Hi Harvest.

I hope you and your family are well and as Ephesians 6 says you are staying strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might in this unique season in our world.  We have an update regarding our plans for regathering in person for worship services on our six campuses.  Last month we shared a target date of the weekend of August 15–16 to begin on-campus weekend services in a limited capacity.  Given the current state of the pandemic in our region, we’ve decided to postpone this regathering date for in-person worship services.

You must know how difficult it is to make this call.  Why?  Because all of us, from our elders to our staff to all of you, wish things were back to normal…we all really miss praising God together in person on each campus.  But we believe for the safety of our church family and our staff, now is not the right time to bring us together indoors for large gatherings.  There is no other target date at this time given the volatility and changing nature of COVID developments.  But it is important for you to know that a staff task force has been diligently working on the procedures and protocols for a safe return to on-campus worship services, so at the appropriate time, we are prepared to regather in short order. But what if God wants to build His church in new and different ways, in ways that are not “normal”?

While we may not be meeting inside our worship centers at this time, let me share with you what I’m calling our “Harvest Meeting Plan”.  It involves meeting in three very important ways.

The first is to Meet with Jesus.  I know that not being able to worship together on our campuses has been very hard.  But as great as worshipping together is, the anchor of your faith is not meant to be meeting together in public at a worship service, but rather our anchor is our time alone in secret, meeting with Jesus.  Corporate worship puts wind in our sails, but without prioritizing time alone with Jesus to build personal intimacy with Him, you will likely find yourself disheartened or even discouraged.  Ask yourself this question:  During this COVID season, have I drawn closer to Jesus, or have I drifted away from Jesus?  Though I’m really missing our in-person worship services, I believe I am closer to Jesus today than I was before the pandemic hit, and it’s because my meeting time alone with Jesus has been sweet, consistent, and intentional.  If you’re struggling in this area, you’re certainly not alone – so as part of our Harvest Meeting plan, we are going to focus on helping you dial up your meeting with Jesus time through our Wednesday email devotionals during the month of August.  We are excited to give you real, practical help on how to strengthen the anchor of your intimacy with the Lord.

The second element of our Harvest Meeting plan is to Meet in Community.  While personal intimacy is our anchor, God did not design us to go the Christian voyage alone. That’s why Hebrews 10:25 exhorts us not to forsake meeting together.  It’s obviously more challenging and a bit more complicated to do this right now, but it is important for your soul to put the extra effort into staying connected in community.  Here are a few ways we can stay connected in community during this season at Harvest. One, lean into community through our online weekend services.  Though we are not connecting face to face, every Saturday at 5:00 PM and Sunday at 9:00 and 11:00 AM, we gather as a church family virtually and more importantly, spiritually to worship together and grow in the Lord through the preaching of God’s word.  I have to believe it blesses God’s heart to see our church family praising Him in homes across Chicagoland, sitting on our couches with our Bibles open hungry to hear from Him.  If you’re not tuning in, you’re certainly lovingly missed by the Lord and by your brothers and sisters, too.  So please, keep engaging with us in community during our online worship services.

Secondly, Meet in Community in your homes, or in a park, or in our parking lots.  We need personal face to face contact but of course, we want to do it in safe environments.  As you feel comfortable, reach out to your Harvest brothers and sisters to spend an evening on your driveway just hanging out, or meet at a park for a walk, or gather together to watch the service on your back porch. You can invite neighbors to join you, too!   Here are a couple of pictures of people gathering for worship at various locations.  I love seeing this!  Be creative and be intentional.

Not every one of us feels comfortable meeting face to face for some very good reasons, so love one another well and outdo one another in showing honor by respecting everyone’s personal convictions and comfortability level.  And the last way to Meet in Community involves safe gatherings on our campuses.  For instance, we are planning to have outdoor worship nights on each of our campuses – what a great opportunity to reconnect with some of your church family and provide an opportunity to invite your friends and neighbors to a fun, safe experience at your campus.  Stay tuned because in our weekly church email on Friday, August 14, you will see the schedule for these worship nights along with some other campus-specific activities.

So our Meeting at Harvest Meeting Plan includes Meet with Jesus, Meet in Community, and lastly, Meet Other’s Needs.  One of the most encouraging results of the COVID season in our church has been how many of us have focused on meeting the needs of others—reaching out to care for people in need within our church, or in your neighborhoods, or participating in our massive food drives or our Friends Together initiative on the Chicago West Side.  God is leading us and teaching us how to increasingly be His hands and feet which opens the door for the power of the gospel. God is building His church, especially in this season. Keep it up Harvest! This blesses the heart of God. So keep watch for that August 14 email, to discover ways each one of us can continue with this good work both as a church family and personally.

I encourage you, Church family, let’s meet!

    • Meet with Jesus
    • Meet in Community
    • Meet Others’ Needs

In 2020, we are learning that our mission is way bigger than a church building – it’s about each one of us sharing our gospel-transforming story of hope in Christ alone, one person at a time.  It’s about our service as a church, not just a service at a church.  It’s about standing for Jesus every day, not just where we sit for Jesus on Sunday.  It’s about our light that shines for Jesus that no mask can conceal.  Our church is better for these lessons.  Here is a map of Chicagoland showing our 6 campuses. But this is not a map of our church. This is a map of our church. It’s every home where Jesus is Lord.

This is exciting. God is moving in His church.  God is moving in this church.  And when I mean church, I mean you and me, not a building or name or logo.  I am so looking forward to the fall—can’t wait to share later this month our fall preaching series—and of course, all of our various ministries, like Harvest Kids and Harvest Students are busy planning their fall programming.  So be encouraged and be expectant, Harvest.

You are the church and you are loved.