Get Help & Stay Up to Date During the Coronavirus

Dear Church,

During this time of worldwide crisis, we recognize there are many needs that may arise. While we believe that it is best for those closest to us to help meet these needs (family, small group, etc.), we recognize this is not always possible. For that reason, GHCC would like to offer assistance in any way we can. We also know that there are those of us who may be struggling with doubt or fear or anxiety and need to talk to a pastor. In light of this, we are offering remote pastoral counseling and prayer. If you are in a time of need, please fill out the form that reads, "I Have A Need" so that we can try to offer aid.

We also recognize that there are many in our church community with the ability to help those in need within our community. If you would like to offer assistance to those in need, please fill out the form that reads, "Offer Relief" so that we can help coordinate your efforts.

Updates from GHCC:

July 13, 2020

Hi Church!

We are excited that we are able to gather outside and worship together. Please visit our regathering page for more information and to RSVP!



June 25, 2020

Hi Church!

We are making plans and working hard to get ready for regathering in-person on July 5th. Above is a video from Pastor Phil to let you know of our plans so you can know what to expect in the coming weeks. We are getting so close to regathering as a church and we are looking forward to seeing you all. A follow-up video will be released next week with more details. If you have any questions feel free to call the church at (925)516-0653 or email us at leadership@goldenhills.org



June 11, 2020

Hello Church!

By now, you know that Contra Costa County has issued an updated Health Order on June 5th, so I wanted to give you all an update of what it means for our church. We filmed an update video that lays out some exciting developments in our progress towards regathering. I encourage you to watch the video in its entirety. You can view the video below.

As I mention in the video, we will provide you with more information as it becomes available. If you have questions about a specific ministry, I recommend that you go to our website and directly contact that ministry. Please know that the staff and Elders continue to lift you all in prayer, and we look forward to seeing you face-to-face soon!

For His Glory,
Pastor Phil



May 21, 2020

Hello Church!

I want to give you a heads up that the video is longer than usual because I wanted to set a context for why we decided to suspend our public worship gatherings in the first place. I also include an answer to two recurring questions asked of us concerning reopening.

The staff is actively reviewing guidelines, protocols, and best practices from churches around the country to prepare for our inevitable return. We are actively researching what it might look like to resume meeting together, given the unique characteristics of our church. We are also actively developing flexible plans that can be adapted to progressive reopening phases. It has been a privilege to talk with Pastors from around the country and throughout California, who are working on similar plans.

So, please pray for wisdom for all decision-making leaders, both in the church and in our nation. We continue to pray for you all and look forward to being together!

Co-laboring in the joy of the gospel for the glory of God along with you,

Pastor Phil



April 24, 2020

Watch the video above for some exciting information about the possibility of gathering together again and an announcement about a new interactive feature to coincide with our Sunday teaching!



April 9, 2020

Hello Church!

An assignment my daughter was given required her to write a response to a quote from a book she is reading. Part of the quote had the expression that "things tend to snowball." She asked me what that meant. So, I answered that it's kind of like what has happened with the Coronavirus pandemic. In essence, it started as something not many people paid attention to, and now it is inescapable. It has snowballed.

I don't know the far-reaching effects that this crisis is having, or will have, for you. I assume that there is a range of experiences. Some may be devastated, while others inconvenienced. But what I do know is that everyone I talk to is longing for connection. This is evidence that we were made by God to belong to a community, and no amount of virtual community will ever replace what our hearts truly desire—we want to belong.

More than a few people told me that the reality of the shelter in place order being in effect for all of April has finally hit them. Working from home, homeschooling kids, and having so many restrictions is tiring. When you add to the mix the commercials that encourage us to write music and poetry, to develop a new hobby, or to read a book you've been putting off, it feels overwhelming. And for many people, scrolling through social media where you are bombarded by all the people "crushing it" during this time, you feel like a total failure. You may think that you are not enough and you feel deflated.

It's precisely at this point that the gospel is such a breath of fresh air. Many of us believe that if we can simply reach some kind of standard we have made for ourselves, then we will feel valued and loved. As author David Zahl says, "if we got enough, we would be enough. But, no matter how close we get or how much we achieve, we never quite arrive at enough. People are suffering under the torture of the fantasy self they're failing to become." The gospel speaks a better word because it is a message that acknowledges that we are not enough, but it's also a message about God who meets us in our need. The gospel is a message of grace, which helps us recognize that we are flawed people and do not deserve God's blessing. Yet, God's disposition toward us is loving because Jesus has borne our weight of sin, conquered death, and intercedes for us.

The gospel is not a roadmap to how we can engineer a new identity whereby we can achieve "enoughness." Instead, the gospel is the proclamation of the glorious grace of God in Christ. That in Christ, and because of Christ, you and I are made enough; that is to say, we receive our enoughness by grace. No more striving, no more sweating out a highly curated identity for the world to marvel at. Zahl writes, "Christianity at its sustaining core is not a religion of good people getting better, but of real people coping with their failure to be good" by the grace and mercy of God. So, brothers and sisters, "be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1). Press on in the grace of God.

I want to give you all a few updates that I think worthwhile:


Update on Sunday Worship + Easter

Now that the shelter in place order has been extended through April, we are proceeding with our plans to release videos each Sunday at 9 am. The best way to view the video is by visiting our website *link here*. In addition to the video, we are making sermon outlines and discussion questions available as well. Each Saturday night, you will receive an email with the sermon outline, discussion questions, and pertinent announcements. If you know someone who is not receiving the emails we are sending, please have them contact us to follow up by emailing *leadership@goldenhills.org*.

If you know of people looking to worship on Easter, I encourage you to let them know that our video will be available at 9 am. You can also share the link to our website where they can access the video or share the video when it is released. Getting the word out through social media (if you use social media) can be a great way to help people hear about Jesus this Resurrection Sunday!


Good Friday Service + Day of Prayer

As many of you know, we have often had a Good Friday service, but we won't be able to do that this year. We have, however, decided to make Good Friday a special day during Holy Week by adding a couple more songs and lengthening the teaching of our Holy Week video. Instead of releasing the Good Friday video at 9 am like the other videos, we are releasing the video at 6:30 pm on Friday. Consider having a special time of worship this Good Friday by reflecting on all that Jesus went through for us and our salvation.

In addition to a Good Friday service, we have historically had a day of prayer on Good Friday. There are many denominations, organizations, and movements that are calling for a day of prayer and fasting this weekend. Some are asking people to pray and fast on Friday, others are recommending Saturday. Since we have typically always had a day of prayer on Good Friday, we are calling for the church to take time out of the day on Friday to seek God in prayer. Once again, I'm so thankful that we were able to study the Lord's Prayer as a church to be prepared to come to God with all our requests!


Our Next Series—Habakkuk

We are launching our new series in the book of Habakkuk on April 19th. I encourage you to pick up a book *insert pick up times and location here*. This study is so timely given our present situation. Our prayer is that God would be pleased to use this study to strengthen our faith.


Business Meeting Postponed

Lastly, we wanted to let you know that the quarterly business meeting scheduled for April 29th is postponed due to the shelter in place order. Some have asked if we can do a virtual meeting, but that won't be possible because of the requirements for a quorum.

According to our church constitution, we must have at least three business meetings per year. Several years ago, we chose to no longer hold a meeting over the summer due to a lack of attendance and instead opted for spring and fall quarterly meetings. But this year is unlike any other year. Therefore, we will not hold our quarterly spring meeting, and instead, we will hold a quarterly summer meeting in July. We don't have the exact day of the week yet, but we will let you know as soon as we do.


Be on the watch for Saturday's email that will have the sermon outline and discussion questions, as well as a few announcements. Thank you so much for all that you are doing to make Jesus known, to love and serve one another, and for being such a huge encouragement to our church staff! We love you all and are praying diligently for you.

Co-laboring in the joy of the gospel for the glory of God along with you,

Pastor Phil


March 28, 2020

Hello Church!

I wanted to reah out to you all for two reasons: 1) I want to let you know about the plans for worship in the coming weeks, and 2) I want to encourage you in the Lord.

Plans for worship in coming weeks

Several people have asked what we intend to do in the coming weeks to maintain a sense of togetherness as a church. It appears that things have become more predictable in the sense that we will not be able to gather in the coming weeks. It is easier to adjust to gathering than it is adjusting to not gathering, so we are making plans as if we will not be gathering. So, what are those plans you ask?

First, this Sunday (3/29), we will release a video at 9 am that will be available through our website and a link will be provided through social media—just like we did last week. The format will be the same as last week, where we will have a time of rehearsing the gospel through music and a time where I will teach through the last half of 3 John. I know that some of us might have been uncomfortable with the format because it was drastically different from a “normal” Sunday gathering. That was by design. I don't want to pretend that what we are doing is in any way "normal" or that it should be normalized. But it did give us the opportunity to study the Scriptures in a different sort of way, which might help you see what I see when I’m reading Scripture.

Secondly, April 5th is Palm Sunday. Traditionally, we have had a kids parade featuring palm branches being waved with smiles and pictures and all the rest. For obvious reasons, we won't be able to do that this year. But what we are planning to do, Lord willing, is to return to the sanctuary where we will record something that resembles more of what we're used to seeing on a Sunday morning. I will speak behind the pulpit but will utilize my iPad while I speak—something I did for many years at Kairos (our Young Adult Ministry).

Thirdly, during Holy Week (Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday), we will release daily 15-20 minute video teachings. These Holy Week teachings will follow the historical events that transpired the last week of Jesus' life. There will be six in total (Monday through Saturday) and will come from portions of all four gospel narratives. This will be a great time to gather with those in your home and study scripture together each day as we prepare our hearts for the greatest of days: Resurrection Sunday. We will let you know the details of those videos in the coming days.

Fourthly, on Resurrection Sunday (Easter), we plan to offer a time of worship through music and preaching of the gospel. We are still discussing the details of how that will come together. Once again, we'll keep you updated as we go.

Encourage you in the Lord

Nearly a year ago to the week, we studied the book of Ruth together as a church. We spent six weeks unpacking what is likely one of the greatest stories of redemption ever told. If you have not had a chance to listen to Pastor Larry Adams and I teach through the book, or if you did not participate in that study, I would highly encourage you to do so. You can find the sermon series and the study guide on the media page here. For those of you that did participate, it is another example of how God has been preparing our church for such a time as this.

As I was reviewing some of my notes from that series, I stumbled upon something I wrote down that struck me. Here is what I wrote a year ago:

"We live in a broken and fallen world. We will commit sin, we will be sinned against, and we must live in a world governed by sinners who are continually sinning. We will encounter death and disease, wars and rumors of war. These are the product of a fallen and cursed world. We will experience pain, sorrow, and suffering. But this remains true: God is ultimately in control.

And if that is true, then the book of Ruth shows us that God can turn judgments into joys and sorrow into gladness, for God is working all things for our good and His glory, which swells into our joy. But, the only way for that to be possible is if God is Sovereign and providentially in control. If we deny these two truths, we have no reason to hope, and we have absolutely no reason to think any sorrow can become gladness. Let us put to rest, therefore, any silly thought that God has somehow been dethroned. He reigns as King.

The opening chapter of Ruth confronts us with significant loss and suffering. We read in Ruth 1: "20 She said to them, "Do not call me Naomi [means "Pleasant"]; call me Mara [means "Bitter"], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?" But because of the Sovereign hand of God, the same Naomi finds herself being the grandmother of Obed, who became the grandfather to King David, from whom Jesus Christ would come. As William Cowper once wrote: "Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face."

There is no doubt that COVID-19 is a frowning providence, and there is no doubt the financial impact it is having on all of us is also a frowning providence. Though we may not see it now, God is hiding His smiling face. I know this to be true, unshakably so, because of what the Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 1:11. He writes that everything serves the "purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of His will."

Lastly, I wanted to let you know that we have been able to come alongside many people to help in any way we could. We're so blessed to be able to have the resources to meet the needs of those among us.

But I also wanted to let you know that our church is not immune to the financial hit that COVID-19 is having on our economy. This past week, the Elders and the leadership began developing plans to address the financial issues we face as a church. These issues are not insignificant. The Elders will be sending a letter to the church soon that outlines the financial state of the church. In the meantime, I want to encourage you to consider being a recurring giver through our online giving. I know some of you are waiting for the church to gather again so you can give in person. However, we have already had to make extremely difficult decisions due to finances, so if you wait until we gather again to give your offering, it may be too late to alter the decisions we must make. I want to make sure you know that we are still checking the mail so you can send in your offering as well.

Many of you have heard me preach on finances and the church. In no way do I want anyone to think that all we care about is money. Nor do I want anyone to think that we believe the false teaching that giving unlocks God's blessings for your life. We do not peddle God's Word for profit. We believe the Bible's teaching that giving is an element of discipleship. So we want to encourage Jesus' disciples to give. As we learned together in 3 John 7-8, we should support gospel ministry and those who labor for the sake of the name, because that is how we are "fellow workers for the truth."

I know there is considerable uncertainty for many of us. May we pray for God's protection and provision for one another. As Jehoshaphat realized he didn't know what to do, all he could do was keep his eyes on God (2 Chron. 20:12). Take heart, one day we will see His smiling face behind this frowning providence.

Co-laboring in the joy of the gospel for the glory of God along with you,

Pastor Phil


March 16, 2020

Hello Church!

By now you are well aware that a "shelter in place" order has been issued by Contra Costa Health Services. Many of us received the notification on our phones and have begun the process of wondering what this means going forward. No doubt, this fundamentally changes what plans we may have already had, and it puts us in a position to have to make new ones. So many people have recognized that we are living amid unprecedented times that may affect the shape of our world for years to come. As the saying goes, "we will never be the same again."

We don't know precisely how the church will be affected any more than we know with any certainty the affect on our economy. The plans that the Elders and Pastors put into place are no longer applicable, and we now have to start from scratch. In some ways, this was to be expected, given how rapidly things have been changing. We are to make our plans, but we also trust that ultimately God's purposes prevail. "The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD" (Proverbs 16:1). So, be patient as we navigate what the next couple of weeks look like for us as a church.

Yesterday (Sunday, 3/15), we were able to utilize the technology that is available to us and stay connected as a church. We praise God for His grace to be able to do that. We planned to continue live-streaming through the time we were unable to meet. However, with the shelter in place order in effect, we cannot follow through with that plan. Based on the document provided on the Contra Costa Health Services website, we do not meet the definition of essential functions, businesses, or activities. What this means is that we cannot continue to have staff at our facilities except for those who meet the qualifications for "minimum basic operations" (CCHS document 10.g.). What that means for you is that we do not have anyone at the church to answer the phone. So, what should you do if you need to reach a Pastor, or if you have a question, or if you need something else?

We are asking that you still call the church and be prepared to leave a voicemail. Our receptionist, Gloria, is still working remotely and can receive your voicemail to forward it to the necessary person. Or, if you do not need to call, you can email leadership@goldenhills.org, and we will be sure to get back to you as quickly as possible.

Lastly, a big question many people have asked is, what are we going to do for Sunday? At this point, we are planning to continue in our series on Overlooked Letters by covering 3 John 1-8. We're not sure how this is going to happen, but we have brilliant and creative people who are problem-solving this very issue. What we do know is that we want to stay connected as a church. Throughout the Bible, the community of God's people is always shaped by God's Word. So, we want to make sure that we continue to be conformed to the image of Christ through the teaching of scripture. As the plan unfolds as to how the teaching of scripture will be carried out, we will keep you informed.

I (Pastor Phil Ward) realize that this letter is already relatively long and has lots of information to process, but let me finish with two thoughts:

1) We've been asked if there are any plans Golden Hills has to help meet the needs of those in our church who may not be able to go to the store, or if they can't get what they need at the store. The truth is, we have been praying and strategizing how to do that very thing. Now that the shelter in place order has been given, we are significantly limited in what we can do from a staff perspective. This does not mean we do nothing. We should consider how we might serve and love our brothers and sisters in the Lord and our neighbors. This is an opportunity for the body of Christ to spring to action! Here are three practical things to consider:

  • Contact people in your life to check-in and see how they are doing. Start with family, work out to your small group, people you serve with, and extend your contact to others who come to mind.
  • When you go to the store, send out a group text to people you know and ask if they need anything and drop it off on your way home.
  • Organize a time when you can pray together using some form of technology (Zoom, FaceTime, etc.).

2) Please pray. In the last few hours, I have prayed over the phone with people who face the real possibility of being out of work. We have encountered folks who are not sure how to homeschool now that schools have closed. There are healthcare workers who are overwhelmed with their duties. We know of first responders who face exhausting hours ahead. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, and so are deaths because of it. Some people are sick, while others range from scared to stir-crazy.

In this time, let us pray along with David in Psalm 143: "Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!... I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me...let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul...Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!"



March 13, 2020

Golden Hills Family,

We live in a fallen world where we will experience a range of trials. Some of these trials include times of crisis due to sickness. Regardless if the effects of this current pandemic are as severe as our society is proclaiming, the fact is that we are living in a sense of unprecedented hysteria with much fear and anxiety.

In times of crisis, we rightfully turn to the sovereign Lord, who has all things under His control, and we are right to want to continue gathering together as a church (Heb. 10:25). However, we are currently in a situation in which temporary measures are being asked of us in order to minimize the further spreading of this very new virus.

We recognize that much dialogue has taken place these past few days regarding our church’s decision to cancel our live worship services. Please understand this decision was not taken lightly. Our leadership covets your prayers during this season (and every season for that matter!) as we seek wisdom and direction from the Lord on how to respond to such a crisis. In an effort to maintain transparency, we wanted to provide some thoughts behind this difficult decision to suspend our live services. Hopefully, the following points will give us some new ways to process this situation:

1. This temporary shut down has everything to do with loving our neighbors, and is NOT about governmental control. Since medical professionals have determined that someone can carry the virus (and be contagious) for up to 2 weeks without showing any signs, we can’t simply rely on individual discernment to stay home if someone’s not feeling well. For all we know, any one of us could have the virus now even though we feel fine. The best way we can love our neighbor, especially our more susceptible brothers and sisters within our congregation, is to limit interaction for a few weeks.

2. We think this is a perfect example of practicing Romans 13. While the church of Christ is NEVER to bow the knee to a secular government, we believe that this is an appropriate time to obey our authorities. Right now, those authorities recommend ALL organizations to suspend mass group gatherings. We totally understand that this can be perceived as a governmental shut down of the church. However, that’s not what’s happening here. GHCC is doing a voluntary/temporary shutdown at the advice of government officials (not merely the governor, but including organizations like the CDC who specialize in these sorts of things).

In the end, the government has no authority to “shut down” a church (any more than they have the authority to authorize/oversee a church). Our authority to exist comes from God, and the faithful leaders of our church have no allegiance to any other king than Christ.

3. On March 12, an article was made available regarding how churches on the east coast responded to the Spanish Flu of 1918 (linked it below). It’s interesting that even then, the churches felt it necessary to practice isolation for a season, in order to best serve and love their communities. Praise God that we live in a time where we can still have access to sermons and our communities via social media and the internet! While we are blessed to have this sort of opportunity, we must remember to keep the global/universal church in our prayers, as not all of God’s people have this sort of access.

https://www.9marks.org/article...

In the end, this is a situation in which we're trying to be good citizens of America, while ultimately representing the eternal Kingdom of God, to which we’ve been called. Hopefully, we can demonstrate this by the love we show for another, and the ultimate hope we can show to the world.


March 12, 2020

Hello Church,

Tuesday evening we sent out an all-church email regarding the developing situation with the Coronavirus and our church’s response. At that time the suggestions from state and local authorities were taken into account and we were planning accordingly. As you no doubt have heard, those suggested restrictions on public gathering have changed. Today the State of California has asked that there be no assemblies over 250 in number and has suggested that smaller gatherings only be held if appropriate precautions can be put in place.

In light of this request, we as a church will be making the following changes for the remainder of the month of March. Given the rapidly changing nature of this concern, we are certain that further updates will be necessary and we will keep the church informed through email, website, and social media.

  1. Worship services will be available online only for the next three weeks. You can go to the goldenhills.org website at the same time you would normally attend church.
  2. All other gatherings at the church facility will be canceled for the remainder of March as well. This includes but is not limited to meetings of Kid’s Ministry, Student Ministries, Men’s and Women’s Bible Studies, choir, etc.
  3. Small groups are asked to individually decide if they will gather or postpone. Those meeting should use normal precautions.
  4. As always, we encourage each individual to use wisdom in deciding what they will be involved in. Knowing personal and extended family risk is important and is encouraged.

Below is a recap of the letter from Pastor Phil and the Elders. It is worth a second look.

Pastor Phil Hill
Executive Pastor On behalf of Pastor Phil Ward & the Church Leadership

----

"Hello Church,

As you well know, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a developing situation. It continues to be a concern in the minds of many. We have been monitoring the progress of the virus and will continue to do so in the days ahead. The uncertainty of this outbreak has caused anxiety about our workplaces, schools, and dayto-day activities. Please join us in praying for those who are affected by this illness, and for all those affected by the fear this virus is causing. Yet we remain confident of God’s steadfast presence and careful attention to all that is happening.

We want to care for our congregation in all respects, including the physical well-being of our community. But we also want to be shaped by what we know to be true about God’s concern for our daily needs and how our lives are ultimately in His hands. We can trust that God, who cares even for sparrows, also cares about us—but more so (Mt. 10:29-30)! So Jesus reassures us that “even the hairs of [our] heads are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” God is sovereign; He is in control. Let us not succumb to fear, but let us entrust ourselves to our faithful Creator.

  • Here are the recommendations from the CCHS for how best to reduce your risk of becoming infected:
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue or the crook of an elbow •
  • Stay home from school or work when you are sick
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Use a barrier, such as a paper towel or tissue, to touch commonly touched surfaces, such as bathroom door handles and elevator buttons
  • Bump elbows or bow instead of shaking hands
  • Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces
  • Get vaccinated against the flu if you haven’t already

Many people are much concerned about this virus. God may grant us the opportunity to talk with neighbors, family, and friends about our thoughts concerning this outbreak. Our prayer is that we will make use of every opportunity to speak about the unbreakable hope of the gospel, for we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Our hope is in God, who upholds the universe by the word of His power. Let us live wisely, love boldly, and pray confidently—for God’s glory and our joy!

Pastor Phil & the Elders"