the tomb, so too will our stories not end in the loss, struggles, and weariness we currently feel. He is not through with your grief, friends. We wait in our present distress, for we know “that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8.38). Our dire needs present us with opportunities to “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4.16). So we pray knowing that He is good and He promises to never leave or forsake us (Heb 13.5). Faith family, this is cause to rejoice even as the world continues to groan in weariness.

LATEST UPDATES

  1. We are planning to continue our live-stream of our Sunday morning services throughout June. We have prepared resources designed to help prepare your heart before the Sunday service as well to help children follow along throughout our service. If you need any assistance with these resources or the live-stream, please let us know. The live-stream feed will begin at 10:00 a.m. in time for the 10:15 a.m. start.
  2. From conversations and the June survey, we’ve learned some members would join our services in person if masks were required. With a desire to see as many of our members sooner rather than later, we are requiring masks for our East Hall live-stream every other week during June (June 28 is the next occurrence). We will continue to implement and enforce our social distancing and safety protocols in both places and are hopeful that this will allow more opportunities to join together this month.
  3. For those planning on attending the service in the Main Hall or the East Hall, we now have boxes designated for giving in each place. Feel free to come ready to worship God through giving.
  4. The final Women’s Being and Making Disciples workshop is June 26 at 7:30 p.m. It will be hosted via Zoom. An invite will be sent out shortly.
  5. Weather permitting, we are planning to host an outdoor baptism service on Sunday, June 28 at 7:00 p.m. in the CLC grass parking lot. Please complete this short survey to indicate your plans for attending. Plan on bringing a chair and bug spray.
  6. Covenant Connections videos continue to be released every week. Please make the most of this opportunity to learn about other members with the hopes of developing better relationships and praying more precisely for each of them.

REASONS FOR REJOICING

Perhaps after reading the devotional above, you thought to yourself, “I get that I am supposed to rejoice in God, but sustaining that is hard since there doesn’t seem to be much to rejoice in given our present circumstances.” I would like to remind us of two practical reasons for rejoicing: one concerning the historical significance of this week, and another concerning the eternal significance of our baptism service next weekend.

Rejoice over the historical significance of Juneteenth. While the last few weeks have exposed ongoing racial inequalities, the significance of this day is a reason for rejoicing. Juneteenth, a mash-up of the words June and nineteenth, remembers the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas finally learned about their emancipation. It is the oldest known celebration of black freedom from slavery. As Jemar Tisby notes, “The Emancipation Proclamation opened the way for further legislation designed to grant black people their civil and human rights such as the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments. This day helps reminds us that black history is American history.” While the years that have followed have only authenticated the need to continue to work to uphold the rights of all, we can and ought to rejoice at the formal end of the wicked, hate-filled, anti-God institution of American slavery. One of the ways that we can rejoice in this endeavor is to keep laboring through prayer and action to ensure this reality stands!

Rejoice over the eternal significance of baptism. Bobby Jamieson writes, “Baptism is a church’s act of affirming and portraying a believer’s union with Christ by immersing him or her in water, and a believer’s act of publicly committing him or herself to Christ and His people, thereby uniting a believer to the church and marking off him or her from the world.” Baptism does not save anyone, but it publicly expresses faith in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection (Romans 6.3-4). Faith in Christ is what the Bible puts forth as being necessary to partake in redemption. Baptism is a picture of that reality, meaning that faith, expressed through baptism, is a cause for much rejoicing for the Christian and the church. Next Sunday night (June 28 at 7:00 p.m.) we will have the privilege of looking away from the weariness of the world and to the visible picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ as we baptize four brothers and sisters. Three of these have been walking with Jesus for a few years but have not experienced the gentle grace of obedience to Jesus’ command to be baptized. We get to rejoice with them in that obedience. One dear sister, having walked through a difficult season of life, found herself at CLC listening to the preaching of Lamentations. God, in great mercy, brought her to Himself through the ordinary means of reading and preaching of the Word. Since her recent conversion, she is ready to publicly identify with Jesus for the world to see. What a cause for rejoicing!

The Lord has been incredibly kind to us, indulging us in His love and leading us by His Spirit and Word, even amid a pandemic and crisis all around. What an indescribable joy it is to belong to Him, to belong together, and to be your pastors! We are praying that we are all experiencing the joys of being God’s sons and daughters, knit together in this local church by His grace. You are missed. You are loved.

By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

June 11, 6:00 P.M. UPDATE

This update contains a devotional for weary hearts, some new updates, an explanation on the purpose of these COVID letters, and reminders for godly living.

Church family,

Our hope is that these weekly letters are serving three main functions in the life of our church. To keep us better connected, in light of the absence of physical presence, we aim to provide devotional encouragement, the latest updates, and general encouragement for us as we seek to continue our life together. We do pray that each member would take the 5-7 minutes necessary to read through these letters with the hopes of being encouraged and staying connected. We have included a summary statement at the top of the letters to provide a quick overview of the contents.

DEVOTIONAL

Who among us does not feel the weariness of these days? Like a rubber band that has been stretched too many times, many of us feel worn out from all the conflict, brokenness, and sin around and within us. It has been a heavy few weeks as we wrestle with frustrations concerning the quarantine, disappointments with ourselves and others, the grief of broken relationships and unrepentant sin, and the heartache of racial injustice, violence, destruction, loss of livelihood, fear of the future and rampant political turmoil.

My journal entries over the past few weeks have often read Help me Lord, I am weary. The phrase in Psalm 6.6 resonates with me: “I am weary with my sighing.” As I seek to labor in prayer for our church family, I know that many of you are more wearied than me. A few reflections I’ve gleaned for the weary soul.

  1. God restores His people. Isaiah 40.29-31 makes clear that while all grow weary, we have the strong assurance that God, who never grows weary, will renew our strength as we wait, in faith, on His kindness and strengthening.
  2. God alone is to be trusted. Psalm 62.1-2 reminds us that God alone is to be trusted to give rest. What are you prone to rest in? Galatians 6.7 reminds us that we reap what we are sowing. Let’s seek to root out whatever we are trusting in, apart from God, to be for us what only He can be. Bring that in confession before Him, seek His forgiveness, and walk in His restoration.
  3. God is faithful to His word. Paul helps us remember that God promises a harvest of good fruit for those who persevere (Gal 6.9). That good fruit is not promised in the removal of the hardship but rather is seen in our growth to be like Jesus, the giving of grace to others in their time of need, and in bringing glory to His name.
  4. God’s people help us persevere through community. Galatians 6.10 provides an interesting antidote to weariness—press outside of ourselves and invest in others. As I rest in God and find my strength in Him; as I root out false idols I’m trusting in; and as I remember that He is in control and will bring the harvest of good fruit, I can look at opportunities I have been given to invest in discipleship and care for those He has brought into my life.
  5. God is worthy to be pursued. Psalm 63 is the heart-cry of one who longs for God and will rest at nothing until they are satisfied fully in Him. This pursuit is not wearisome, it is actually the antidote for weariness.

Praise God that He is the God of the weary! May our pursuit of Him refresh, restore, and renew our weary hearts, minds, and bodies.

LATEST UPDATES

  1. We are planning to continue our live-stream of our Sunday morning services throughout June. We have prepared resources designed to help prepare your heart before the Sunday service as well to help children follow along throughout our service. If you need any assistance with these resources or the live-stream, please let us know. The live-stream feed will begin at 10:00 a.m. in time for the 10:15 a.m. start.
  2. Our June church service survey revealed that a few members would join our services in person if masks were required. With a desire to see as many of our members sooner rather than later, we are requiring masks for our East Hall live-stream every other week during June. We will continue to implement and enforce our social distancing and safety protocols in both places and are hopeful that this will allow more opportunities to join together this month.
  3. For those planning on attending the service in the Main Hall or the East Hall, we now have boxes designated for giving in each place. Feel free to come ready to worship God through giving.
  4. June Members’ Meeting/Corporate Prayer service is Sunday, June 14, 4:30 p.m. It will be held via Zoom. Please make an effort to be present as we vote on new members and provide an update on deacons and several other ministries.
  5. The final Women’s Being and Making Disciples workshop is June 26 at 7:30 p.m. It will be hosted via Zoom. More information on how to join this workshop will be made available next week.
  6. Weather permitting, we are planning on hosting an outdoor baptism service on Sunday, June 28 at 7:00 p.m. (please note the time change) in the CLC grass parking lot. You will receive an email soon with more information as well as requesting an RSVP as we make preparations to ensure we are compliant with social distancing measures.
  7. Covenant Connections videos continue to be released every week. Please make the most of this opportunity to learn about other members with the hopes of developing better relationships and praying more precisely for each of them.

ENCOURAGEMENTS

Finally, as days give way to weeks and weeks to months, there is a temptation to wane in our efforts of being intentional, thoughtful, and consistent in the temporary rhythms of our life together as a church family. I have found myself calling and texting others a little less, being more sporadic in my prayers for one another, and growing impatient with the continued state of affairs we find ourselves in. A string of seemingly small decisions to forgo CG this week, not return a call, not pursue another, skip the Sunday service, miss prayer meetings, and/or neglect praying for one another can quickly create large problems. I trust that we would be well-served to read over the CLC Membership Covenant again. Through it, I pray that you consider all of the ways we can continue to cultivate unity, spur one another on to good deeds, care for one another, and glorify our crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ. A few reminders to help us get there:

  1. Spend time with God through daily Bible reading and prayer.
  2. Pray daily for other members and the ministries of CLC.
  3. Prioritize the services and meetings of the church, and readily participate in them.
  4. Pursue other members of CLC throughout the week.
  5. Commit to regularly share the gospel with the lost and invite other church members to be involved in that through friendship, prayer, etc.

Persevere, brothers and sisters. Let’s continue to pray for one another, other gospel-preaching churches, and for justice to prevail in our city. Let’s ask Him to use this season to create a spiritual awakening our city has never seen. Let’s not miss the privilege of being involved in the unfolding purposes of God. You are loved deeply. You are missed tremendously. I can’t wait to see you again.

By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

June 4, 3:30 P.M. UPDATE

This message contains a reflection and call to prayer concerning the sin and residue of racial divisiveness in America, and updates on the ministries of CLC.

Beloved,

This past Sunday was a heavy day for me. The weight of all we’re going through – George Floyd’s needless death, the violent riots in our city and country, my own processing of these events, and the privilege/task of preaching were pressed together on me in a concentrated way. Five days later, not much has changed. I’m sure you also feel much of this weight.

I am among a growing number of those who lament and mourn the death of George Floyd and the longstanding injustice that is perpetrated against black men and women in our country. I am also among those who thank God for selfless first-responders and law enforcement officers who understand the responsibility to protect and serve all citizens.I grieve the abuse of power that unnecessarily harms people, specifically through racially motivated prejudice. I am counted with those who support and encourage the right to peaceful protests. I lament the evil intent and actions of some turning a needed, righteous cry for justice into an opportunity for violence and destruction. I am numbered among those who regularly cry out to God for healing, hope, justice, and mercy. While the needs seem so great, I cry out with confidence that God sees, hears, knows, and is grieved at injustice. He has promised to right every wrong (Eccl. 12:14, Rom. 2:5-11). Until that day comes, the church must be those who love God and love others (Matt. 26:36-40). Beloved, that is our fundamental call—to be and make disciples of Christ who love God and love others.

As our church joined together last week for prayer, I found myself thankful, experiencing a unique encouragement at our cries over these injustices. Racism, violence, and injustice are demonic at their core (Eph. 2:2-3; 6:12). They are not merely earthly; they contain spiritual realities, and a spiritual problem requires a spiritual solution. While we can and must do many things to advocate for justice and good, prayer must be the most fundamental task we engage in! Let’s be sure to seek God’s face with the same intensity we employ to remedy these injustices. I was served by hearing each of you pray, and my eyes were lifted up to the all-sufficient One who is still on His throne, reigning and accomplishing His purposes. The space permitted in this letter to address our righteous angst over these injustices is insufficient. So, I want to call on each of us to persevere in prayer for these matters.

  • Pray that justice would prevail and the evil of racism would be eradicated.
  • Pray that every human would be honored as someone made in God’s image, deserving protection of their life and property.
  • Pray that justice wouldn’t end there and that gospel revival, renewal, and true reconciliation would roll down like a mighty river throughout our country.
  • Pray that local churches would be innocent and wise (Matt. 10:16), would be salt and light in their communities (Matt. 5:13-16), and would be communities of love that shock the city (Jn. 13:35).
  • Pray that the gospel would be central to our motives, thoughts, words, and deeds.
  • Pray that the gospel’s unifying power – which is purchased by Christ’s blood and applied by the Spirit – would be displayed in His reconciled, multi-ethnic church, which is the local embassy of the kingdom to come.
  • Pray for local, state, and national leaders to have God-granted wisdom and mercy, and that they would love truth, walk in integrity, and leverage positions of influence for good and not harm (1 Tim. 2:1-4)

I believe the church is the greatest hope in the world to show what unity can look like amid ever-deepening divides (Eph. 2:11-22, 3.10). The true hope and power for these tumultuous days come through a Savior who was broken to bring about redemption and unity; from a God who is acquainted with the injustice of the loss of His Son. Oh, may we not seek worldly comfort that leads us to compromise our Christian witness. May we band together in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace to love our neighbors, proclaim gospel hope to them, and battle injustices for those whose voices are too weary to be raised. May God help us. Remember – He has promised to do exactly that. We are not alone, and we are not without Him (Matt. 28:18-20)!

LATEST UPDATES

  1. We are planning to continue our live-stream of our Sunday morning services throughout June. We have prepared resources designed to help prepare your heart before the Sunday service as well to help children follow along throughout our service. If you need any assistance with these resources or the live-stream, please let us know. The live-stream feed will begin at 10:00 a.m. in time for the 10:15 a.m. start.
  2. In addition to the 45-50 people we are hosting in the Main Hall on Sunday mornings, we are opening the East Hall to have up to 40 others join one another during the live-stream of the service. We will implement and enforce our social distancing and safety protocols in both places and are hopeful that this will allow more opportunities to join together each month.
  3. Thank you to our CLK classroom coordinators who made Bible study videos for each classroom last week. We are blessed to have a team laboring for the salvation of our children alongside our parents! These videos will remain on our website through June.
  4. June Members’ Meeting/Corporate Prayer service is Sunday, June 14, 4:30 p.m. It will be held via Zoom. Please make an effort to be present as we vote on new members and provide an update on deacons and several other ministries.
  5. We are planning on hosting an outdoor baptism service on Sunday, June 28 at 4:30 p.m. in the CLC grass parking lot. You will receive an email next week with more information and requesting an RSVP as we make preparations to ensure we are compliant with social distancing measures.

I pray these update emails are serving our church for much good. If there are ways that the elders or staff can better serve you or equip you for these works of ministry, please let us know. It has been such a joy to see more of you on Sundays, and yet we still ache for that day, hopefully coming soon, where we can safely gather again. I long for that day. Your pastors and staff pray for you and love you dearly. Thank you for praying for us and loving us.

By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

May 29, 1:30 P.m. Update

Covenant Life,

Are you needy today? Your heavenly Father is near! Are you burdened? Your heavenly Father is near! Are you anxious or weary or desperate? Your heavenly Father is near to all who call upon Him! This is the truth captured in David’s last psalm in the Psalter, Psalm 145. I encourage you to read the psalm to hear David make good use of his vocabulary to praise God for His greatness and goodness, especially towards His people. This is captured clearly in vv. 17-19, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.”

This psalm was inspired by God to help shape His people’s understanding of His nearness, loving generosity, and protection. Verse 17 captures the burden of the psalm as a whole. Everything God does is righteous, utterly just, and completely conformed to His nature. He is great and gracious. He is glorious and good. This is why David can say in verse 18 the Lord is “near to…all who call upon Him in truth”. What a picture of boundless mercy that embraces every person who calls upon the Lord! Can you see the picture? God standing, ready and willing to hear, answers and draws near to all those who cry out to Him with endless provision. His bounty never runs dry.

As we have seen over the past few weeks, depravity and brokenness do not stop during a pandemic. As a matter of fact, a pandemic exposes and highlights the brokenness all the more. As creation groans and humanity continues to reveal its great need for restoration, David’s psalm reminds us that if we are needy, burdened, anxious, weary, and/or desperate, we can cry out to God, for He is near to all who call upon Him in truth. We know this is true because He drew near to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. I pray we will be numbered among those who call, those who ask, those who lament, those who praise, those who offer thanks, those who intercede, those who make supplication, those who weep, and those who rejoice in this God who is for us.

RESPONSE TO RACIAL BROKENNESS

The last few weeks have exposed a deep-seated fracture in humanity. The unnecessary, evil, and senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery (in February) and George Floyd have further added to the sad pattern of racial violence against African Americans in our nation’s history. The involvement of the local and state authorities in both of these cases have proven to deepen the grief and pain caused by these killings and the wicked realities they represent. Minneapolis is now “exhibit A” of how so many, regardless of skin color, are looking for ways to express the pain, anger, and sorrow they feel. While it is evil to destroy businesses and endanger communities in response to the hurt and pain felt, the question remains: how do we respond to this kind of injustice seen and experienced, and the hurt that it causes? I am helped by these considerations.

 

  1. Let us lament. The world is not as it should be and groans under the weight of sin (Romans 8:19-23). Relationships break down, power is abused, emotions are manipulated, violence reigns, and justice is perverted. As we learned in Lamentations and the Psalms, a lament is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow to God. Express your pain, struggles, doubts, and unresolved questions to God. CLC, let’s begin by directing our pain toward Heaven itself. (Lamentations 3)
  2. Let us mourn. The history of racism in our country is horrific, and as we see bias continue, we must mourn. We mourn over the condition of the human heart, we mourn over the loss of life, we mourn over injustice, we mourn that these situations continue to be a reality, and we mourn with others who mourn (Romans 12:15). We mourn how these killings adversely affect other minority brothers and sisters who feel the fear of jogging in their neighborhoods and who are deeply concerned about their acceptance into society as a person with a minority skin color or ethnicity. CLC, let’s mourn with our minority brothers and sisters and let’s be found faithful to stand together.
  3. Let us seek understanding. These issues will not go away quickly, so it is vital that we take a long-view approach, even as we seek to do as much good as we can today. Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves (the second great commandment – Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:36–40) means that we lean into areas we are unfamiliar with. We do this out of a love for those who are different than us. We want to grow as a church in creating a culture where we lean into these issues honestly and openly, even amidst our many differences. CLC, let’s continue to lean in together, always aiming to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2).
  4. Let’s not sin in our anger or apathy. Biblical repentance always involves anger – anger directed at the right object. The absence of godly anger at the sight of injustice is alarming for the Christian (Proverbs 21:15). We want to take control, to do something, to have our and other’s attitudes of indifference exposed, to signal our virtue, and more. We want this fixed now, and for it to not happen again. These are good and natural responses; yet, the way of our Savior reminds us that our desire for justice cannot allow us to unintentionally become unjust (James 1:19-20). In our yearning for peace, we must fight against division. In our passion to love, we cannot be unloving. When we’ve been immensely hurt, we must fight against the temptation to loosen the guard on our hearts and tongues that can so quickly and powerfully inflict unnecessary harm on others (James 3:1-12). In our hope of righting wrongs, let’s not inadvertently add to them. In our hunger for justice, let’s also hunger for righteousness. We, too, stand to ensure that injustice before our eyes evokes compassion and love in our hearts that is demonstrated by our actions (Luke 10:25-37). In our exposure to scenarios that don’t hit close to home, we must move towards those who are acutely affected. In the moments when we are at a loss for words, we must realize that our silence often speaks louder than our words. In our desire to see change, we must fight the temptation to assume that change will come through the efforts of others, for we all have a part to play at protecting the dignity and worth of all human life. CLC, let’s guard our hearts from the ditches of anger and apathy in our responses to all injustice.
  5. Let’s remember, justice is coming! Let’s continue to humbly submit to God when we see events like this unfold. He is fully trustworthy and has promised to be near to the brokenhearted. He is full of justice (Is 61:8) and executes justice perfectly (Ecclesiastes 3:17). He always has and always will. The world is in search of an answer, and we know who He is! While we long for justice in a world gone mad and work for justice amidst the brokenness, we know and hope in the truth that righteous, God-glorifying justice is coming (Romans 12:19). CLC, let’s anchor our hope ultimately in the justice that is to come while we work for justice in the here and now.

We are in the Tampa Bay area to know Jesus and make Him known to the nations. Let’s build meaningful relationships with others who are different from us. Let’s engage one another with wisdom, tenderness, and courage. Let’s passionately share the heart-changing, all-satisfying good news of Jesus. Though our example will be flawed, I pray that we will be a visible, local expression of Jesus’ redeemed and reconciled people to a divided world in desperate need of healing hope.

LATEST UPDATES

  1. This Sunday, May 31, we will again live-stream our Sunday morning service on Facebook and our websiteResources are available to prepare your heart and home for meaningful engagement with the Lord. The live-stream will begin at 10:00 a.m. in time for the 10:15 a.m. start. Look for opportunities to invite others to tune in with you for our service.
  2. We are continuing to host 40-50 people in our Main Hall every Sunday with better implemented and enforced social distancing and safety protocols each week. We will be sending out another survey next week to gauge interest in joining our services during June. Be on the lookout and fill the survey out ASAP.
  3. Each of our CLK classroom coordinators has put together a short video to engage with the children in their classes by teaching them God’s word. Links to these videos will be available this Sunday morning, May 31, on Facebook and our website. We encourage you to make this a part of our Sunday morning worship time and to thank those who are working hard to invest in the children of CLC.
  4. This Sunday, May 31, we are hosting an online prayer meeting from 7:00-8:00 p.m. We have switched the time to better accommodate for some who have difficulty making it at our regularly scheduled Sunday afternoon time. We will continue to alternate times for these additional prayer meetings between 4:30 and 7:00.
  5. Last week’s COVID-19 update email contained all the previous episodes of our Covenant Connections videos. We encourage you to make time to watch these with the hopes of learning more, reaching out to, and praying for one another during this time while we are apart. If you would like any of the links to the previous Covenant Connections videos, contact cjackson@covenantlifetampa.org.
  6. The Women’s Ministry will host their final discipleship workshop, Discipling Relationships, on June 26 at 7:30 p.m. The event will be live-streamed, and the media will also be uploaded to our website and app after the event. A decision will be made at a later date whether attendees can be present for the event. Please stay tuned to the Spotlight for more information.

By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

May 21, 5:00 P.m. Update

CLC family,

What does love require?

Over the past few weeks, this question has been a faithful and helpful companion as we have tried to navigate personal preferences and pastoral decisions. As the gradual re-opening of our country continues, opportunities readily present themselves for followers of Jesus to model love that considers the interest of others in higher regard than their own (Philippians 2:3-4). As one article stated, “This won’t be easy. But by God’s grace and power of the Holy Spirit working to unify us in ways our flesh resists, the opportunity is there for us to be a countercultural model for the rest of the world.”

How are you doing with that opportunity afforded us by this pandemic? No really; take a moment to stop and reflect on your thoughts, conversations, social media posts, actions, and attitudes that have accompanied you throughout this pandemic. How closely aligned to 1 Corinthians 8:9 and Romans 14:13 are you in holding your convictions and looking at others through the lens of love as they hold theirs? To be clear, seeking to talk through your perspective on debatable issues with others or persuade others of a perspective you hold is often a good and needed thing, so long as the agenda is love. That agenda will inform both the content of our conversations and the attitudes held/displayed through them. In the aforementioned article, the author commends countercultural humility, countercultural patience, and countercultural nuance which “avoids thinking the worst of people and concedes that the other side of the debate is sometimes right.”

Brothers and sisters, I pray this question would drive us to hold convictions and lead us to think carefully about how we hold them. For Christians, it is incompatible to claim love as a motivation for holding a position, and then lack love in communicating the position. My prayer is that every member of our church would consider this commendation to consider love. If COVID-19 allows us to refocus our hearts on considering this question—what does love require?—then we will be all the better for it when normalcy resumes.

LATEST UPDATES

  1. This Sunday, May 24, we will continue live-streaming our Sunday morning service. Resources are available to prepare your heart and home for meaningful engagement with the Lord. The live-stream will begin at 10:00 a.m. in time for the 10:15 a.m. start. If you have any difficulties with the live-stream, please contact the church office.
  2. We are continuing to host people in the Main Hall while also live-streaming; forty-five people will be in attendance this Sunday. As long as the current guidelines remain the same, we do not envision adding many more people to our Sunday in-person crowd. We continue to highlight and improve our existing attendance protocols. One example is that we will now be asking standard COVID-19 exposure questions to all prospective attendees to further promote a safe in-person environment.

ENCOURAGEMENTS AND REMINDERS
As the regular rhythms of our life together as a church have been halted or drastically changed, the reality is that new rhythms have begun. When new rhythms persist for a season it is normal to begin to ask questions about the planned longevity of such rhythms and ministries. To help keep us united and informed, here is information regarding a few of the ministries of CLC:

  1. Sunday morning live-stream. Any kind of worship service besides physically gathering together is not as it should be. The meaning of the church’s corporate worship is that we are the church literally gathered together in worship—literally, as in physically, non-virtually gathered together. It is when we assemble in worship that we are a local, visible, tangible manifestation of the universal church, and to not do this as it’s meant to be is to do something different. This is why we have been careful to not call our live-stream services “gatherings,” and it’s why we have chosen to not make live-streams a permanent option going forward. We praise God for the good that these technological means are providing, namely helping continue the ministry rhythms of the church and making it possible to sing, pray, and sit under the preaching of the Word at the same time. Yet, we still yearn to be with one another, gathered together to worship our God in the same place and at the same time. One Puritan pastor, David Clarkson, wisely noted (paraphrased), “The Lord engages himself to let forth as it were, a stream of his comfortable, quickening presence to every particular person that fears him. But when many of these particulars join together to worship God, then these several streams are united and meet in one. The presence of God, which, enjoyed in private, is but a stream; but, in public it becomes a river, a river that makes glad the city of God.”
  2. International missions efforts. It is the mission of every church that the gospel of Jesus Christ would be taken to other nations, tribes, peoples, and languages. CLC has enjoyed the privilege to do this in North Africa, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Wales. We are convinced that CLC’s international reach must be stronger and wider than it currently is. So, we are eager to pray, give, and go. We are also currently investing in five individuals for potential, future service to the nations through our International Missions Residency. COVID-19 has put some of our efforts for 2020 on hold. We have canceled our July trip to the DR. We will make a decision about our August Wales trip at the end of this month. We are moving ahead with our plans for the October DR trip. With that being said, these days allow us to be involved in global missions on our knees while we cannot be on foreign soil. CLC, please join with me in begging the Lord of the harvest to raise up more who would go, to save many from other people groups, and to grow our heart for the nations from the Tampa Bay area. Utilize the Spotlight to pray for an unreached people group each week. If you would like more resources for developing a heart for the nations, contact us.
  3. Student ministry. We are saddened that our inaugural student camp has been canceled, but are hopeful to benefit from summer camps in the years to come. As we seek to faithfully mentor, disciple, and invest in middle and high school students, we ask you to pray for our student ministry. Pray for relationships to grow within this ministry: student to student, student to leaders, and student to God. We hope to see a pattern of God-fearing followers of Jesus emerge from this ministry––students who will know God and seek to make Him known across Tampa Bay and to the ends of the earth.

One final thought: COVID-19 has not only created new rhythms of ministry for us as a church, but it has also done that for individuals and families. Sobering statistics have emerged about the rise in various abuses during these quarantined days. Churches that desire to be healthy are not immune to such abuses and perhaps unknowingly can even house such abuse. We know that this difficult season can increase the risk of danger for some of our members, whether related to domestic violence, suicide, and/or assault. If you are in danger or in need of help, please call the following. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

After contacting the proper authorities, please reach out to any of your pastors as we desire to protect, care for, and serve you as love would require. Church family, you are more loved than you know. I cannot wait until we can all be together again. If you need anything, please let us know.

By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

May 14, 10:30 a.m. Update

Beloved,

Our God is “the hope of all the ends of the earth and the farthest seas” (Ps. 65:5). Even when we walk through seasons of upheaval and uncertainty, we do not fear because He promises to be with us (Isa. 43:1-5). In Jesus, nothing that comes our way can separate us from His love, or thwart His purposes in our lives, whether “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” (Rom. 8:35; Ps. 138:8). Seasons like this test the quality of the foundation that our lives are built on (cf. Mt. 7:24-27). Our prayer for all of us is that this season reminds us of God’s nearness to us and gives the space to ensure that the foundation of our lives is securely set on Christ. In the words of Edward Mote, “all other ground is sinking sand.”

As we prepared to roll out plans for re-gathering together last week, we knew that there would be a spectrum of opinions and perspectives. We have been helped by the suggestions, encouragements, concerns, affirmations, and ideas that have been shared over the past few days. Yet perhaps even more precious has been the grace and encouragement that has come through the gentle, gracious, and affirming ways in which these thoughts have been shared. We are grateful to God for a church that supports, loves, prays for, and helps her pastors both in the content of ideas shared and in the ways they are shared. Thank you.

We depend on the gathering of the body and the mutual encouragement that occurs during our gatherings to accomplish many purposes of the church. While we will not be able to experience the full, intended blessing of gathering together as a church until the guidelines and restrictions are lifted, we believe that it is best to take steps towards that goal rather than wait until it can fully happen. That said, it was a sweet gift to begin the initial phase of re-gathering last week. We had 29 members and members in-waiting come together for our service. I am pleased to report that we were able to maintain the recommended distancing throughout the service. We will continue to move slowly in this phase and look forward to fully being able to gather again in the future.

LATEST UPDATES

  1. This Sunday, May 17, we will again live-stream our Sunday morning service. We have prepared resources that are designed to help prepare your hearts before Sunday, and there are children’s service guides that will help encourage them to follow along. If you need help with any of these tools, please let us know. The live-stream will begin at 10:00 a.m. in time for the 10:15 a.m. start.
  2. This Sunday will again not be an exclusive live-stream as we plan to host 30 people with the hopes of gradually increasing that number over the coming weeks. We are using the results from the church-wide survey to help us accommodate for those in attendance. If you did not fill out the survey last week, please do so ASAP.
  3. This Sunday, May 17 we will post a 20-minute Bible-story for our children (up to 7 years old) led by our CLK director, Jenny Fugler. This will be available beginning Sunday morning on our website and Facebook page. We encourage you to join along with your children as they consider the truths of God’s word.
  4. This Sunday, May 17, we will conduct our May Members’ Meeting/Corporate Prayer meeting online from 4:30-5:45 p.m. We will be hearing updates and recommendations concerning our deacon ministries, membership process, finances, and other ministry-related matters. We will then spend time together in prayer. This prayer meeting is open at 5:15 p.m. to non-members. For information about the prayer meeting, contact Charlie Jackson.
  5. New episodes of Covenant Connections continue to be released every week. Make plans to watch these and learn more about other members of CLC. These are easy and accessible ways to better know others as well as stay informed on how to pray for others in the church.

ENCOURAGEMENTS AND REMINDERS

I know that this season of live-stream services provides some interesting challenges for all – challenges such as loneliness during a time that is to be marked by the presence of others, or more regular distractions and interruptions, such as those that families with small children experience. To all who are navigating through some form of frustration or weariness, I want to encourage you to excel still more and do not grow weary in doing good.

For our friends wrestling with loneliness, take heart. Before looking for ways to fill the voids and gaps you feel, remember that solitude and silence serve to create the space for us to hear what is going on in our souls. One author noted, “…our first hurdle in the days to come is to choose not to make our lonely places loud places. This moment in history is spoon-feeding us the opportunity to get still and silent with our God. Hidden in this pandemic is an invitation from Him to draw near, to be still, and to know that He is God—even though it may feel the whole earth is crashing down around us (Ps. 46).” After looking in, fight through the weariness to look outwards, yes even through screens and phones. While it cannot duplicate the dynamics of in-person relationships, it is a grace that is better than nothing. Don’t wait for others to find you out in isolation; run to them to care for them and (as a byproduct) your soul.

For our friends wresting with interruptions and discouragements from live-streamed services, the struggle and effort are worth it! Even though you can’t taste or see it at the moment, it is worth it. A TGC article made these two points that I pray will serve your souls:

  1. Children being present amid the ordinary “means of grace” is always effective for everyone involved. We can look to innovative programming to influence our children, but corporate worship is what the all-wise God has ordained. The more we place kids in the path of these ordinary means of grace, the more opportunities they have for their souls to encounter the God of grace.
  2. Children being present when the church is gathered (watching together during a pandemic) is a memory that will serve our children for years to come. They hear the singing, prayers, and by watching their parents delight in these times. While they may distract you from what you enjoy, they are impressionable to your enjoyment of it, no matter how small of a window that is.

The article concluded with this illustration: Most kids love candy, so I never need to encourage them to eat candy. Vegetables present another story, but my wife and I labor to see them eat vegetables daily. Why? We do so because we know the benefits that flow from eating them. The fiber, vitamins, and nutrients found in vegetables encourage us to fight the good fight of getting a little green in their diet. We know the benefits of such a diet could influence their lives for the next 20, 40, 60, or even 80 years. It’s worth the struggle. And the benefits that flow from including our children in corporate worship can affect their lives not just for 80 years, but for eternity. If green beans and broccoli are worth the struggle, a season or two or five of difficulty in the pew (or on the couch in front of the live-stream) is more than worth it.

You are missed. You are loved. You are prayed for. You are a joy to shepherd.

By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

May 7, 3:00 p.m. Update

Church family,

I pray that this pandemic has paved the way for God’s word to become more precious to us than ever before. Whether that stems from having more time to marinate in it or being overwhelmed with our neediness during these difficult days, I hope that we have found God to be a refuge and very present help in times of trouble. If that is the case, then we will be a people who have found His word to be the path we must traverse in order to enjoy the confines of His security. Brothers and sisters, let’s enjoy our God by consistently spending time with Him in His word!

The Psalms help teach us to feast on Him, and they teach us that every season of life is a season of enjoying God. Take Psalm 86 for example. It is not a calm, collected psalm. Rather, it is a psalm filled with passionate pleas to God. Some fourteen times the psalmist appeals to God, and while he reasons throughout this psalm with God about his need, one thing he does not do is doubt. David does not doubt the One he cries out to, and we would be well-served to trust in Him all the more. Verse 5 helps us understand how he is immovable in that conviction, “For You, Lord, are good and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.” Simply put, this verse is an avalanche of truth about God: He’s good, He’s ready to forgive, and He’s abounding in pledged love to His people.

COVID-19 has acutely revealed what has been true of us the entire time: we are always needy and never self-sufficient. While we are never the master of our fate, we have a good and gracious God who is. Church family, we can bank on the truths of Psalm 86 because Jesus came and proved that all of this is true. What a comfort to look on Him, lean on Him, and glorify Him by relating to Him as He is. The Scriptures stand inviting us to know, trust, and enjoy this God even in the most uncertain of days.

LATEST UPDATES

This Sunday marks the first Sunday since March 15, 2020 that we will have the option to host up to 25% of our Main Hall’s capacity for the temporary live-streaming of our weekly service. Our highest-attended service ever, which was Easter Sunday in 2019, had 270 people seated in the Main Hall shoulder-to-shoulder; we are considering that our functioning maximum capacity. So while we would be lawfully allowed to host up to 68 people, we have decided to start with a smaller number to ensure that we are practicing effective social distancing and promoting the safest environment possible given the conditions we can operate in (see more info below).

This decision has not been entered into lightly or prayerlessly, and we understand this to be a matter of each person’s conscience. In no way should our plans place an expectation upon you. In fact, we want to ensure that each member feels the freedom to make an informed decision about what is best for them and their family. To that end, we are asking that each of you give us your preference for attending a service in the Main Hall during phase 1 of Florida’s plan to re-open the state. Please note that you must complete the form in order to physically attend services (until further notice).

  1. This Sunday, May 10, we will continue live-streaming our service through our website and on Facebook. We will begin the live-stream at 10:00 a.m. and the service will begin at 10:15. You can find resources online and through the Med 4 Prep that will help ready your heart and help your children engage during the service.
  2. This Sunday will not be an exclusive live-stream of our service; we plan to host 25-30 people with the hopes of gradually increasing that number over the coming weeks. This limited availability to host people has given rise for us to prayerfully consider how best to plan for these services. Here are some of our conclusions:

    1. We are seeking to host members and those in the membership process for the time being.
    2. Considering your survey inputs, we will invite a rotation of people and progress through our membership directory to do so. These invitations will be purposeful. Since CGs have continued to meet online providing us with some measure of face time with one another, we will seek to invite groups of people who do not participate in the same CG. We hope that this will help us see and enjoy time with church members you haven’t seen during this time. Take advantage of this opportunity to encourage one another!
    3. All who attend the service are expected to uphold the social distancing guidelines that will limit/prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
  3. In hopes of helping our members better connect with those in the church they may not know well or haven’t seen in a while, Covenant Connections are released every week to help us learn about one another and pray for one another. Take 15-20 minutes and better get to know other members of the church. Contact Charlie Jackson if you need the password to view these episodes.
  4. On Sunday, May 17 we will host our May Members Meeting and Corporate Prayer time online. Make plans to join us as we hear ministry updates, vote to receive new members, and hear updates from one another. We trust these meetings serve to keep us connected together in meaningful ways.

PROCEDURES AND PROTOCOLS FOR RE-GATHERING PLANS

These are the steps we are taking to ensure that our facilities, services, and in-person practices are following the recommended guidelines.

  • Please arrive between 9:45-10:00 a.m.
  • We will not offer CLK in May. The playground will also be closed. Children are invited to participate in the service. We will have worship guides available for kids. Parents are asked to ensure their children uphold safe distancing from others and to have close oversight of them at all times.
  • The coffee bar will be closed.
  • Water coolers will be available in case of an emergency. We’re asking attendees to bring a pre-filled water container.
  • Bulletins will be made available online.
  • We will have an usher guide you to your assigned seating area. We will pre-select seating areas each week based on the attendees who have been invited and indicated they will come. These seating areas will observe the recommended social-distancing guidelines.
  • We will have the two main entrances to the Main Hall propped open to prevent surface contact.
  • Four hand-sanitizing stations have been set up inside the entrances to the Main Hall. Please sanitize your hands each time you enter the Main Hall.
  • Each attendee will be asked to wipe down the wooden areas of the pews they sat in, and the pew back in front of them.
  • The bookstall will not be open. If you would like to purchase a book, let the usher/staff know and we can arrange accordingly. We ask that you do not touch the books during this time.
  • We welcome but do not require the use of masks. Please bring a mask if you plan to use one.
  • Song-sheets with lyrics will be printed and distributed to seating areas on Wednesday. The distribution of these will follow the recommended sanitation protocol.
  • After the service, attendees will be asked to exit promptly and make their way to the parking lots. There, you may fellowship by maintaining a safe distance of at least 6-feet apart from one another. Remember our practice of upholding government guidelines will be on display for our community. May our practice be consistent with our preaching.

If you have any questions about our plans, please reach out. If you have any needs that we can help meet, please let us know. Please pray for us as we seek to faithfully shepherd the church in the days ahead. Pray for unity, pray for an outpouring of consideration of one another, pray for God to be honored among our church family. Your pastors love you very much and we believe God is going to bring us through this together.

By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

April 30, 2:30 p.m. Update

Faith family,

Psalm 16 begins with this cry: “Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in you.” This faith-filled prayer isn’t based upon what all David would like for God to do or change. Rather, the simplicity of this cry is found in its humility. A man who recognizes his limitations and needs is asking God to simply be God. We could say David prays like this: “God, be who You are to me, because I trust that You are who I need most.

That description of David (limited and needy) sounds a lot like who we’ve been revealed to be over the past several weeks. God has been gracious to use this pandemic to refine His people, to wring out our self-sufficiency, and to bring us to a place where of rediscovering how He is our greatest treasure. I am reminded of John Newton’s hymn, I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow, which he wrote after his dear friend and fellow hymn writer William Cowper slid into a depression that led to insanity. Newton would never have asked for such a means of refinement. But in the end, he could see how it was given to “break thy schemes of earthly joy, that thou may’st find thy all in Me.” (You can find a recording of this song performed by Bob Kauflin at Together for the Gospel here)

My prayer for our church family has been and is this: that through the various trials we are each walking through, especially in light of COVID-19, we would each take heart knowing that when we discover the valleys of our lives or hit rock bottom within ourselves, there is a grace there that simply cannot be known atop the mountain. Brothers and sisters, cry out to God in your despair, fear, loneliness, frustration, grumbling, hurt, anxiety, worry, anger, and weakness. Oh, how the Psalms show us the beauty and effectiveness of prayers uttered with voices of weaknesses making their way to the God of might and strength. Psalms 6, 13, 22, 88-90 are just a few you might find comfort in digging into this week. As Marshall Segal said, “Draw near to God all the more as social distancing continues. Wherever you are stuck for now, find a closet, and let that closet open worlds beyond this one. Get alone with your heavenly Father every day, anchor your heart in all that He promises, and then ask Him to use you to bless at least one person, even in some small way, today.” Aside from enjoying God, one of the sweetest graces of being near to Him is then being used by Him to encourage, love, and serve others. 

Oh, that God would make us a people who find fullness of life in enjoying Him and encouraging others, dear brothers and sisters.

LATEST UPDATES

We continue to monitor the latest updates and government guidelines as it pertains to the gradual lifting of the safe-at-home orders. We continue to ask for your prayers and understanding as we seek to shepherd the flock among us, with all of her varying opinions and perspectives on what is best in the days ahead. We also ask that you would continue to pray for and help in maintaining unity amidst our diversity. 

  1. This Sunday, May 3, we will continue exclusively live-streaming our service through our website and on Facebook. We will begin the live-stream at 10:00 a.m. with the service beginning at 10:15 a.m. To better prepare our hearts for the gathering, take time to read the Meditation for Preparation that goes out every Thursday night. Parents, make plans to print off the children’s worship service guide to help your children engage throughout the service. If you need these printed and can swing by the office to pick them up, contact Charlie with that request.
  1. This Sunday, May 3, we will join together online for a time of corporate prayer from 4:30-5:30 p.m. You should have received a Zoom invitation. If you did not, please contact Charlie for that link. Some of the most effective work that we can/will do together takes place in these prayer meetings. Please make plans to join us to pray.
  1. Covenant Connections continues to be a way to better learn more about fellow members. It’s our hope that these conversations serve to encourage us to pray for and get to know others in the church who we might not know.
  1. Our May Members’ Meeting with corporate prayer is coming up in a few weeks on May 17 at 4:30 p.m. We will make a decision on the forum for this meeting next week. Make plans to join us for these life-giving times together. 

A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT

I praise God for our church’s willingness to pursue and uphold the biblical value of community. The experience of that biblical reality has done more good in my life than I will fully know. I pray that sentiment is true of your life as well. The mediums that God has given us to experience that value are numerous…and then a pandemic hit. Those mediums in large part have been reduced to a small handful of options, with perhaps the dominating one being device screens. I assume that many of us are experiencing a level of screen fatigue. When this fatigue sets in, it becomes easy, justifiable, and perhaps desirable to do away with the screens. While I affirm the need to have boundaries with our screens, I also want to caution us against giving up the medium if that medium is a primary way to experience a necessary, biblical value. James has reminded us that endurance during trials accomplishes needed good, so endure the less-than-ideal means in order to still reap the intended good. God desires to use you in the lives of other church’s members and others in your life for good. If the only way we can experience that is through screens, then let’s not grow weary in doing good! (Gal. 6:9)

I also praise God for the various stories and testimonies that the elders and staff have heard from the body. These stories have proven to be an impetus for increased prayer and genuine thanksgiving for every member. Thank you for your willingness to give us the opportunity to pray for/with you as well as to keep us updated on the good things that the Spirit is doing in, through, around, and to you. A few examples:

  • Members visiting other members (at social distance approved levels) to check in, sing with, and pray for one another
  • Members running errands, grocery shopping, providing financial assistance, and helping one another 
  • Members blessing others with meals and gestures of thoughtfulness
  • Members more regularly praying for one another 
  • Members intentionally reaching out to others they do not know well 
  • Members creatively and faithfully sharing the gospel with others (we have heard many stories of increased boldness and faithfulness with the gospel)
  • Members reading the bible/participating in small group studies together
  • Members serving and coming alongside humanitarian efforts in the city to love those who have been hit hardest during this time

Praise be to God this is only a sampling! Church, thank you for your example and your willingness to care for others in times of need. This kind of life together gives a visible affirmation to the power of the gospel we proclaim! Excel still more, beloved. 

You are missed. You are loved. Praise be to God, we are kept! 

By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

April 23, 4:30 p.m. Update

Covenant Life Church family,

As life continues to reinforce rhythms during this pandemic that have become the new normal, the sting remains. That sting is the ache of separation that runs counter to the social distancing guidelines we’ve been living under for the last few weeks. Out of love for neighbor (Mark 12:30-31), with hopes of seeking the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29:7), and rightly submitting to our governing authorities (Rom 13:1-5), we adhere seeking to do our part in the national effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Yet with every passing day, we are reminded that God made us for community, to live in close proximity to others, and when we are unable to gather in the ways He has designed, that absence from our faith community hurts.

Paul captures some of this hurt for us in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20: “But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us. For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.”

As our ache persists for one another, I pray we take heart in Jesus’ example. He is no stranger to suffering and as such, He alone is our hope. Our hope will not be found in a roaring economy or a healthy body, but rather in Jesus Christ. This is why we “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). In light of this command to draw near, how timely was the preached word on Sunday? We can draw near to our God through the scriptures and receive the implanted word for we know that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deut 8:3).

I praise God that we are able to live stream each Sunday, but let’s remember that it is God’s good design for His people to gather together to pray His word, sing His word, and sit under the preaching of His word. Until we are able to do this again, let’s fill the cracks and crevices of our days with more personal Bible reading, meditation, fasting, and prayer. As the quarantine makes our world seem smaller, let God’s word loom larger in our lives. I am praying we don’t miss the opportunities to daily steep ourselves in His word. Until we see each other face to face, let’s continue to preach the gospel to ourselves, reminding our hearts what we know to be true about Jesus and how that makes endurance during these ache-filled days possible. No matter what the future holds, the Lord is at our side. Take heart, family.  As Moses prayed, “Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Ps 90:14). Yes, even days filled with toil, hurts, and troubles.

LATEST UPDATES

  1. This Sunday, April 26, we will continue exclusively live-streaming our service through our website and Facebook page. We will again begin the live stream at 10:00 a.m. and begin the service at 10:15 a.m. We are saddened that we will not have the opportunity to partake in the Lord’s Supper together this Sunday. We encourage you to reflect on the wonder of this meal and its benefit to our faith and church. In hopes of preparing our hearts today for when we can gather again soon, may we be found faithful in turning from sin and walking in repentance.
  2. On Sunday, May 3 we will be having an online corporate prayer time from 4:30-5:30 p.m. Be on the lookout next week for a Zoom invite. If you have not made it to our prayer times together, please make every effort to join us. What we hope God does in us and through us requires help from on high. Add to those desires the unique needs of this season, and the need to pray together is monumental. We hope to see you then.
  3. Continue to follow along with our Covenant Connections interviews (contact Charlie for the password if you need it) so that we can better know and pray for one another. We are hopeful these conversations work to uphold and strengthen our unity in these social-distancing days.
  4. Our scheduled Members’ Meeting and corporate prayer time for May is Sunday, May 17 at 4:30 p.m. We will communicate our intentions for the forum of the meeting at a later date. These meetings serve to help us act on both our privileges and our responsibilities as a church family. Please make plans to join. After ten years, these meetings continue to be some of my favorite times together; they are an indispensable part of feeling well-connected to the life of CLC.

LOOKING AHEAD

  • We know that many are eagerly looking forward to social restrictions being lifted and that others remain concerned about what this could mean for the spread of the coronavirus. We too share both of these sentiments. We greatly desire to be gathered together again in worship and ministry on our campus as well as throughout our city and world. However, we also recognize the responsibility we have to care for both our faith family and the surrounding community.
  • While we await further definitive guidelines from our government leaders, we are prayerfully considering a number of different scenarios of how our church can best move forward in the next phase of this season. Please join us in praying for God’s wisdom, discernment, and guidance for each elder, and even each member of our church.
  • In the days ahead, it will be vital for every member of CLC to insist upon and fight for God-honoring unity amidst varying degrees in matters of one’s own conscience. So long as we act in accordance with the Scriptures, and (when possible) in harmony with what our elected officials grant us to do, we pray that each member will take the necessary steps to decide on the best timing for them to resume gathering until this season of a pandemic is over. The gospel-solidarity we enjoy is bound together by a stronger thread than our personal preferences over how to re-engage socially, even with the most compelling reasons being given from either side of the question at hand. Whether you believe it is best to remain isolated during the pandemic, or you are wanting to take the first opportunity afforded by lifted restrictions to gather with one another again, we must not be willing to tread upon the harmony in the gospel we have at the expense of each other. May we avoid trying to force others to bind their consciences to ours and instead seek to welcome, love, learn from, and be united with those who hold differing perspectives. This informs both how we interact with those who differ from us as well as how to speak of those who differ from us in the presence of others. Jesus’ prayer in John 17:22-26 makes clear that Jesus’ focus on unity and love among His children is far more profound than we tend to appreciate. May the days ahead by marked by charity, wisdom, unity, and love.

If you need anything, please reach out to any of the elders. It is our joy to serve as your pastors. You are missed and you are loved.

By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

April 15, 7:00 p.m. Update

Beloved,

“As days disrupted turn to weeks, and weeks to months, let’s be the church to each other, as promised, in these precious days. And let’s represent Christ, as the Church, to our neighbors. There’s no Plan B. Christ doesn’t need a Plan B. Quarantined hours invested in what it means to be the church in such unusual days won’t be in vain. Jesus will build His Church, however many congregations do not survive. The Church, every faithful member, will endure—and forever enjoy a new world without virus, disease, or any other ailment. The gates of hell will not prevail against Christ’s advancing church.”

As I read these words by David Mathis, my heart was uniquely strengthened by considering God’s purposes in the uncertainties of this time. My attitude about social distancing has been all over the place over the past month, with most of that time spent complaining, grumbling, and allowing frustration to take up residence within. I have not enjoyed the distance from the church I love and the people of the city I am hoping to share Christ with. I’ve regularly felt that this pandemic is causing us, as a church, to lose ground; to not have access to others who need gospel ministry; and to slow down our obedience to plant churches, invest into others, and effectively make disciples who delight, live, and work, as our mission statement spells out.

But God, through His word and by His Spirit, has been leading me to repentance. He has been showing me this: while His good design is for His people to gather together regularly, any and all temporary disruptions to those rhythms (like other times and in other places throughout history) have never thwarted the unstoppable purposes of God. In fact, in great mercy, God has chosen to use the likes of globe-stopping pandemics to refine His people and accomplish His purposes. If you are growing weary or losing heart, I pray that you would be strengthened in your inner man by the purposes, promises, and sovereign care of our God.

Please reach out and let us know how we can serve you. It would be and is our joy to serve and encourage you as you seek to glorify God and enjoy Him!

LATEST UPDATES

  1. The Sunday services for the remainder of April (19th and 26th) will be live-streamed through our website and Facebook. We continue to prayerfully monitor the latest updates and make plans for the upcoming weeks. And while we hoped to avoid making decisions multiple weeks out, it is clear that we will not be gathering the remainder of this month. We have continued to work to improve the quality of our live-stream with the hopes of more effectively serving you and your family. The consistent work of a small group of folks (Charlie, Frankie, Matt Chandler, and Brent Crosswhite) in this endeavor has been a gift. Their work has been supported by a larger group who have served in multiple ways.
  2. This Sunday night we are having an online corporate prayer time from 7:00-8:00 p.m. Be on the lookout for a Zoom invite which will include a list of topics we hope to pray for. Consider these topics and come prepared to pray with your church family.
  3. I wanted to say “thank you” to Jenny, the classroom coordinators, and a few deliverers who helped provide a special touch to our children this past weekend. I know that these days are also different for our children, and it is our hope that these efforts supported the work that parents are doing in bringing up their children in the instruction of the Lord.
  4. If you missed our first Covenant Connections interview with JoJo Johnson, you can find it on the Facebook members page. Be on the lookout for a few of these to be published every week while we are in our quarantined days. It’s the hope that these conversations serve to help you better know one another, which we trust will lead to better friendships, more personalized prayers, and greater unity among our church family.
  5. This Saturday, April 18, is the 10th anniversary of God’s grace to us in bringing this church into existence and sustaining us up to this point. While our celebration for this celebration-worthy day is postponed, I pray that we would reflect on God’s kindness to us through one another. May these first ten serve to position us and thus propel us into the days ahead with full hearts of God’s goodness, full heads of God’s truth, and full hands in obedience to His mission. To God be the glory!

ENCOURAGEMENTS

  1. Intentionally look for people to share Christ with and do good for. God has prepared good works for us (Eph. 2:10). He has purposed to show the immeasurable riches of His kindness through seemingly mundane and normal acts of Christian courage in a world consumed by fear. When a cholera outbreak came to London, Charles Spurgeon admonished every Christian: “Now is the time for all of you who love souls. You may see men more alarmed than they are already; and if they should be, mind that you avail yourselves of the opportunity of doing them good. you have the Balm of Gilead; when their wounds smart, pour it in. You know of Him who died to save; tell them of Him. Lift high the cross before their eyes. Tell them that God became man that man might be lifted to God. Tel them of Calvary, and its groans, and cries, and sweat of blood. Tell them of Jesus hanging on the cross to save sinners. Tell them that there is life for those who look to the Crucified One.” And on the heels of Easter, tell them that He is no longer in the grave but has risen with the power to defeat sin and death. Tell them to repent of their sins and trust in Christ alone! For the good of their souls, brothers and sisters, let us tell them.
  2. As you have opportunities to share the gospel, we encourage you to share those stories with our staff that we may be able to incorporate those stories in our prayer times together. These stories serve to call us to prayer and encourage our faith to share the gospel with those around us. Submit your stories to info@covenantlifetampa.org, and we will lift those up in our corporate prayer gatherings.
  3. Many of us invited friends, neighbors, and family members to join our Good Friday service and Easter live-stream. Many of those whom we invited have yet to put their faith in Christ. We want to encourage you to follow up with those you invited with the hopes of having a spiritual conversation with them. Let’s not let this opportunity to follow-up pass us by (Eph. 5:16).
  4. As the landscape of employment continues to fluctuate and those within our church are affected by the restrictions of our day, opportunities will abound for us as a church family to help one another meet needs. We ask any of you with needs to please reach out to us to make us aware of your situation. We want to do what we are privileged to do for another in times of need. Help us be that to you by sharing your needs with any of our elders (Gal. 6:2).
  5. This season is financially impacting many in our church in dramatically different ways. Many remain gainfully employed, whereas others have suddenly lost their jobs or found themselves on furlough. Amidst this season of uncertainty, we are still called by God to worship Him through our finances by placing Him squarely in the middle of our budgets. This giving is to be voluntary, eager, and cheerful (2 Cor. 9:7). God rewards these kinds of givers in a myriad of ways (2 Cor. 9:6). So, let’s continue to trust Him in our giving together because His mission continues, the gospel must go forth, discipleship never stops, churches need to be planted, and our city is ready to be served. Bob is preparing to send a budget update within the next few weeks to give us a better picture of the financial status of the church.

Thank you for your continued patience, encouragement, and prayer as we all navigate these unknown times together. We will continue to provide updates regarding our gatherings and ministries every Tuesday. You can always access these on our website, but we will also notify you by email and social media.

I love you and I cannot wait to see you soon, Lord willing.

by Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

April 8, 1:00 p.m. Update

Church family,

“It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift from the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us…therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart.”

I’ve read these lines from Bonhoeffer’s classic book, Life Together, multiple times, yet last week I was taken aback as I considered this quote in light of the current times. First, I was moved to consider that what we have been experiencing for a few weeks, some Christians have always and only known (2 Cor. 4:8-12). The sick, imprisoned (Heb. 13:3), and believers in other countries where public worship exposes them to life-threatening persecution all live this reality continually. It has caused me to pray more fervently for them (Lk. 18:1-8, 3 Jn. 2, Matt. 5:10-12). Second, I was filled with genuine thankfulness for each of you (Eph. 1:6). While I do not like the absence between us, I do find an intensifying longing for the time we do gather together again. Praise God for the lifeline of the ordinary means of grace (preaching, praying, singing). They have kept us united, in part, via the web. But oh, how I long for the fullness of those graces – not merely to experience them again, but to experience them while gathered with you. Praise from the bottom of my heart is lifted up to God because of you. Lastly, my longing for this disease, the death it has wrought, and the devastation it has produced to end, combined with the longings to be gathered again with you, have compelled me to a greater longing for glory (Phil. 3:20-21). The answers to all of the temporary longings I have now will be brought to fullness and completion in glory. When faith gives way to sight, when we no longer see dimly but clearly, when brokenness is made whole, and when we get God…my oh my, what a day of rejoicing that will be! (Rev. 21:1-4)

PRAYERS FOR OUR CHURCH

I trust that these past few weeks have shaped you in ways that have increased your knowledge of God, affections for Him, enjoyment of Him, and obedience to Him. May it be that when restrictions are lifted, there are some ways where we don’t return back as we were. I’m praying for a degree of change that could only have been accomplished by these trying times. Here are three ways I have been asking God to move among our faith family.

  1. For God to use this pandemic to strip away the empty securities that we are prone to fully trust in. We should rest in and fear Him alone. May He remind us that bank/retirement accounts, job security, and personal comfort make for terrible masters. May He expose our false sense of invincibility and immortality by allowing us to “number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). How have you seen this reality in your life this past month? What are you unwilling to yield and submit to Him?
  2. For God to use this pandemic to deepen our faith. Though we are tempted to lose heart and become fearful/anxious by the various trials of these days, “our anchor holds within the veil.” Pastor Frances Grimké preached the following to the Washington DC congregation he pastors in 1918 following the worst flu epidemic in US history:
    1. “If…we find that we did not get out of our religion very much help, in bracing us up under the strain through which we have been passing, then we know that there is something wrong; either we have no faith at all, or it is very weak, and therefore that we need to give a little more attention to our spiritual condition than we have been giving. It shows that we are running down spiritually. Or, if we find that we were helped, that our fears were allayed as we thought of our relations to God and to His Son Jesus Christ, then we have an additional reason why we should cling all the closer to Him, and why we should be all the more earnest in our efforts to serve Him. We ought to come of this epidemic more determined than ever to run with patience the race that is set before us; more determined than ever to make heaven our home. And this I trust is the purpose, the determination of us all.”
  3. For God to use this pandemic to re-center our hope. Our hope in the face of COVID-19 is not that we or our loved ones will avoid sickness and death. Nor is our hope in how young we are or how strong our immune systems may be. Our hope rests in Jesus’ words to Martha as she grieved the death of her brother, Lazarus, and sorrowed over Jesus’ seemingly tardy arrival. He said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn. 11:25-26). May each of us stare at COVID-19 and every other disease, sin, death, and the devil himself square in the face and say with Martha, “Yes, Lord! I believe!” (Jn. 11:27).

LATEST UPDATES

  1. Good Friday service. This Friday, April 10 at 7:00 p.m., we will post our Good Friday service. We encourage you to make plans to watch this service as we seek to both consider the wonder of the death of Jesus and prepare our hearts for our Easter celebration. See the encouragements below for ways to best prepare for this service.
  2. Easter Sunday service. This Sunday, April 12, at 10:15 a.m., we will again be exclusively live streaming our Easter service. We will begin the live stream at 10:05 a.m. so that you are prepared for the 10:15 a.m. start. Also, we will post a 20-25 minute Bible story-time for our children (up to age 7) that will be available Sunday morning on our website and Facebook page. We encourage you to join along with your children as they consider the resurrection of Jesus.

PREPARATIONS FOR THIS WEEKEND

  1. Good Friday and Easter go together. We encourage you to make every effort to watch and participate in both services. The darkness of Good Friday is meant to be overwhelmed by the bright light of Resurrection Sunday – make plans to allow your heart and those of your family to experience both this weekend. Make these services a priority for yourself and/or family. Our prayer is that these services will both strengthen our faith and lead to conversations with others about what it means to follow Jesus.
  2. Our Good Friday service is unique. The celebratory tones of our corporate gatherings are muted in this service as we consider the seriousness of sin, the somber reality of the death of Jesus, and the depths of God’s love that abounds in crimson streams of grace that flow from Christ to us by faith in His completed work on the cross.
  3. Invite non-Christian and unchurched family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers to watch either/both of the services this weekend. These services have historically proven to be a time when those around us are willing to join us for a service. Please know that while we are prohibited from gathering in-person, some within your sphere of relationships will respond positively to such an invitation to watch online. Building on relationships that you currently have, prayerfully consider inviting others to watch online with you. If they agree or if you are unsure if they watched online, please follow up to have conversations about what was shared and learned. It may be helpful to have a conversation about the temporary nature of these online services, and that we would love for them to join us when we are able to gather again. Feel free to use any of the graphics we have created to invite others via social media platforms or through email.
  4. Let’s pray for the Spirit to move. May the prayers of our members this week be dominated by petitions and prayers for Jesus to save and awaken souls to the breathtaking reality of His grace and redemption. Let’s ask Him to do what only He can do in our lives and in the lives of those who do not yet know Him. Church, He is able!

Let’s continue to pray: for the sick, for the fearful, for salvation to come to many, and for the glory of God to shine brightly. Amidst an uncertain world, He alone is certain: “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress: I shall not be greatly shaken” (Ps. 62:2). The mission continues. Let’s be humble, wise, and courageous as we follow Him. Your pastors love you dearly.

By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

April 1, 2:00 p.m. Update

Beloved,

You are missed. I have missed being with you the past three Sundays and the prospect of, at least, another month of being physically separated deeply saddens me. There is a genuine ache for the distinctiveness that marks our life together as a church. The deep joy of sitting under God’s word together, singing congregationally, sharing conversations in the lobby, the laughter (and the cries, too) that fill CLK’s hallway, the shared grace in observing the Lord’s Supper together, sitting under God’s word together, praying together after the service, and enjoying one another’s company are just a few of the sights and sounds of our life that I treasure and miss tremendously. I am thankful for modern technology that helps us stay somewhat connected for now, yet I long for the day when we can gather and be with one another again. 

There is scarcely a page in the Bible that does not deal with the trials and troubles of life, from the mundane to the catastrophic. Yet, over them all, the “Lord our God the Almighty reigns” (Rev. 19:6). He “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11); not merely some things or most things or easy things – all things. This means he is always at work and that nothing can thwart his purposes (Job. 42:2), including COVID-19. God’s sovereignty over suffering sustains the soul, even amidst death, because his purposes are wise (Isa. 28:29) and good (Ps. 73:1). The Scriptures are a living testimony to this wisdom and goodness of God amidst trial and trouble and are, therefore, meant to infuse our lives with endurance, encouragement, and hope in Christ (Rom. 15:4). So, I hope this update finds you tethered to God through His Word.

LATEST UPDATES

  1. Bob Walker is beginning an online Bible study through the book of Galatians, using the Free from Bondage God’s Way study guide. You must commit to the full five weeks of studying through this book and doing the 15-20 minutes of daily homework to participate in this study. The initial meeting will be this Friday, April 3, from 8:00-8:45 a.m. Email Bob if you are interested in receiving the invite for this study.
  2. This Sunday, April 5, we will continue exclusively live-streaming our service through our website and on Facebook (in the place of in-person gathering). We will begin the live stream at 10:05 a.m. so that you are prepared for the 10:15 a.m. start. By way of reminder, we need to view our live stream in this season as a temporary concession, rather than a creation of ongoing convenience. We genuinely praise God for the capabilities we have and the access this gives to our church family and others while we are seeking to “flatten the curve” of the spread of COVID-19, but this live stream option is not part of our plans for ongoing ministry. 
  3. This Sunday, April 5, we will conduct our April Members Meeting/Corporate Prayer meeting online from 4:30-5:45 p.m. We will be voting on Corporate Directors (as explained in Charlie’s 3/27 email), voting to receive new members and to remove members who have joined other local churches. We will then spend our time together in prayer. This prayer meeting will be exclusive to CLC members.
  4. In light of the recent extension of the government’s request to continue to adhere to the CDC’s social distancing restrictions until the end of April, we will offer a pre-recorded Good Friday service on Good Friday (April 10) from 7:00-8:00 p.m. You will have the ability to watch this service anytime thereafter. We encourage you to carve out an hour before Easter Sunday to reflect on the necessity of the cross and the love of God seen in the atoning work of Jesus. We will also be live streaming our Easter Sunday (April 12) service 10:15 a.m. Both of these services would be great opportunities to invite non-Christians to watch with you. We are making links to share with friends, neighbors, and coworkers who may be interested in tuning in.

ENCOURAGEMENTS TO REDEEM THE TIME

  1. Let’s keep looking to God. When God’s people failed to remember God, it left them vulnerable to trust in worthless idols (Hosea 4.6). How forgetful we are! Nothing is more important than pursuing God through ordinary means of grace every day. How much better it is to be informed of God’s word to us than it is to be glued to the news! It is the sure and steady anchor for our souls in these days. Let’s trust Him for the promises He has made and not hold Him to any that He hasn’t. 
  2. Let’s keep looking to who we are in Christ – the church! Paul is clear in Ephesians 4 of the work of the church to build itself up in love. Our mission doesn’t stop during this pandemic. While we may not be able to gather right now, we can still speak the truth in love to one another. We can “comfort the discouraged, help the weak;” we can “rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in everything.” (1 Thes. 5.14, 16-18). 
    • If there was ever a time to start praying through the church directory, it is now. 
    • Keep meeting with one another virtually. Don’t neglect CG meetings or other opportunities to connect with other members.
    • Reach out to those who are less able to get out, or circle back around with those you were initially concerned about when this outbreak hit. Be aware of (1) the needs of working parents who are now homeschooling, (2) single members working from home, now cut off from social connections, and (3) more vulnerable members who may feel singled out and excluded. Social distancing means we keep a safe distance from one another. but it doesn’t mean we neglect to engage, serve, and love one another. 
    • Rediscover the lost art of writing notes and letters. Continue to make phone calls daily or make use of video capabilities to see one another. 
  3. Let’s make the best use of our live-streamed services. I realize that for some, the live stream option doesn’t remove distractions and regular interruptions. A few thoughts to help make this time profitable.
    • Pray. Spend time on Saturday evening or Sunday morning in the word and prayer in hopes of preparing your heart to be changed by the word preached, songs sung, and prayers prayed. Pray for other members and nonChristians you know are watching online. Pray for a sense of unity even while we are spread throughout Tampa Bay.
    • Prepare. Tune in early to work through any technical issues – decide in advance how to best participate (which device to use, the best place to display it for all to see), have your Bible close at hand, print the children’s sermon guides for the kids, and listen to any songs you do not know throughout the weekend (you can find our order of worship on our Facebook page). Look to invite others to watch with you and if you do, then be intentional to follow up with questions about the sermon and application to their life. 
    • Participate. Look to remove distractions as best you can – dishes will need to be washed, laundry folded, bills paid, cleaning will need to happen. You will get emails, texts, and other notifications during the service. Commit to those you are watching with that you will set apart this time for God and one another. When we stand, stand. When we sing, sing. When we recite together, recite the Scriptures aloud. This is a live stream, not a recording, so while you watch, you are not alone even if you are alone in your living room. Envision dozens upon dozens of CLC households, united in spirit, worshiping throughout Tampa Bay.

I’m praying we would be salt and light throughout Tampa Bay (Matt 5.13-16). The Lord is at hand, so we need not be anxious (Phil 4.5-6). This will pass, and then the next trial will come. In the hands of our good God, every trial tests the genuineness of our faith, which is more precious than gold, so that it might result in “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). He is faithful; he will do it (1 Thes. 5:24).

By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

March 25, 12:00 p.m. Update

Faith family,

I hope you are well and trusting in our Lord Jesus today, even amid continuing uncertainty about what tomorrow holds. As the elders continue to meet, pray, and plan, we do so with a growing sense of gratitude for your help and understanding in these times. The encouragement that we have received around our efforts to care for each member has been wind in our sails. The willingness to walk together through these times, in a posture that seeks to identify evidence of God’s grace as opposed to grumbling and complaining about the way things have to be, has been a particular joy and help to us. We are hopeful that the Holy Spirit will continue to empower us to live our lives in wise, careful, and loving ways towards others. At the same time, we are asking that He will grow us in our ability to rest in the hands of our sovereign Lord, Who is working all things together for the good of those who love Him. Beloved, He is to be trusted, for He is generous and trustworthy! May our confidence in that and our love for Him be on the rise during these days.

At a glance

Because of the rapidly evolving nature of the information that is made available to us daily, we have chosen not to make decisions about our gatherings more than a week in advance. This, we trust, will allow us to stay as current as possible with the latest information as it is made available. With that being said, here are a few announcements.

1. This Sunday, March 29, we will continue exclusively live streaming our service (in the place of in-person gathering). We regret that we will not be able to meet in-person this Sunday. We are further saddened that our church will not have the opportunity to partake in the Lord’s Supper together. We encourage you to reflect on the wonder of this meal and its benefit to our faith and our church. We praise God for the improvements that were made to the quality of the audio & visual (thank you Charlie, Brent Crosswhite, Frankie, Hunter Hughes, and others who helped). As we did last week, we will begin our live-stream at 10:05 a.m. to help you get set-up on time. Please pray for continued fruitfulness from this series in James.

2. The women’s “Being and Making Disciples” workshop has been postponed. Be on the lookout for the rescheduled date to be announced in the coming days.

3. Our April Members’ Meeting and Corporate Prayer will happen online on April 5, at 4:30 p.m. We currently need to vote on a few items, and we desire to share a few pastor’s comments. Aside from that, we are looking forward to another extended time of prayer together. We hope to offer a church-wide, online prayer meeting every other Sunday. We are planning on varying our times from meeting to meeting (4:30-5:30 p.m. and 7:00-8:00 p.m.). We will send the link out next week.

4. Good Friday and Easter services. In light of the necessary precautions that are in place (and even currently unfolding) due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are carefully finalizing our plans for hosting these services and will communicate them next week. Please pray for wisdom for the elders and staff as we seek to prepare accordingly.

A few reminders

In our last correspondence, we stated a few considerations for how to walk out love for God and neighbor in these days. Let’s remember a few of them:

1. Needs will continue to arise over the days, weeks, and months ahead, and we are asking that you please let us know how you are adversely affected by COVID-19. If you will reply here with basic information about your need, we will do our best to come alongside you and be helpful.

2. Let’s continue to creatively connect with other church members. We are asking every member to reach out to at least one person every few days with a phone call or note of encouragement. Please prioritize phone calls and video capabilities to connect. Utilize the church directory as a prayer guide.

3. Take time to read through the CLC Membership Covenant and prayerfully consider how you can continue to walk faithfully in those commitments before God and unto one another. Continue to consider how others in differing life stages are being affected by this, and with empathy move towards one another.

4. COVID-19 does not stop the church’s mission! Let’s continue to be diligent to ask for prayer requests, faithful to pray, and keen to follow up in subsequent days. As you are walking your neighborhood streets, pray. As you see people, look to engage them in conversation. Look for opportunities to serve the more vulnerable people in your community. We are praying about how we can creatively reach out to those in our city during these days.

5. Spend time with the Lord during this time through the study and meditation on His word and in prayer. His nearness is our good. Oh, that we would taste and see that He is good. We have also curated some resources that we think would be helpful to you during this time. You can check them out on our website.

As always, if there are any questions or concerns, please reach out to any of us. We love you and it is a joy to serve as your pastors.

by Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

March 18, 10:30 a.m. Update

Beloved church family,

I pray that you were able to join us on the live-stream of our service this past Sunday. I recently heard Greg Gilbert, pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church, say that one of the ways he believes God can, and will, use this pandemic is to stir afresh within each of us great joy and desire to gather together as a church family. Gilbert continued, “There are a lot of Christians across the world for whom watching a service on a television screen isn’t strange or sad at all. It is strange and it is sad for us; it is not normal for us…Because however many weeks we are in this situation, we want you longing to come back to this place, longing to feel the rumble of a few hundred people singing with the walls reverberating with that sound. We want you longing to see and embrace your brothers and sisters as we hear God’s word, read God’s word, and worship God together.” 

I agree with Gilbert here. As thankful as I was that we were able to make live-stream accommodations, and as hopeful as I am that we can continue, this past Sunday was a far cry from the soul-stirring, heart-warming gathering rhythms of our church family. In all that has been and will be lost due to this virus, may the longing to gather together only intensify. To be clear, while it certainly wasn’t ideal, it was a joy seeing so many of you participating with us in singing, praying, and sitting under God’s word. Thank you for being with one another as best we could.

What is to come?

As new information continues to unfold and government officials seek to further prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are faced yet again with difficult decisions as it relates to our church life together. For the reasons we stated in our last email, we believe that it is best to cancel the following activities.

  1. Our Sunday gathering this week, as well as all other Sunday activities. We are making plans to live-stream our service with some improvements to enhance the audio and visual quality. We will begin our live-stream a bit sooner hoping to help those who experience technical difficulties or need a bit more time to get set up. If James 1:1-4 was timely, we believe that this week’s text (1:5-8) is equally needed as we seek the wisdom that we don’t have to navigate days that are unfamiliar to us.
  2. The remainder of CLI and Foundations for this semester. We are thankful for those who have prepared and taught us as well as for those who have made it a priority to attend. 
  3. Our special Members’ Meeting scheduled for Sunday, March 22 concerning the church building process, particularly the topic of debt, has been postponed to a later date. 
  4. Our student ministry gatherings.
  5. The family camp-out this weekend. 
  6. Finally, I am disheartened to announce that we are postponing our 10-year celebration of God’s faithfulness and grace to CLC (April 24-26). Be on the lookout for future plans to celebrate God’s kindness to us as a church family. Help us pass the word that this has been postponed.

How then shall we live?

As we have stated in previous correspondence, these unique days provide us with unique opportunities in displaying our love for God, love for one another, and love for neighbor. Here are a few reminders to consider.

  1. If you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, please adhere to the recommended protocols and inform the elders.
  2. If you are in need of help, we want to know what your needs are. Please email us with basic information about your need. We are putting together a response team that will seek to help us practically meet needs for one another. A few areas of need that come to mind: yard work, housework, errands, doctor appointments, grocery pick up and delivery, financial assistance, job loss, childcare help, etc.
  3. If you have the margin to help others, please reply here and detail your availability. While we know that every member would be willing to help, we are looking for those who have greater than normal availability or unique skills to help others.
  4. As we consider how to move towards one-another (with social-distancing in mind), we want to ensure that every member feels the freedom to voice their preferences as it pertains to giving or receiving help. For example, if you have a newborn and have been receiving meals from others, but are now uncomfortable with someone bringing over food, please feel the freedom to make that known. If you are being asked by others how they can help you, and you would prefer to not receive help that may compromise health measures you’ve established, feel free to communicate that. Let’s not merely think about how we would like to help, but let’s consider the one receiving the help and hold their preferences in higher regard than our own.
  5. Creatively think of ways to connect with other church members. Utilize the church directory as a prayer guide and make it a point to reach out to one person every 1-2 days with a note of encouragement, a phone call, and/or a prayer. Prioritize phone calls and video capabilities to connect with one another. Texts are easy but there is something much more personal and life-giving in a voice to voice or face to face interaction, even if over a technological medium. We are thinking through online options for hosting CG meetings and corporate prayer times in the weeks ahead.
  6. Families, leverage this time to make memories together. Work to ensure that your speech is along the lines of Ephesians 4:29 so as to protect the worldview of children in your homes. It would be easy to complain during these days, so teach children that when days are difficult it is acceptable to grumble and complain. May our children watch their parents bring their requests to God and hear of the opportunities this time affords, not the inconveniences. Pray together, do projects that have others in mind, and enjoy one another’s presence. Families, remember our single brothers and sisters, as well as those who are older, who are being affected in different ways that you are. Look for ways to connect and check-in with those who could easily feel alone during these times.
  7. Two encouragements regarding our temporary suspension of Sunday morning gatherings…
    1. Parents, but dads in-particular — set the tone for family worship. Set up the live-stream of the service on a big screen or in another prominent way. Sing loudly, take notes, bring some excitement, and start planning early. May Sundays continue to be memorable for us and our children. 
    2. Continue to faithfully give. Not only will this help the ministries of CLC move forward in the days ahead, but it will continue to keep your heart from becoming close-fisted to that which God has entrusted to you. Giving faithfully will help serve our hearts to not trust in the wrong things during these days. There are multiple options to consider to help you give easily. If you have questions about how to give during this time, contact Bob Walker.
  8. Single brothers and sisters, leverage this time to draw near to God and creatively to others. Remember the elderly and families who’ve been uniquely affected by these precautions, and extend grace if their check-ins are not as frequent as you had hoped for. Look for ways to bless them with your prayers, encouragements, and your efforts to reach out to them.
  9. Let’s not only look within but also think about your spheres of influence and identify those who may be overlooked or in need during these days. Opportunities are all around us as we seek to do good to our neighbors and those particularly affected by this situation. There are church members who are willing and ready to be deployed to come alongside you in your attempts to love neighbors, coworkers, and family members. In our interactions with others, let’s be quick to ask for prayer requests, faithful to pray, and diligent to follow up in subsequent days. We trust there are ample opportunities to speak of Jesus in these days. May we prayerfully look to make the most of them.
  10. Don’t neglect to let Jesus dazzle you day by day. Prioritize time with God in and through His word. I’ve heard several people say, “I have more time now to slow down and do things that I haven’t had the margin to do lately,” May we not waste the opportunities to draw nearer to our God. This will be the lifeline for every other encouragement in this letter.

There are a host of other things to consider, but let’s prayerfully digest and apply these together. You are prayed for. You are loved. Worship well this week and let’s be grateful for the world-wide reminder that this world is not our home. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out to us.

By Christ’s wounds and for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

March 15, 12:30 p.m. update

All regular CG gatherings have been canceled for the week. If you have any questions, please contact Bob Walker.

March 14, 4:10 p.m. update

Covenant Life Church,

This has been an interesting week, to say the least. First and foremost, it has been a week marked by sadness and grief as life has been lost and families have been adversely affected by COVID-19. For these families, we mourn, grieve, and pray for comfort, hope, and the faith that is only found in Jesus Christ. It has also been a difficult week to discern and determine the difference between wisdom and fear. There is the need to live wisely as we do our part to mitigate the spread of this virus. There also is the need to avoid living in a state of fear, fear that relegates God beneath what He is, and beneath other things (COVID-19 in this instance). Our prayer has been that God would grant our church family the wisdom needed to live with wisdom and not fear.

It is in light of that prayer that we have continued to monitor the status of the COVID-19 pandemic and to consider how this affects our corporate gatherings. This morning at 9:33 a.m. we received a request from our local officials asking all gatherings of 250 or more to be canceled this Sunday. As we have discussed this request from the city of Tampa and prayed further about our decision, we believe it is now best to cancel our in-person gathering and all other church-related activities scheduled for tomorrow.

How we made this decision

There have been two major factors over the last 24 hours that have led us to this decision.

  1. The request from our local officials. Until now, regulations and guidance on large gatherings have come from state and federal levels. While we believe that those requests are valid and warrant serious consideration, they did not have the specific interest of the Tampa Bay community in mind. A national request takes into account the situation in Seattle as well as that in rural Alabama. Now that our local officials have made a request, we believe this has a unique bearing upon us and should be considered more seriously. We have also had discussions around density precautions. So far in 2020, we have averaged over 240 people on campus each Sunday morning. This means that we are very close numerically to the organizations that the government is asking to cancel public gatherings. We are left with the choice of gathering Sunday, even though we believe that we will not approach 250 persons on-campus, or not gathering Sunday because we are, on average, a church that gathers with 250 people. We believe that our love for our neighbors, our cooperation with our city officials, and our witness to the Tampa Bay area compels us to honor this request. In addition, there are other organizations that are taking measures to honor the city’s request. We want to be among the number of those who are working together to see that this virus does not spread in Tampa Bay.
  2. The exercise of our freedom in loving our neighbor. We believe there is unique freedom for each local church to make decisions that they believe are best for their congregations and communities. It is wise for us to be slow to pass judgment on churches that may be acting differently than we prefer. After all, this is an issue of wisdom. As more and more precautions have been asked of organizations in the bay area, we believe that very few people in our community would be offended if we canceled our in-person gathering, but that some within the church and the community could take offense to our decision to continue to gather. In exercising our freedom, we think it best to avoid any offense.

What we are doing in light of this decision

While we are canceling our in-person gathering tomorrow, we are planning on providing a live-streaming option for us to experience via Facebook Live. You can simply click the link to view the live stream, which will begin at 10:15 a.m. We believe that on the heels of such a week of ups and downs, it would be good for us to stream our service to remind our hearts that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1). We believe the songs we will sing will help us anchor our hearts and hopes to the God who is in control of trials. We also have been looking forward to kicking off our James sermon series this week.

So we ask you to make plans to join us at 10:15 a.m. from your home as we live-stream our service. Be prepared to sing aloud in your home, pray along with us, and sit under James 1:1-4 together. May this both encourage our hearts to appreciate the gift of gathering together and be thankful for the use of technology that would make this an option. To be clear, this live stream option is not something that we will continue as a long term option of staying connected with CLC.

As always, if you have any questions please let us know. Also, if you have unique needs that you require assistance with as a result of this virus, please reach out to us and make those needs known. Please let the church be the church in a time when the church is meant to showcase the love of God.

I trust you will tune in tomorrow morning at 10:15 a.m. If you know of others who regularly attend CLC, please pass this on to them as well.

In Christ,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

March 13, 6:00 p.m.

Church family,

We are continuing to closely monitor the status of COVID-19 in Tampa Bay. As of Friday, March 13 at 6:00 p.m., we are continuing with our original plan to hold services this Sunday. Over the last 24 hours, we have continued to examine our protocols and plans for this Sunday. While we outlined many of them in yesterday’s update, here are a few other updates.

1. We will not provide printed bulletins in an effort to minimize touch-points. A digital bulletin can be accessed on our public Facebook page at facebook.com/covlifetampa on Sunday.

2. Our bookstall will be closely monitored to discourage anyone from perusing books. We will be having a “touch it and you buy it” sale this Sunday.

3. Our CLK cleaning procedures will be increased and thorough. For example, we have a cleaning rotation every 30 minutes while children are in our care, in addition to the procedures before and after the gathering.

4. Those who feel it wisest to remain home and who are scheduled to be in a serve position, please contact a ministry leader as soon as possible to let them know. Your assigned serve position is not an obligation that should keep you from following through on the decision you think is best. If you are unsure of who to contact, please reach out to Charlie Jackson at cjackson@covenantlifetampa.org. In the event of a shortage of teachers, we will begin to make adjustments to our older CLK classes (4s and 5s, seeing as this Sunday the 6-7s are in the service).

Again, as we seek to make real-time decisions as information rapidly unfolds, I would ask that you pray for your elders and staff. Pray for wisdom, unity, and humility as we seek to be faithful in our positions of service. As a brief aside, I hope we recognize God’s grace to CLC through her pastors and staff. Seeing how the elders have allowed pressing discussions and decisions to take priority over other responsibilities has given me a unique sense of gratitude for these men as we seek to care for our faith family. I’ve also seen Charlie joyfully stay late, send out emails around his son’s baseball games, and come in on his day off to ensure that protocols are in place. Jenny has likewise prepared and planned in extra measures this week to best prepare for our gatherings. I praise God for this team. Rest assured they love you more than you know.

Lastly, let’s continue to pray for gospel opportunities that these uncertain times afford us. Gospel opportunities within our faith family as we pray for and love those who are most vulnerable to this virus. Let’s be quick to not allow social distancing to create spaces of isolation. Let’s explore other ways to meet with one another (phone or video calls) with the hopes of ministering to one another, encouraging one another, and loving one another. By God’s grace others in the church will have different opinions than you do about responses and precautions, and by God’s grace, there is a space for charity even in our differences. May these opportunities afford us platforms to display gospel charity and unity. But also, gospel opportunities outside of our faith family as we pray for and love our neighbors through this time. Asking people how you can pray for them is an easy way to love others, hear from others, and it gives you an opportunity to plead with God on their behalf. Let’s be intentional not just with the ask but also with the follow-up. There will be ample opportunities to die to self for the good of another. May we always be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have in these days.

You are loved,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

March 12, 5:30 p.m.

CLC family, 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1-3)—whether spiritual, financial, emotional, relational, or physical. This is crucial to keep at the forefront of our hearts amidst the ever-unfolding outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, across the world. Having been declared a pandemic, COVID-19 may tempt our hearts toward fear or anxiety, but the Word of God and the God of the Word brings peace and comfort. Our God reigns and nothing happens outside His loving, wise, and good sovereign reach—even disease and death (Dt. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; Job 1:20-21; Ja. 4:13- 16). 

Our first response in the face of trials must be to take refuge in God through prayer and reading His Word. Cultivating a Godward perspective grounds our hope in Him and gives us a confident poise as we seek to be wise (Ja. 1:5-6; Mt. 10:16) amidst a world longing to be set free from its corruption (Rom. 8:20). This is not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last until the Lord ushers in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21:1-4). A second response in the face of trials is consideration of and love for our neighbor (Matt 22:37-39).

Like you, we are continuing to pray for those affected by the coronavirus and are praying that God, in great mercy, would bring suffering to an end. But until then, we must find the wisest, most prudent path forward when faced with a world gone awry. As your elders, we want to let you know that we are shaping plans for weekly public gatherings and community groups. We also need to ask for your help in a few ways. 

Please understand that we are not in a position to be a source of information about COVID-19, nor are we able to provide any kind of medical advice. If you want to know more about COVID-19, you should visit the Centers for Disease Control website. If you are in need of medical advice, you should seek that from qualified medical professionals. 

We encourage you to adhere to the following practices: diligently wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds regularly throughout the day; use hand sanitizer when soap/water are unavailable; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; cover your mouth with your inner elbow when you cough or sneeze; and stay home if you feel sick or have had a fever within the last 24 hours. 

As of 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 12, we offer the following counsel for CLC:

  1. We will continue our regular gatherings until further notice. We will evaluate this decision regularly as new information is released. We do not interpret the recent government request to cease “non-essential mass gatherings” as applying to our church. The size of our gathering is relatively small and is not considered non-essential. 
  2. For those gathering on Sunday, we encourage you to greet one another without coming into physical contact with one another. Please refrain from shaking hands, offering high-fives, kissing on the cheek, offering hugs, and other forms of physical contact. This may feel stifling to some, but it is a way to love your neighbor.
  3. In addition to our CLK sickness policy, we will take extra measures to wipe down door handles, handrails, surfaces, light switches, and toys before, during, and after our gatherings. We ask that you monitor your and your children’s health closely for the benefit and protection of others. 
  4. Community Groups are encouraged to gather in a manner that seems prudent to the members and leaders of the groups.
  5. All indications are that this virus disproportionately affects individuals who fall within the following criteria: elderly and/or those with underlying medical conditions, such as autoimmune disorders, heart and lung conditions, diabetes, etc. If you fall within these categories, we encourage you to remain at home.
  6. If you suspect you may be sick or developing sickness, please remain at home and seek proper medical attention. Please follow CDC guidelines when reporting your suspected illness. If you believe you have come into contact with someone who has the coronavirus, or if you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, it is crucial that this matter be made known to the proper authorities immediately. Please also alert the elders so we can discern how to best care for you and your family. 
  7. If you have traveled outside the US in recent days, please inform the elders. No extra measures will be requested beyond what the government requires, but we appreciate the notification.
  8. For the next several weeks we will refrain from passing offering plates, and instead will have preselected volunteers who will handle the plates exclusively. Please feel free to mail checks or give online (contact Bob Walker about giving options that reduce online processing fees). Also, we are looking into ways to receive “introduce yourself” cards via online forms.
  9. We will continue to offer coffee. We will staff the coffee bar with volunteers who will serve you coffee. Please refrain from touching cups, creamer, coffee urns, etc.
  10. Regarding the Lord’s Supper, we have ordered a supply of individual, pre-packaged Lord’s Supper elements. They will be distributed by the individuals who will be given instruction regarding proper hygiene to ensure there is no potential contamination. 
  11. If you think it wisest to remain at home, we will be offering a Facebook live stream of the service beginning this Sunday. The live-stream will be available on our public Facebook page at facebook.com/covlifetampa.
  12. Consider church members who are susceptible to the virus and, in addition to praying for them, find creative ways to care for them, meet their needs, and provide community (in ways that adhere to quarantine policies).

Let’s remember, beloved, that as Christians we are people of faith and not fear. Yes, of course, that does not mean that we act foolishly, paying little attention and taking few precautions. May even this difficult situation cause us to reflect often on the brevity of life, the brokenness of the world, and the beauty of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we watch a world react to this crisis, may we not neglect to share the hope we have in Jesus. What a moment for Christians to respond to this outbreak with faith and not fear, wisdom and not worry, and love in what we say and how we act. 

Thank you so much, brothers and sisters, for your help and understanding in these matters. If you need anything, please reach out to any of our elders or staff without hesitation. It is a joy to care for you and serve as one of your pastors. 

By Christ’s wounds and for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)