Pastor Keith: Welcome to this episode of Doxology Matters, where we desire to help you think deeply about God’s Word, to behold our Savior, Jesus Christ. Today, we have back with us – I’m not sure what appearance this is for you guys. You all are becoming regulars, man.
Jeff Mingee: Hey, you know. I’ll take it.
Pastor Keith: Do you have the punch card?
Jeff Mingee: No, we need a punch card.
Kevin Hass: No, is there one? I’ll ask at the desk.
Pastor Keith: I will say, listeners, they have requested water and I don’t know – like, room temperature. Next they’re going to ask for green M&Ms. You know pastors, how they do. No, we got Jeff Mingee and Kevin Hass, both wonderful brothers that I’m eternally grateful for. Today we’re going to talk about COVID, and you may have heard that word 100 or 200 times in the last eight weeks. But COVID-19: In Light of the Gospel. I thought about many titles for this. Personal and Pastoral Reflections. Giving Thanks to God in the Midst of COVID/trial. We just want to process COVID biblically and its challenges, ways that we can be grateful for. It says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing. In all circumstances, give thanks, as it is the will of God.” I’m so close. Not paraphrase, close memorization. So our first question is, how have you seen God at work in this season of COVID? Let’s just kick it to both of you, and we’ll start with Jeff.
Jeff Mingee: I’ve seen God at work in a couple of different ways. We remember that He’s always on His throne. Right? No circumstance dethrones Him. No virus can undo the resurrection. So we know that these things are still true and that the Spirit is still at work. So I’ve seen Him in the salvation of people, opening their eyes to the glory of Christ and trusting Him as their Savior. So He’s still saving people. We’ve seen that at Catalyst Church and through the ministry. We see it in a lot of reorientation. People that have realized, “Oh, this unsettled season has reoriented me,” in hopefully a more godly direction and in a more God-centered way. One other way that I’ve seen God at work, just in my own life, is just in a celebration of family and the time that we’ve gotten to spend as a family. Two nights ago, we went on a bike ride and we got caught in the rain. It was a blast. Lauren might disagree with that description, but last night we went on another bike ride. But just the time spent together as family. So those are a couple of ways that I’ve seen God at work.
Pastor Keith: Nice. And if you follow Jeff on social media, you have seen that he has built a half pipe with his son. Now is it – it is characterized as a half pipe even though it’s both sides, or is it a full pipe?
Jeff Mingee: No, it’s a half pipe. It’s a half pipe, yep. So four feet on one side, three feet on the other, and it’s been a blast.
Pastor Keith: Now I didn’t know you had carpentry skills.
Jeff Mingee: I don’t.
Pastor Keith: What’s up with that?
Jeff Mingee: I don’t. I found a plan online. We were watching a Disney+ show about kids building stuff, and the next thing I knew, we were at Lowes. It’s been a whole lot of fun though.
Pastor Keith: Now what does weather do, when it rains on the wood?
Jeff Mingee: It gets wet. And I’m sure it’ll warp. That’s how that will work. And I’ll replace some plywood here soon.
Pastor Keith: Have you done any skating out there?
Jeff Mingee: Oh, no. No. No. I would break a bone looking at it. Maybe I’ll learn one day.
Pastor Keith: Now which one is the skater?
Jeff Mingee: Carter. Our youngest is the skater.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, I even saw that you had on the edge a little PVC pipe for the lip.
Jeff Mingee: Yep. Yep, that was the cheap man’s way out of that little piece.
Kevin Hass: Instead of an actual pipe?
Jeff Mingee: Instead of an actual metal pipe, yep, PVC is a great substitute for a beginner.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, well good on you for that.
Jeff Mingee: Thanks.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, the family time has been wonderful. We’ve had more family meals together in these weeks than we have in a long stretch. It’s just been really wonderful. Joy has been with me, and our whole family, we set up Doxology Sessions. My mom, everybody is moving furniture and running wires and Joy’s been hospitable to everybody coming in, and Jonah’s working on the videos. That family time, when this season is over, whenever that is, I’m going to miss that. I love how the family is just really grafted in to the work of the ministry even more so. Now, Pastor Kevin?
Kevin Hass: Several things I could speak to. First is I think that the sunlight of the gospel is piercing through the clouds of the illusion of our control. And so I think that we in the Western world, the individualized, materialistic world, the consumer world, go through most of every day not thinking we’re very needy. Or if we’re needy, we’re needy for things like, “Oh, I haven’t had ice cream in a few days.” Right? So all these extras, all these things. So when I get a flat tire, I think, “Oh, do I call AAA or should I change this myself.” I’m not thinking, “I don’t have the money to eat if I fix this tire.” Right? I think on a global scale, on a personal scale, on a family scale there’s just this interruption that God is doing. And he is interrupting the illusion of our control.
Pastor Keith: It shattered a notion of self-sufficiency.
Kevin Hass: Absolutely.
Pastor Keith: And we need that. That’s a good thing for us. We can give thanks to that – to God for that.
Kevin Hass: Yeah. Not that the suffering people have is illegitimate or unfounded, but that there is this great benefit, that God is, in His sovereign orchestration of this moment, and in His providence as He governs this moment, He’s using it deliberately to call us out of that self-sufficiency and the illusion – He’s pointing to the idol of control and He’s saying, “Idol. That is an idol.” And for those of us with ears to hear, we look at that and confess and repent and receive freedom from that idol. And that freedom then can become family time or reevaluation of ministry and priorities and whatever else it might look like for us in the church. So I do think that’s at least one significant thing that He’s doing on the highest scale.
Pastor Keith: So how has that been for both of you as lead pastors? With everything in a split second, so to speak, everything changed and it’s still changing, how has that been for your heart and leading? Where have you found yourself in that moment?
Jeff Mingee: There are definitely some frustrating moment, where I’m just sick and tired of all the change. And it’s like, “Can we get some consistency?” By the time I got used to recording online, we’re moving towards meeting in person. So there’s definitely some frustration in that. There’s been a bit of reorientation on my part, just in the sense of remembering, “Oh, wait a minute. Pastorally, I can make phone calls, and I can just check in.” So I’ve gotten into the habit of sending text messages throughout our membership list, just touching base with people, “Hey, how are you doing?” Because I’ve missed the – or lost the Sunday morning touch point. Where I used to see that person in the hallway and have a five-minute conversation, I’ve lost that. So now that forces me to do the pastoral work through, “Let me check in through a text message.” So those are a couple of ways.
Kevin Hass: Yeah, I think I certainly feel frustrated at times. I feel exhausted at times. I feel grateful at times. I think that my joy in having my elders has reached an all-time high. I knew I had great elders. I love these men. I trust these men. I have for years. But my admiration for their commitment to Christ and dedication to shepherd well the folks in our church – and it’s impacting freeing me so that I don’t have to, non-stop, kill myself to get to our people, because I trust that they are leading. I’m getting stories of ways that they’re leading and that kind of thing. And so I’m at an all-time high in admiration for the leadership of our church. Not just the elders, but the leaders in our church.
And for the members of our church. They really are calling each other. They really are sending cards in the mail to each other. I’m stunned at the level at which people who I would say knew each other some are deliberately trying to build friendship in this season. And so it speaks to the absence of connectivity, but it also speaks to a holy response that the Lord is calling His people into deeper community even though it looks different. So I’ll be interested, a year from now or five years from now to think and look back, what’s different about how we relate that’s remained versus what’s different from how we relate now to January.
Pastor Keith: It’s almost like you took the blanket off and looked underneath and you’re like, “Whoa.” The biblical community is so essential, and everybody is super connected. There’s more than – you’ll know what I’m saying by this. There’s more to what happens on Sunday than the corporate worship meeting.
Kevin Hass: Or the lecture that I give. Right? You can’t see the air quotes, but I believe in the power or preaching big time.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, same.
Kevin Hass: But I think there are times where it just, to many people in the audience it feels like an audience and a lecture and a routine, and now they’re realizing that they are desperate for Sunday worship together.
Pastor Keith: All the generations encouraging one another. Psalm 145 and that biblical community centered around God’s Word. Yeah, it’d be a joy to –
Kevin Hass: And the interaction. I mean, we’re made in the image of God. He is Himself both singular and plural. We are not able to survive as lone-ranger Christians. And my hope is that for a generation, for 25 years, we’ll remember this. Right? That we’ll remember this as a defining moment in the same way that somebody might say an assassination of a president was a defining moment or the onset of the internet was a defining moment. I think for the church, this is one of those moments, where we’ll say, “No, no, no, we go to church. We need to be together with the people of God.” And the kids are going to say, “Why?” And the parents are like, “I don’t even remember. But I’ll tell you this. I remember not having it, and I’m not doing that again.” Even if they can’t specify theologically why and what happens and all that stuff.
Pastor Keith: So I’m going to sound like Jeff Mingee here, but I remember Piper saying that he would not be the man he is were it not for the church.
Kevin Hass: Amen.
Jeff Mingee: Absolutely.
Pastor Keith: That was a young jedi type of concision. I’m working up to it.
Jeff Mingee: Hey, that was good. That was good. I was impressed.
Pastor Keith: Thank you.
Kevin Hass: We want to be like Jeff when we grow up.
Jeff Mingee: If you want to be super concise there, you might say we are called to cooperate. [Laughter] Also the title of a great book. I’m just kidding.
Kevin Hass: Available on Amazon.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, it’s kind of white and blue, written on leadership and about the Trinity. Okay. How does God work in the midst of hard times?
Jeff Mingee: Well, we know Romans 8, that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. So we know that He is at work in the hard times, that our difficulties don’t derail His work. Right? So a couple of things that I think He does in hard times, particularly –
Pastor Keith: Do you think everybody believes that?
Jeff Mingee: Yes, they would nod their head in affirmation. Do they embrace that through tears? No, not always. Right? I mean, that’s hard. I’m reminded – C.S. Lewis, “God whispers to us in our pleasure and shouts to us in our pain.” So He speaks, that’s one of the things He does in hard times is He speaks to us. He exposes our sin. We’ve talked a little bit about that already. Whether it’s pastoral sin or community sin, He exposes that in our difficult moments. He confronts apathy. This is a season in which we’re being shaken up to say, “Oh, man, I have not done what I needed to do. Let me get back it, to what I need to do.” And another thing I think He does in the midst of hard time is He gives rest. Psalm 23, “He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies,” the midst of that hardship and the presence of that table.
Pastor Keith: How does this trial connect to Genesis 3 and Romans chapter 2?
Jeff Mingee: I think we see the brokenness of the world and the effects of sin on the world and the creation that we live in. And so we’re seeing evidence of creation groaning, as Paul talks about later in Romans. And we see that which was made for our good, the world, is now misdirected for our demise. It’s still structurally good, but it’s directionally misdirected. I think of Genesis, you read the book of Genesis and you get to, I think it’s chapter 4 or 5, and you read the refrain, “And he died. And he died. And he died,” which only comes after Genesis 3. And as we’re surrounded by the increasing number of deaths, we’re reminded that death is the result of sin. We’re also reminded at the end of Genesis when Joseph says, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” And so there’s just a ton of themes going on there. But we’re reminded the world is broken and yet God is good.
Pastor Keith: Any thought you’d have on that, brother?
Kevin Hass: Yeah. I think one of the things that’s happening right now is the realization that we’re corporately sharing a single hard time. The storm is affecting many boats at the same time.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, super rare.
Kevin Hass: It’s very rare. And in our ever increasingly interconnected global civilization, we’ve always had people who are having hard times. Right? Like if you go back to last year, the year before, ten years ago, 30 years ago, 1000 years ago, somebody somewhere was having an incredibly hard time with the brokenness of their body, the brokenness of disease, the brokenness of strife, the cruelties of war. If we were to be able to talk to our great grandparents about World War II, they would talk about the cruelties of war and the sacrifices of a nation to rise up against evil and all these themes and stuff. So I think one thing I would say that God is doing is reminding me and us that hard times are not occasional globally.
The occasion that seems rare to us is the global impact of a single hard time, that the virus is affecting the whole world essentially at the same time. A little bit earlier in the Asian world, a little bit earlier in Europe compared to us. Right? So as the virus expanded in its productivity, certainly the timetables are a little bit unsynced if you look week by week, but if you think of the trauma of this moment, the global community is very affected at the same time, and I think that’s pretty rare. But Europe would say in the 1940s they were pretty unified in a hard time, and America joined that hard time, and Japan and all. So I’m not a history expert by any means. But I think God is always working in hard times, and that there are hard times is not unique. It’s common. The unique element for us is the feeling of unity in having, for lack of a better term, better adversary. We all have the same adversary, this invisible virus that few can see and all know the effects of.
And so the Lord is saying, “I am still Me and I am still trustworthy.” And the same Savior that wept over Jerusalem, on the tearful and triumphant entry into Jerusalem on passion week, is still the same one enthroned in the heavens right now, mediating the blessings of His covenant with us and saying, “I am greater than this moment.” To the point where Isaiah is like, “Look the sting of death is real,” and Jesus can say, “I emptied death of its sting. I emptied it.” And so by entering into death in our stead, He also is giving us life out of death. And so what’s the end result of all of this going to be? The same thing as always. God is going to be glorified. His people are going to be benefitted. And it will pass. So anchoring in those simple gospel truths can be very renewing to our hearts.
Jeff Mingee: There’s a reminder that the Bible does not tell us that our suffering will be over soon. But it does tell us that our suffering will be over ultimately, and that’s the promise of the resurrection, one of the promises.
Pastor Keith: Amen. Amen. Amen. If you look at our current landscape now, you’ll see, if you go into a building, you’ll see blue Xs on the ground; stickers that say, “Practice social distancing;” signs on the doors that give the government’s mandates or the governor of our state, Virginia; instructions. Now we’ve been asked – it is mandatory to wear masks in any place. I have my mask sitting on my bag there. Maybe I should have it on my face. We look like bank robbers in here. But we’ve been asked to do all these things, and some folks reject that. Some folks embrace that. some people are in the middle. What should be our understanding, with Romans 13 in mind and this season of COVID, when we’re being asked by the government to do certain things?
Jeff Mingee: I think Romans 13, generally speaking, calls us to submit when we can submit, and that our leaning and our posture ought to be one of submitting to government authorities, so long as they’re not in clear contradiction with godly authority and God’s ultimate authority. So Scripture makes it clear. If your government ever asks you to disobey God, it’s not even a question. You obey God rather than men. What Romans 13 does is remind us that because we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom, that does not excuse us from our obligations as earthly citizens and as citizens of Virginia, in our case. And so it confronts our posture and calls us to a posture of submission.
Pastor Keith: Are you guys wearing masks on Sunday at your church?
Jeff Mingee: I have so far. Yep, every week we’ve – we encourage everyone to wear masks. Yep, I’ve worn one. I take it off when I get up to preach, and I put it on as I’m coming down off the platform. And that’s both a recognition of Romans 13 and government authorities and it’s a love for neighbor.
Pastor Keith: It is –
Jeff Mingee: It’s both.
Pastor Keith: It’s both of those things.
Jeff Mingee: And I do that, and almost every time I put the mask on, I feel for my brothers and sisters who feel like their constitutional rights are begin violated. Like, “Oh, man, I get you. I’m not mad at you, and I’m not” – but I’m putting my mask on. So yeah, I’ve worn one.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, it’s just a mask. Yeah, this Sunday for our team, we’re coming back, first service back inside, and Pastor Doug has lead us so well as the senior pastor through this, and we’re going to be checking people’s temperature at the door – all the volunteers. Just the volunteers. So I’ll be at the door at 7:15 Sunday morning with a thermo temperature taker, and anybody above 100 has to go home. But we’ll all be in masks. We are not mandating it, but we’re strongly encouraging folks to come and have a mask. For those very reason that the government has asked us to do that. It seems very reasonable, public health, and it’s not in contradiction to the Scripture, and I think it’s in love for one another. Now, what’s it look like there at By Grace?
Kevin Hass: So we’re still doing prerecorded videos and playlists of our worship team leading individual songs. And so we have not resumed in-person public worship yet. We long to, certainly, but we haven’t done that yet. So we haven’t had to put up or shut up on that question in terms of where is our line and what will we do.
But one of the things that I really feel deeply is the frustration of uncertainty. I don’t know who to believe. I don’t know who to trust. I’ve got reputable sources on one side and reputable sources on another side. So in the echoes of my own mind I feel so frustrated and it reminds me that I don’t like uncertainty. I like it when we know stuff. I like it when it’s proven. I’m such a lousy king, that I want to do just what I think is right in my own eyes, and that’s the scariest refrain in the Bible probably, book of Judges, “Each man did what he thought to be right in his own eyes.” And so I feel very deeply that tension of, “The governor doesn’t have the power to tell me what to” – you know? With, “How is this going to be with enforced? The Department of Health isn’t a police officer.” I can get so lost in all the legal and the political and all that stuff.
And then I think the still small voice of the Holy Spirit says, “Kevin, I have led you in the road of humility and sacrifice. The gospel commands you to give up what you think you’re entitled to.” At a core level, there’s a foundational element that forces me to release what I feel entitled to. And so we are not a submissive state. We are not a submissive nation. We do not have a submissive culture.
Pastor Keith: And some folks, wearing masks, could be a little vanity. They don’t want to put it in front of their –
Kevin Hass: Sure. Or, “I don’t want to be ridiculed, so I’m just going to go along with it.” You could be a sheep and stand on the no mask, and you could be a sheep and stand on the mask. “I want to rise up like my forefathers and overthrown tyranny.” We can get so grandiose. When in reality, is it better? Is it proven? Is it – I don’t know. But Jesus teaches me to take the low position. So if the low position is to cover my nose and mouth, even if it’s futile and doesn’t accomplish anything, then it’s futile and it didn’t accomplish anything, but I learned to serve and submit. And if it does accomplish something, won’t I wish I had?
So I can feel the conflict. I’m sure there are listeners who are mad at me for something I just said. Right? Because we have very clear cheerleading happening. Yes, we should. No, we shouldn’t. Yes, I will. No, I won’t. Let the people of God release what they feel entitled to and serve the most vulnerable. It’s our rally cry in the doctrine of abortion. Right? Let’s stand for life and whatever that means. So if I’m giving up life for liberty, I don’t want to do that. I don’t think the politics should do that. But it’s cloth on my face.
Jeff Mingee: We put a note in a letter to our church that said, “We strongly” – this was before the mandate, but we said, “We strongly recommend you to wear masks. You are allowed to act in your conscience. You can or can – you can chose or chose not to. What you cannot do is unkindly judge those who do differently than you.”
Kevin Hass: Yeah, our brother Hopson was a master at this moment. He’s somebody that I really look to for, “What are they telling their church? How are they phrasing it?”
Pastor Keith: At Poquoson Baptist?
Jeff Mingee: Poquoson Baptist, yeah.
Kevin Hass: At Poquoson Baptist. So he’s a good friend, and I have appreciated him in his ability to see through some of the challenges of the divisiveness and the potential divisions of this moment and be able to navigate a road through that. Yeah, Jeff and I were quick on that text thread among the pastors to go, “Yay and Amen.” We’re not free to judge each other based on our conduct or the choices that we are making right now. But we should be cultivating that ethos of grace, as we should be gracious.
Jeff Mingee: Mask wearing and hand shaking are the new alcohol. Right? It’s the thing that we’re going to disagree on how to approach, and we have to be charitable to those that see it differently. Okay, all right, you know.
Kevin Hass: Yeah, and many of us aren’t epidemiologists. And even the epidemiologists might be disagreeing or leveraging one study against another study. All that stuff is so far over my head. Here’s what I know. I’m called to love Jesus. I’m called to love Jesus’s people. And I’m called to meet together to worship Him in whatever ways are best available to me. And to know that the vulnerable among us should feel no guilt and no judgement from the people of God. And so if there’s something we can do to make – because there’s a difference. And this is really important, listener. There’s a huge difference between what is safe and what feels safe. And right now, we don’t really have a deep understanding of what is safe. What we are trying to do is use our best judgements so that we feel safe according to reasonable evidence and standards. And that’s what we should be aiming to do.
Pastor Keith: I think the takeaways from this very brief conversation are very clear; walk in humility before the Lord, trusting in the gospel of Jesus Christ, knowing the sovereign hand of God is over our life and His plans cannot be thwarted, knowing that though suffering is at hand, it will not last forever. We hope in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and we need to consider our brothers more significant than ourselves and seek to love them, care for them, not have a judgement heart, but a heart of understanding and love and care for each other as we go. And not having a mindset of self-sufficiency but a dependence on God. John 15, “Without him we can do absolutely nothing.” May God remind us of those truths as we continue to walk through this COVID season. Lord bless you. Thank you for listening to this episode of Doxology Matters.