Plans for Reopening

Dear Hillside Church family and friends,

The purpose statement for our church is, Empower People To Live Out Their Love For Jesus. This is why Hillside exists. My hope and prayer is that our church will bring God the glory He deserves through this COVID-19 time. Even in this season, He is continuing to change us and use us to reach others in our city and around the world. I am reminding us of our purpose statement because this is what drives every decision, even as we consider our options of reentry back to our church campus.
Know that our Staff and Elder Board miss you and long to be together. Church definitely feels different and we anticipate the day when we can all gather together again, in person. However, at this moment, The Board and I  have unanimously decided to keep all of our services online for the time being and not to rush the process of reentry back to our campus. Please notice that I call it reentry and not reopening because Hillside never closed. I know there are churches that have differing opinions, which we respect, but Hillside will always do what we think is best for living out our purpose. Our core values are meant to guide our decisions, so I’m going to use them to outline our game plan.

BIBLICAL TRUTH: Guided and shaped by God’s Word

Romans 13:1-2 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

God calls us to be subject to the governing authorities. I understand there are many who think the Governor has overstepped his bounds in different ways. I, personally, disagree with the Governor not classifying “the Church” as essential. I would even argue that the Church is the most essential organization in the world. However, just because I disagree doesn’t mean we shouldn’t follow his orders. Please know that if his orders were keeping us from being obedient to God, our leadership would respond differently. But at this point in time we do not believe our religious freedoms are being violated. We believe we are accomplishing all God desires us to do in this time and are not disobeying the Lord. We are able to preach God’s Word; we are able to worship in our homes; we are able to serve our community; and we are able to gather in small groups online for community and care for each other. Hillside is still caring for those in our church family and community who are struggling. It’s not ideal, but we believe we are being obedient to God and bringing Him glory in all of these areas.

OUTREACH: All People Matter to God

Remember, our goal is to reach people with the Gospel. That is our priority. The goal is not to come back to our building, but to reach people for the glory of God. While I know immediate reentry to the church campus is greatly desired by some, we realize it would also be a turn off to many of the unchurched. We do not want to show the world that we are out of touch, uncaring, or unresponsive to the needs of the world during this pandemic. This pandemic will come to an end one day, but our witness and testimony during this time will be remembered. 

We are being told that our church family feels more cared for by the church than ever before and we are reaching more people than ever before. We have reached thousands more online, many of whom have never been to our campus.

RELATIONSHIPS: All People Matter to Us

It’s not just that unbelievers matter to us, YOU matter to us. Your physical health matters to us and your kids’ health matters to us. The last thing we would want is to be the source of sickness. We want to proceed with caution.

Most importantly, your spiritual life matters to us. We have done our best, and will continue to do our best, to care for your souls in this trying time. Lastly, know that your opinions matter to us. We must consider and need to acknowledge that there are many opinions at this time, on both sides of the equation. With so many differing opinions it is impossible to make everyone happy. My biggest prayer is that our differences would not divide us. 

We have been studying this month through the book of Ephesians.  I have said over and over again that one of the biggest issues in the church is disunity. I want to remind you of this truth found in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Realize that Satan looks to divide us. May that not be true for Hillside and for “the Church” at large in the midst of our differing opinions. May we offer love, and grace, and respect to those who think differently. This brings me to our last core value. 

TEAMWORK: We are Better Together

Let’s stay a team, fight to stay united, and bring God the glory He deserves. I urge you; let’s resist the temptation to look down upon our brothers and sisters or to think too highly of ourselves. Our greatest desire should be to live for His glory each step of the way as we journey together. 

Moving forward, you can be confident that we are ready for reentry when that time comes. We have a game plan. Notice it’s not a final blueprint, but a plan. Game plans adapt and can change in a moment and our team is ready for the next play.

Reentry Game Plan

Phase one: Continue our current state of online ministry: weekend services; daily devotions; small Groups. We are planning on keeping small groups going through the summer.

Phase two: As social distancing restrictions ease, we will be encouraging small groups to regather in homes together to watch online weekend services. This will also be a time to invite friends and family to join you.

Phase three: When the time comes, we are prepared to allow larger groups to experience our online services together in our main sanctuary on campus, in accordance with government guidelines. We have a plan to use infrared temperature checks, new seating arrangements, and an online reservation system. We will do all we can to present a healthy environment for all who come.

Phase four: Resumption of on-campus weekend experiences.

We don’t know when we will be able to meet again, but we are confident that we are ready and that we can continue to bring God the glory He deserves through each successive phase. May the Lord continue to give us wisdom in these times and may He be pleased with our obedience.

For His glory,

Pastor Terry