UPDATES & STATEMENTS
Updated on Jul 17, 2020
This last week I had the privilege of driving with my daughters to Nashville, as we took Sophie to begin her sophomore year at Belmont University. As we traveled across the country, I had a lot of time to think, pray, and reflect on all the blessings that I and my family have received because of Friends Church. Truly, I was overwhelmed to look in retrospect and see all that God has done through this family called Friends Church, while extending great love to my family. As I start this letter I want to say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart, and I want to remind you, Friends Church, that you and I are the body of Christ. We are the bride of Christ. We are both universal as the Church, and local. And oh yes, we are diverse! Within our united body we have diverse perspectives that, without the work of the Spirit of God, could cause great harm to the body.
So it is fitting, just as Paul often said “I thank my God for you” to many churches, that I say the same to you, Friends. I thank God for how you have weathered this pandemic and remained an active and encouraging body of believers.
As we look to the future I know that this virus is frustrating for all of us. Honestly, as leaders we are praying and seeking God to direct us as we move into a future that seems cloudy. As I left my girl in Nashville, the plan is that her school will open for in-person learning. Our prayer is that will happen, but nothing is guaranteed and every college and school in America is trying to figure out what is best and how to care for all of their students. And that is what we are doing as we attempt to care for all the people that call Friends home. Some of you agree with the decisions we have made while some have wanted us to open our doors now, and I do understand that! I agree that, as the body of Christ, we need to be together. So we want to inform you of our next steps at our Yorba Linda campus; we will continue to provide our online service, Life Groups will continue to meet together in Watch Parties, and in mid-September, we will add a new option. Many of you have given great reviews of our drive-in services that concluded last Sunday, and now we are pivoting to an outside service that will take place under a large tent on the campus in Yorba Linda. We are striving to provide opportunities for larger gatherings, yet also want to ensure that health guidelines are maintained. The tent size will allow for about 500 people to worship together with recommended distancing between each other. We are looking for these services to begin the weekend of September 12-13, and more information will follow in the days to come!
So again, thank you, Friends Church! Thank you for being the body of Christ, the Church, every day of every week, and I can’t wait to see many of you back on campus in September. I am thankful for the privilege that you have given me to lead this Community of Authentic Christ-followers, Compelled to Change our World.
July 7– Drive-In Church
June 12- In-Person Gatherings Update (July)
June 7- Statement on Racial Injustice
June 1 | Letter from Pastor Matthew: Standing Against Racism and Injustice
Dear Friends Church,
As your pastor, I must speak to you about these days of violence following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It’s difficult for me as a white man to find the right words to say, and I feel inept in trying. When I heard and saw the reports of George Floyd’s horrific death, the grief and sorrow I felt at the news of Breonna Taylor’s death in March, following Ahmaud Arbery’s death just a few weeks earlier, deepened and grew.
As a white, upper-middle class man, it’s not possible for me to know the depth of sadness, frustration, and even rage that our black brothers and sisters may feel in these circumstances. I can’t begin to understand the fear and apprehension that a black person carries with them every day, but I must acknowledge that they do, with words of concern and respect. I cannot know the deep wounds that a black person carries from ignorant or unjustified words or acts, but we know from Scripture that the Lord despises injustice, and Christ-followers must do the same.
There are many places that speak of God’s heart in this regard, such as 2 Chronicles 19:7, “Now let the fear of the Lord be on you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality…”
We are followers of Jesus Christ and our Friends ancestors knew His mind and heart. They responded in active opposition to slavery and were leaders in the work of the Underground Railroad. They fought for the equality of women in society and for women’s right to vote. We are called to be a voice for justice today, as well.
How? First, we pay attention and we listen. We inform ourselves by thinking more broadly than our own circumstances and context. Then, we bring racial and other forms of injustice to our Father in prayer. We can participate as activists by prayer to the Lord! This is our most important call but only our first course of action.
We are commanded throughout Scripture to come alongside the oppressed with mercy, and join as the Church against oppression. Every human being bears the image of God, and as the people of God we must step into the fray of today’s culture, looking at the work of Jesus on earth as our model. In all that He did, His acts were redemptive. He offered compassion, grace, and healing to the despised and oppressed.
In today’s circumstances, and in our community, we must find ways to do the same. In our conversations and social media posts we must first seek truth, and God’s heart in all interactions. We must be voices of compassion that acknowledge the struggle of our black brothers and sisters and reject injustice. Even here in our own city, followers of Christ can be aware of the people of color around us and interact with respect and kindness. We can acknowledge and thank law enforcement officers who are working to build trust and bridges, and often put themselves at risk. And we can learn from the redemptive acts of people in Minneapolis and other cities who showed up to help vandalized, looted, shop owners clean up.
It’s not possible to put ourselves into another’s shoes, but we must pray, speak out, and act in Jesus’ name on behalf of those whose voices are not being heard.
May it be so, Friends Church!
Matthew Cork, Senior Pastor
Becoming a Community of Authentic Christ-Followers, Compelled to Change our World
May 23 | 5 Stage Plan to Return
We are not holding live services on campus this weekend. We have a 5 stage plan for our return, for more info please continue reading below. With the news yesterday, our elder board and leadership team will spend some time in prayer and discussion, and we will post any changes to that plan to our website. Thanks again for your grace!
One of the many things I love about our church is that today our mission statement is being lived out in greater ways than ever before. Although we are not meeting together on our campuses, God is at work through Friends Church in this new season.
Yes, we love coming together as family to worship in community every week (and honestly, I miss that a lot) but that act does not define who we are. We have seen first-hand that the Church is not a building, a location, or a weekly gathering. The Church is and has always been the followers of Jesus, growing in faith and compelled to change the world. We are the Church, which means our church is never closed!
None of us can deny that this difficult time has messed with our comfort and our rhythms of life! Yet as we look to the history of the Church, and especially to the model given to us from the early Church, we can find confidence and “lean in” to God moving His Kingdom forward for His glory.
I am so proud of who we are becoming in this new season, and how Friends Church continues to go after our mission. God hasn’t changed, our mission is still the same, and we have successfully pivoted into new ways of gathering together in Jesus’ name. As this season of life continues, I want to share with you some exciting things that are ahead.
This summer, we’re going to further lean into our call to be the Church together with our families, with our neighbors and friends. We’ll gather throughout our cities and neighborhoods to bring the love and good news of Jesus to all those with whom we interact. The leadership of Friends Church has worked hard to develop a 5-stage plan that incrementally brings us together as a large church family. As you will see below, this plan will take some time and patience.
STAGE 1: We encourage you to begin Watch Parties in your homes. Gather with your Life Groups and/or your neighbors to watch the weekend service and share a meal together. This stage is scheduled to begin the weekend of May 30/31, when we also begin our new sermon series called “THRIVE.” Our team is working on this plan right now and will have more details to you soon. We expect that this stage will extend through the month of June and into July.
STAGE 2: If all goes as planned, we will encourage a number of Life Groups to come together for the weekend’s services in larger settings that will allow for social distancing such as large homes, yards, or in parks.
STAGE 3 will overlap with the last part of stage 2, as we test new protocols on our campuses and introduce our leaders and volunteers to revised systems and a “new normal.” This step will contribute to building confidence in our return to the church campus.
STAGE 4 will hopefully begin during the month of July, when we may use a reservation system to ensure that only a certain number of people will gather on our campuses at any one time. This is the stage where we will evaluate weekend service times and the number of worship services offered at each campus in order to maintain appropriate social distances. We will also allow for limited numbers of kids and students to return to their on-site weekend programs.
STAGE 5 will be our return to making every seat available! Although we have no idea when that day will come, we continue to pray that the number of cases of COVID-19 will reduce to near zero, without a second wave of infections. However, we will be prepared to respond at any time to the circumstances at hand.
Acts chapter 2 says,
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)
Friends Church, we’re going to continue to be the Church and live out our mission. In this next season we are going to be the Church in our neighborhoods, communities, and homes. We are going to be His Church, spread throughout our cities, worshiping every weekend with our neighbors, friends, and families, connecting together every step of the way.
Thanks for living out this mission with us, and thanks for believing that the best days for Friends Church are yet to come!
God bless you!
– Matthew Cork, Senior Pastor