special announcement 5/28/20

We are living in a situation and under circumstances that are hard for me to still wrap my mind around completely. I spent most of my life asking questions of and debating with spiritual leaders both personally and professionally related to all sorts of issues that we read about in the Bible.

I want to reiterate once again that the people of this entire Pike County region have made me so extremely proud. I’ve witnessed people serving their neighbors and showing a spirit of love and benevolence towards one another and even people they didn't already have deep relationships with. One of my neighbors teasingly offered to share their monthly bills with Kristi and I, so we could pay that months bills for them.  HA! HA!

God called both Richard and Kristi Graves to pastor Pittsfield Assembly more than two years ago.  I can honestly say that I didn't see the COVID-19 quarantine coming, but neither does it surprise me that our world is being turned upside down around us.  When we see the people of God suffering and losing their lives in countries all around the globe, do we not think that the enemy would not attack at the heart of the most generous nation in the world, which was founded on Judeo/Christian values.  PIKE COUNTY STRONG! USA STRONG! KINGDOM OF GOD STRONG!

1 Peter 2:19-21
"19) For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20) But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21) To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."

This present suffering we have and are experiencing is nothing compared to how Christ did suffer or how other Christians have suffered and died over the last 2,000 years or how we may suffer in the days, months and years ahead of us as followers of Jesus. 

I believe we have an opportunity in the church to rise up and stand tall not for OUR RIGHTS, but rather for HOPE and SALVATION in Jesus Christ.  The Bible is clear in several places that there will be an awakening in the last days.  Isaiah refers to his prophecy as a promise from God, a sworn word from heaven. We see the Lord swearing by the mountains and even referring back to his covenant made with Noah. He says, in essence, "As surely as I won’t allow another Flood on the earth, I tell you there will be an awakening of my church in the last days."

God is not focused on the economy, on the rise of world religions, on the roaring of the heathen. According to Isaiah, the nations are to God "as a drop of a bucket" (Isaiah 40:15). They are all under his sovereign rule and reign. 

Last Friday, May 22nd the President of United States of America, Donald J. Trump made a declaration that, “churches are essential to our lives, health, mental stability, hope and our futures and that we need more prayer not less.”  I agree completely with his assertion of how important the church should be to peoples lives and families.  Unfortunately, most of our society even within the church only give lip service to Jesus in times of great loss or struggle.

I mentioned this in an announcement last Friday and I will state it again, "It is an unfortunate reality that people’s faith & religion have ever been drawn into any political debate. It matters not whether you consider yourself to be affiliated with one political party or the other."  What truly matters is that we are prepared for what is to come.  The church is not the pawn that the world considers it to be, it is prophetic source of God's voice to the world.  Matthew 16:18 says, "...I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it."

People have been using the phrase over the last several weeks, "our new reality."  Everything changes all the time, the natural order to the world is decay.  All I have to do is look in the mirror in the morning to realize my reality is quite different than it was 30, 20 and even 10 years ago.  I am a natural being in full decay. The only thing that never changes is God.  We acknowledge these things but we rarely are willing to be the instruments of change, we love things to stay the same, but they DO NOT.  Our kids grow-up, our grandkids grow-up and everything changes around us. 

I can promise you I miss the type of church that I was raised in and all the amazing encounters that I experienced. We are all REMNANTS of what was once culture leading and is now quietly following.  The church of tomorrow should not be and cannot be the same as the church that entered this whole world pandemic scare of 2020.  The church has been forced out of the walls of their comfortable houses of worship. They have been forced to rethink what it means to be the church that the gates of Hell will not overcome.  The enemy is not afraid of quiet worship inside our small communities of faith, what he fears is a church ALIVE.  One that will not shy away from the battle and will not be locked back up behind doors that the world is scared to cross through.

The first several centuries of the Church of Jesus Christ were spent in small homes, caves and hidden spaces where the enemy sought to destroy this newborn faith and kill what would be eventually the mighty force that God had started it to be.  An instrument created to share HOPE and SALVATION to the world. That infant church was a supernaturally inspired creation of God Himself and we are the recipients of the centuries of suffering and trusting in God.  We cannot stop now and we cannot shrink back to a weak and quiet giant like entity.  We have connected with people over the last several weeks who were not connected to Christ in a real life changing way or connected to His church.  Many of them our members of your families and friends throughout our communities, people that we love.  

Our love for Jesus is only as evident as the level of our willingness to adapt, change and find more effective ways at reaching the lost with the HOPE found in CHRIST. We must exist to reach the WORLD.
Tonight, I am once again representing the leadership of Pittsfield Assembly and don’t begin to speak for any other spiritual house of worship or faith organizations. It is not our intent to contradict or cause any level of pressure for others in our region of Illinois. Also, the decisions and directions of our leadership team for Pittsfield Assembly are not intended to be a vote for or against any political discussions. All of us decide and declare for ourselves what is essential.

It is after much prayer, and not political correctness or incorrectness that I want to announce that the church leadership, which includes the Pastoral Leaders and Board Members met last night to set a strategy to begin the process of an effective and safe reopening of Pittsfield Assembly.

This strategy will include but not be limited to a timeline, schedule & protocols for our safe return to spiritual worship encounters together which will involve plans for adult, children’s and youth meetings.

It is a privilege to serve with these leaders who with well thought through ideas have made some decisions that were not driven by their fears or emotions but rather what does God require of us as a church. We are of one accord and one mind in this course of action.  The leadership has set a strategy that we feel will best serve our mission to continue reaching people in new creative ways that have not been utilized by the church for many years but are not new either.  We believe that we must take advantage of the resources we have available to us and many other congregations have to make decisions for themselves as to what reopening will look like for them.

These decisions have been prayed about, debated about, talked about and decided by your Pittsfield Assembly spiritual leaders. These decisions were not taken lightly or without consideration of faith, safety and our resources necessary to reach all people of all ages and all health issues.

Hebrews 13:15-19 says, 
15)”Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16) And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. 17) Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. 18) Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way."

Pittsfield Assembly NEXT STEPS

*  Saturday June 6th at 7pm weekly service ONSITE.  We will be moving forward on a pathway for OUTSIDE DRIVE-IN services so we can all as ONE BODY can worship together through the month on June, CHURCH WITHOUT WALLS! We will reevaluate that strategy later in the month to see where we are at moving into July.  This approach allows people who still feel cautious to stay in their cars but be present and see one another.

*  Sunday's will continue to be a separate service and sermon ONLINE at 10am weekly for those who have health concerns.

*  Pastor Rich will continue the morning online devotional on Facebook LIVE at 7:30am Mondays-Fridays.

*  Pastor Kristi will continue the Monday evening "Just Sayin" at 7pm weekly on Facebook LIVE.

*  Pastor Jarod and Jesse will be teaching a Wednesday night Facebook LIVE weekly at 7pm.

*  Pastor Niki will be preparing packets for all the kiddos weekly at our Saturday Drive-in services.  Plus we are looking into a way the kids can interact safely together on the church grounds.

*  Pastor Rich and Kristi will be starting new groups called, "Q2020 Groups" to meet with a different groups of approximately 10 people weekly at the church (by invitation only) for devotions and a meal.  Everyone will be included and invited to one these groups, which will meet throughout the summer or until we can all gather together indoors safely. 

*  We will be inviting guests who worship with us either ONLINE or ONSITE to a monthly New Connections gathering with some of the church leadership.

*  Pastor Caleb and Niki will be arranging small group meetings of youth and kids to be able to meet regularly for safe interaction, connection and community. 

*  Pastor Caleb and Niki will continue weekly online activity videos for the youth and kids.

*  Continued PRAYER in the Sanctuary at 11am weekly on Tuesdays or you can come as individuals or families throughout the week between the hours of 9am-4:30pm, Monday-Thursday.

*  We are looking for NEW and EXCITING ways to connect all of us together.  Keep looking for more updated opportunities.

I want to assure you that Pittsfield Assemblies leadership team will be communicating regularly with each other via ONLINE announcements and/or phone calls or visits to those who do not have access to internet to keep you current with updated information as we move forward.  Please continue to pray for us as we consider the best safe steps forward for ALL people?

It’s time for us to start gathering together for worship & our faith.  Saturday evenings make this POSSIBLE…

We ask you to continue showing the evidence of the Fruits of the Spirit in your lives and to handle yourselves in spiritual UNITY, maturity, patience, hope & love as we enter into these final stages of being separated.  The LIGHT at the end of the tunnel continues to shine brighter everyday & that LIGHT is Jesus Christ, who we have never been separated from during this whole quarantined pandemic, Covid-19.

One last thing I believe is important for you to understand.  We as a leadership team are not waiting on a President or a Governor to release us to gather together inside our church facility.  We are waiting on GOD to release us!  At this time, this PASTOR does not have that PEACE from the LORD.

Thank you for joining me this evening. Please pray with me now concerning these items...

* May God send a REVIVAL & RENEWAL to our nation and world like none that we have ever seen before.

*  May God give our political leaders wisdom and a spiritual awakening to surrender to His leading.

*  Godly wisdom and guidance for the Pittsfield Assembly Leadership Team.

*  In Luke 10:2, Jesus told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

*  May God help us to never take gathering together for worship granted whether indoors or outdoors.

*. May God continue to remind us that He will not accept our comfortable worship if we ignore His Harvest Fields.

*  May God help us to understand more clearly that our relationship with Jesus cannot be dictated by or relegated to our ability to meet in one location, a building or require specific friendships other than Jesus Himself.

Pastor Richard Graves