I am writing to you in our 3rd month since the pandemic began to disrupt the pattern of life for everyone on the planet. I have to tell you, that God is still good and I can see His faithfulness when I look at how the people of Emmanuel have resolved to lean in and be the love of God to each other and the cities where we are planted. I can’t help but be grateful knowing that God gave me the treasured assignment to serve as the Lead Pastor at Emmanuel!
It’s not a mistake that you and I are living in this moment as connected members of the church and it’s very important for all of us to lean in and follow the direction of the Spirit. Listening for the whisper of the Spirit is more difficult in a season like this when emotionally charged conversations and painful experiences are everywhere.
In Revelation chapters 2 & 3, Jesus speaks to 7 individual churches (churches of Ephesus, Philadelphia, Laodicea, etc.). Each time Jesus speaks and gives instructions, he concludes with this phrase, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” In other words, each church has to lean in and listen to what God is saying to their church. Emmanuel, we don’t need to follow what God is saying to other churches, we must listen to what the Spirit is saying to our church!
What are we doing now?
I believe that we are already following the direction of the Spirit to gather online each weekend and in groups throughout the week. God is faithfully meeting with us in thousands of locations. We have honored the state of Minnesota’s public health expectation to stay home. Since the Stay at Home order ended this past Monday, we now have the additional freedom to gather in person with groups of 10 or less. We encourage you to take advantage of this freedom as you feel comfortable!
I am a pastor to the entirety of Emmanuel, including the vulnerable and hurting. We have stories of people who are in our church presently dealing with the pain and grief of loved ones who have fallen victim to the very real devastation caused by the COVID-19 virus. I care about each one and am conscious that the decisions we make have a ripple effect through several communities. We also have local partners; leaders in law enforcement and hospitals who we want to retain positive relationships for the long-term future. When I make decisions, I must remember everyone but follow the Spirit.
So, here is what we will do over the next few weeks:
1. Continue to worship and meet online every week!
2. Gather in groups of less than 10 in homes and online.
3. I am calling for FASTING AND PRAYER church-wide beginning today through May 31st, which is Pentecost Sunday. I understand that many have Memorial Day weekend plans for eating, etc. I don’t want to interrupt your plans but I do want to ask you to pray. Pray that God will give us ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to Emmanuel! Pray that God will heal the sick, provide safety for the healthy, wisdom for leadership and that we will see people come to Jesus.
4. Guard your heart and minds. We support our sister churches around us, some who are choosing to re-open in defiance of the Governor’s orders and others who are staying closed. We don’t need to all choose the same course of action and the enemy would love to pit churches against each other. Our battle is not against flesh and blood.
5. When we hear clearly from the Lord AFTER fasting and praying, our church leadership is committed to doing what the Lord is calling us to do next! In the meantime, we are prepared and ready to host both on-campus and online church.
In summary, we are going to walk humbly and listen for the voice of the Spirit. All of our ministries continue to be available online and we are ready to resume on-campus ministry when the time is right and we feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit. We will not be bullied or silenced by the spirit of the age, and we will not react out of the flesh by doing anything that the Lord is not directing us to do.
Together in the harvest,
I want to give you both a quick update and a preview of the Emmanuel short and long-term plan in light of our Governor’s announcement on Wednesday evening. First of all, I am so grateful for YOU! The Emmanuel Family has pivoted numerous times in the last two months as we’ve moved completely online with our services, provided essential food for our cities, cared for the hurting, and gathered in groups via zoom! You are amazing, and I want you to know that I am looking forward to what God will do next!
Here’s what to expect in the next few weeks:
1. We will gather online this weekend for worship and continue our series #Blessed. The whole series was planned months ago and is proving to be prophetically inspired for this moment. Please do what you can to join your church family, God is providing hope and purpose to us when we gather!
2. Beginning Monday, May 18, we can take our first steps back into small gatherings of 10 or less (the new public safety guidelines allow for groups of 10 or less) in/outside your homes. If you feel confident and can follow the new guidelines, you may choose to gather in person for your Connect Group. We also want to honor the personal choices of everyone who may choose to continue online.
3. On Wednesday, May 20, the state is expected to provide a new guide for businesses and churches.
- From the executive order: “It is to be a “phased plan to achieve the limited and safe reopening of bars, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation beginning on June 1, 2020. This plan will be ready for presentation to the public no later than May 20, 2020.”
- Shortly following the release of the phased plan, we will notify you of the next steps for Emmanuel. Our plan will include a timeline of when we will open our buildings for services, which ministries will be on campuses, etc.
4. Beyond the 20th: We will continue to provide all of our ministries online. For many, this will be their chosen method of connecting with the church for the foreseeable future. Within Emmanuel, we have many people who are in a vulnerable category and we will continue to honor their place as full members of the family! We will also continue to consult with local law enforcement, medical professionals and community partners as we make our decisions about reopening our buildings for services.
We are making adjustments as we follow the leadership of the Spirit, this requires a real-time capacity for all of us to be at peace in our “now normal”. The now normal is an ability to keep in step with the Spirit, live in confidence and faith, treat our neighbors as Jesus would and to keep our eyes open NOW! Jesus said it this way to his disciples, “You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.” (John 4:35).
Together in the harvest,
Hey Emmanuel Family,
I wanted to give you an update on what God is doing in our church family. God is on the move as we continue to reach new people! Just this past weekend with our Good Friday and Easter services, we saw thousands of people connect and hear the Good News of Jesus!
Thank you for staying engaged and for leaning in during this time. We continue to see many connect through:
- Kids Ministry
- Youth Ministry
- Hispanic Ministry
- Seek Now
Lastly, I want to invite you to join us this Sunday for our new series #Blessed, which is all about having the blessing of Jesus on your life – no matter what season of life you’re in!
Love you Emmanuel,
Pastor Nate Ruch
It is with great love and care that I write this letter to you, during a season of unprecedented changes in our world. In one weeks’ time, the patterns and schedules of every part of society have been abruptly halted. People of all ages, in every socio-economic category, are dealing with total way-of-life alterations. The good news is that Jesus created his church to function in any season, anywhere on the planet! He’s not worried or unprepared for this moment, in fact, God is ready to give us his instructions if we’re ready. As A.W. Tozer said, “A scared world needs a fearless church!”, this can be the finest hour and I believe that the Lord is with us!
It is important for the Emmanuel Family to function as a team during this time, by using the same playbook. I want to give you the game plan of the moment right now and then prepare you for how we update that plan in the days to come. Check-in daily to our website and social media for updates and changes to our schedule!
- All weekend services and midweek will be online only until further notice (emmanuelcc.org/watch-live, Facebook Live, YouTube, Emmanuel MN app either on Android or Apple devices)
- Emmanuel Kids will provide special content on the weekend that will be uploaded to their Facebook page
- Emmanuel Youth is providing multiple touchpoints and content across all of their social media platforms
- Connect Groups: It is VITAL for you to have spiritual relationships in an isolated season! We have new resources for you to form and join an online Connect Group. Sign up here for resources today
- Community: We are working with municipal and civic leaders and have new opportunities for you to help meet practical needs in your community every day. We will be sharing with you how you can jump in and make a difference shortly. Be looking for your opportunity to help!
- Prayer: Prayer and worship resources will be released regularly.
I am very encouraged and thankful for the core Emmanuel family (that means you) that is pulling together in prayer, walking by faith and following through with your resolve to be the church! Jesus said, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18). We will persevere! In service, in love, in generosity and in faith!
I’m proud of so many of our Emmanuel Family who truly believes in the power of the Word by honoring the Lord through tithing. Literally, the tithe of our people will be what God uses as an umbrella of protection over your household and the ongoing ministry expenses of our church! The easiest way to give is online at emmanuelcc.org/give. You can also mail checks to 7777 University NE, Spring Lake Park, MN 55432 or call our office for assistance 763-784-7777.
Lead Pastor, Emmanuel
Hello Emmanuel Family, we have a very important message for you.
As you are well aware, our nation has been focused on the developments surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. First of all, we want you to know that we will make it through this together. There is no better time for us to practice the principle of Redwood Faith. This is a time to pull together, to lean in and engage as a church. Today the Governor of Minnesota has given guidelines to our state encouraging gatherings to be limited to 250 people and respecting social distances. We will, of course, support our leadership’s direction as we move forward as a church. With that in mind, here is our plan for this weekend:
- We will be meeting at hundreds of locations. We encourage you to join online at your home, meet with your Connect Group to tune in.
- Each of our physical locations will be open for services at our regular times. We will do so in compliance with our Governor’s recommendation, with multiple rooms available at the Spring Lake Park Campus.
- We will not offer Kids Ministry and children will be encouraged to worship with their parents.
- We will not offer Growth Track or other classes this week.
- If you are not feeling well, have signs of sickness or have concerns about public gatherings we encourage you to join us online. Please know there is no pressure or guilt connected to opting our of physical attendance.
Emmanuel, let’s be connected more than ever. The church, historically, has shined brightest at times of crisis. This is a time for us to pray for our cities and our communities. Our neighbors need the same peace and hope that we’ve found in Christ. We’re praying for you, for your family and for our nation.
God bless and we love you!
Pastor Nate Ruch and Jodi