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COVID-19 Update

Dear Church Family,

As the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues, we – and indeed the entire globe - find ourselves wrestling with a health pandemic of concerning scale and impact. While only time will tell us how widespread the situation really is, what seems very clear at present is that we must prayerfully discern how to best care for and minister to our Central congregation and our community in general. As Christians, we know we need not be afraid, but it is important that we exercise both wisdom and prudence. Please know of my personal prayers for all of you in this regard.

The health and welfare of our members, staff, and neighbors are of paramount importance. Our objective is to love our community as Christ loves us – especially those among us who are most vulnerable to this disease. With this in mind, Central’s leadership has made a series of proactive decisions:

Sunday Worship

  • St. Louis County has declared a state of emergency, prohibiting all gathering of 250 people or more. As a result, worship this Sunday is “ONLINE ONLY” via our Livestream 
  • The service will stream “live” at 8:30 a.m., and then will be available for viewing again anytime after that service concludes.
  • The church will be “closed” for worship and all other activities this Sunday.
  • As you set up your “Live Stream” at home, you might consider joining with a small group while practicing “social distancing.”
  • You can continue to make your tithes and offerings online, via text, or via U.S. Mail. For full details, please visit our giving page.

For the week of March 16-21:

  • All on-campus ministry events are suspended, including Equip Central, bible studies, and group meetings.
  • Our kitchen will be closed for the week, with no food services provided.

If you need particular spiritual care during this challenging season, our congregational care team would love to hear from you. Send us an email at and one of our pastors or shepherds will be in touch.

We anticipate that these changes are temporary, and intend to go back to our regular ministry schedules as soon as possible. To help inform any future decisions about our various ministry schedules, we have formed a Health Advisory Team with several of our Central medical professionals. That team is helping us stay on top of the situation through their expertise and access to current information. We are truly blessed to have such wonderful and generous resources among our church family.

In closing, dear friends, I pray that the Lord would draw near to each of us in a special way right now. As we talked about Romans 8 last week in worship, it is not lost on me that God can use even this to bring about his good purposes. Please join with me in prayer to that end. Let us also continue in prayer for those currently afflicted with the virus, those impacted by the many cancellations across the country, the many medical professionals serving in these difficult circumstances, and of course for the Central community and St. Louis region. May the Lord of all mercy bless and protect us. To Christ be all glory.

With great affection in Christ for each of you,

Pastor Clay

Posted by Clay Smith

3 Questions & Answers About Spiritual Formation

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Last summer, my title changed from “Pastor of Worship and Arts” to “Pastor of Spiritual Formation.”  Since that time, some people at Central have asked me some very good questions about the meaning of my new title, and I want to share what I hope are some good answers.

The first question is this: “What does spiritual formation mean?”  This is a shorthand phrase to describe the comprehensive work of God to make us the people that he created us to become.  As our Creator, God formed the first human being (Gen. 2:7), and he formed each of us with the same exquisite care (Ps. 139:13–16).  As our Savior, God is undoing all that is de-formed in us by sin and its cursed effects; he is re-forming us by con-forming or trans-forming us into the image of the Son (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18) by the power of his Spirit, not only in our souls but ultimately in our bodies as well (Phil. 3:21).

“Spiritual formation” is the ultimate purpose for everything that we do as a church.  The goal of our church is not simply to enjoy stirring worship services or to engage one another in classes or small groups or to serve people in need in our city and around the world.  God calls us to those practices of worship, community life, and outreach because they are the means by which we know and love God and through which God transforms us into a people who bear the image of the Son of God and manifest his likeness in our character and actions with increasing maturity and glory.

God’s work in spiritual formation is a lifelong process of growth.  Jesus is not only our sacrifice and priest but also our model, teacher, and guide, and he calls us to be disciples who follow him by submitting to his wise methods of training so that we can be like him (Luke 6:40).  As Pastor of Spiritual Formation, my calling is to help our church to see the full vision of God’s transformative plan for us and to pursue that vision by all the means and methods that God provides for our training in the way, the truth, and the life of God.

A second question often follows the first: “Isn’t this what the church has often called discipleship?”  Yes, it is.  Spiritual formation is simply another term for the process of becoming a full disciple of Jesus.  It describes the life and goal to which Jesus calls his followers and students (disciples). 

And that answer leads naturally to a third: “Why would I choose the phrase “spiritual formation” for my title rather than ‘Pastor of Discipleship’”?   One reason is that the term “discipleship” has become strongly associated inside the church not simply with the overall process of spiritual formation but also with a particular means of pursuing it.  For many people, the term “discipleship” brings to mind classrooms, curriculum, and structured mentoring relationships in which older, knowledgeable Christians teach the basics of the Christian faith to people who are younger or less experienced.  While those are forms that accomplish some aspects of discipleship, the process of becoming a mature disciple of Jesus—the process of spiritual formation—involves far more than that.  Indeed, the most focused forms of spiritual formation do not occur in classes but rather in coffee shops and around dinner tables, in phone calls and emails, in service projects and daily work, and in spiritual conversations saturated in the word of God and prayer shared by close Christian friends.  The revelation of Jesus’ life and ministry in the Gospels shows us clearly that his means of grace and his methods of training and forming us go far beyond anything we can experience in a classroom, a sermon, a lecture, or a workbook.

A second reason why I prefer the phrase “spiritual formation” is that it has the potential to connect with people outside the church.  The word “discipleship” is a very churchy word; one almost never hears the words “disciple” and “discipleship” used outside Christian circles.  While those terms are fine for communication between Christians, the terms “spiritual” and “spirituality” are widely used in American culture to talk about religious beliefs, longings, and practices.  Therefore, referring to the ministry of the church as “spiritual formation” establishes a common ground for communication by using language that many people already use to label their most ultimate concerns and commitments.  One of the fastest growing categories of religious life in America is the set of people who call themselves “spiritual, but not religious.”  Thus, naming the ministry of Jesus as “spiritual formation” presents Christ as the fulfillment of our deepest questions and longings in language that is already culturally familiar.

For some additional resources for understanding spiritual formation, see Dallas Willard, “Spiritual Formation as a Natural Part of Salvation,” and his books The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God and Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ.

Compassion, Bed Sheets, & Bandages

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For more than 40 years, White Cross has been a mission of Central's women's ministry. The "Holy Rollers" turn old sheets into bandages which are then sent to the remote corners of the world to help those in great need.  Over the summer months, each Tuesday morning at 9:30 a group of women meet in the Fellowship Hall. They turn old bed sheets into rolled bandages.

For many years, bandages were sent to a specific medical missionary, Dr. John Frederick, who was a member of Central and working in the Comores Islands. Today, they are delivered to Wings of Hope, a Nobel Prize-nominated organization delivering humanitarian programs to the impoverished across the globe. The bandages are used for everything from covering open wounds and holding IV catheters in place, to supporting mosquito nets hung over burn victims. After they are past their prime, your old sheets may even be rolled into tight balls as toys for children to play with.

This is a wonderful ministry for all ages, with many of the women bringing their children or grandchildren to participate. They enjoy serving and being in community with each other, and after the work is done, there is a salad luncheon and guest speaker. 

All are welcome, so if you'd like to get involved, just show up at the Fellowship Hall next Tuesday at 9:30. Even if you can't attend on Tuesdays, you can participate by donating your old sheets - white, colored, prints, whatever.  All will be put to good use. A collection box is available near the entrance to the Fellowship Hall. 

Posted by Jeff Brown