What do we do when the current coronavirus crisis creates all kinds of disruption, division, and destruction across our world? I’m sure these last months have shaken some of your rhythms just as they have ours, but the mission at Grace Snellville is unchanged: equipping one another to follow Jesus well into the neighborhoods, nations, and next generation. We remain fiercely rooted in God’s truth, eagerly renegade in our willingness to venture toward new avenues of God’s mission, and authentically real as we recognize the varied but valid responses of God’s people. Frankly, we are very excited (and a little nervous!) about what we’re hoping to accomplish in the weeks ahead.
Since 2017, our leadership and congregation have been pursuing a five-year vision to disciple 1% of the people in Gwinnett county. In order to do this, you have been Partners in reaching the Next Generation, Pioneers engaging the Nations, and Pastors displaying the love of Jesus in your Neighborhoods. And–whether you were consciously aware of it or not–you have been remarkable carriers of this vision!
During normal times, this strategy of equipping and discipling leans heavily on our adult, student, and children’s gatherings at the Snellville campus. But these are not “normal times.” Georgia is slowly re-opening, but much coronavirus uncertainty remains, particularly for places of worship. And even if you are ready to come back to Grace on Sunday mornings for in-person worship, we believe the COVID-19 crisis has afforded us an even greater missional opportunity to connect with others in your neighborhoods and relational networks.
It is our conviction that right now, very few new visitors are itching to come to a large, in-person worship gathering with social distancing, no childcare, and facemasks! At the same time, people across our communities have more flexibility around the house than ever before, and we have even heard of unexpected connections emerging as certain parts of our schedules have slowed down.
After prayerfully and carefully considering the possibilities for reopening Grace Snellville’s campus for in-person gatherings, we sense that God is inviting us not so much “back to the building” but rather “out to the community” during this beginning of the summer.
So what does that mean, practically?
We are encouraging all of our people to experiment with Watch Parties during our six-week summer series from the book of Jeremiah on God’s unique calling for each of us, beginning June 7. These Watch Parties may gather outdoors, inside, or even exclusively online to engage Sunday’s Word and worship. For years, we’ve discussed what would happen if our community took a short season to try this kind of “scattered” strategy, and now we have that opportunity.
At the same time, we recognize that the Watch Party experience–while useful–is no substitute for being together with God’s people in person, and so we will be hosting three weeks of outdoor, drive-in worship nights on Wednesday evenings in the Grace Snellville amphitheater beginning June 3. We are thinking we will call them “Sing-a-Lawns,” but it’s possible the staff communications may not vote for that name to stick 🙂
Nevertheless, our conviction is that if we can share this vision, equip this community, and trust God, there will be some amazing fruit. In the last few weeks, we’ve had a number of Grace staff leaders experimenting with Watch Parties of their own, and the initial feedback has been very positive. For us, this temporary season of Watch Parties is not a second-best alternative to attending church but rather a first-class opportunity to be the church in our neighborhoods and relationships at a time when our communities are highly aware of need, loneliness, and even their own mortality. In addition, we will make every effort to connect all who are willing to a Watch Party of some kind.
In summary, then, we are praying these Watch Parties from June 7 to July 12 will become scattered outposts of the Kingdom of God where food, friendship, and faith flout the advance of coronavirus fears. In fact, through Scripture and Christian history, when tough conditions cause the church to scatter, God causes the scattered church to grow (Acts 11:19-21).
So, what exactly is a Watch Party? Glad you asked, and please keep reading!
, Lead Pastor
, Executive Pastor
, Elder Board Chair