Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Should Churches Remain In Compliance?

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a dynamic catalyst for change in the world and in our own culture.

Nowhere more than in the Christian Church.

Although the Bible instructs Christians to "forsake not the assembling of yourselves together", Christian churches across the country generally complied with the state mandate that churches are "non-essential" and public services must be canceled until the Wuhan virus can be brought under control.

At what point does compliance become conformity? And disobedience?

Be informed, not misled.

Several pastors have asked recently about my thoughts on the matter of the state mandating the canceling of church services.

Compliance always becomes conformity.

At what point do Christians and Christian leaders cut the cord with "compliance" and "obey God's law rather than man's?" And open up to public services.

Many have said, "Yes we have an obligation to obey the civil magistrate (Romans 13:7) for conscience sake, while others have claimed, "No, under the First Amendment and biblical instruction our ultimate loyalty must be to Jesus, not the state."

Are Christians being good citizens by complying with the state's attempt to protect the welfare of the citizenry? Or, do we exercise our freedom of conscience, and embrace biblical instruction to not forsake gathering together---trusting that God will honor the decision?

The church has never faced anything quite like this in America. But others have, including the early church in Rome.

Christians and civil government.

In about 58 AD, Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome (Romans 13) reminding them that although they were oppressed by Roman rule and the ruler's hatred toward Christians, the civil magistrate was "ordained by God."

At the same time, Jesus teaches that we must render unto Caesar what is Caesars and unto God what is God's, but our ultimate loyalty must be to God, not Caesar (Mark 12).

In the book of Acts Apostles Peter and John recognize the limits of "compliance."

When told to "cease preaching the gospel," the Apostles replied, "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20), and said, "We ought to obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29).

The question that has arisen within the Church during this COVID-19 era of compliance must be: "Is the state singling out Christian churches?"

And. Is the state preventing us from preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively?

On the surface, the quick answer would be "no" regarding gatherings, because it applies to all large gatherings.

But that wouldn't be true.

The state says it applies to all---but it doesn't.

While thousands gather---inches from one another---chanting slogans and demands in the streets of our cities night after night to advance an agenda that celebrates abortion, the LGBTQ, and a number of other agendas under the guise of Black Lives Matter, the state expresses no concern and no demand for compliance to the rules--- the media doesn't even mention it, yet church services must remain essentially locked down.


The funeral of Rep. John Lewis (D) last week was also a demonstration of state hypocrisy.

Columnist Cal Thomas noted yesterday that "Tradition was discarded during John Lewis' funeral last week in Atlanta."

In addition, current church mandates for gatherings were also discarded.

Cal's point was that speaker Barack Obama turned the funeral into a political rally, including denunciations of President Trump, comparing him to Alabama's former Governor and segregationist George C. Wallace.

My point is that the church was filled with people sitting shoulder to shoulder expressing joy and sorrow in singing and responding to Obama's political speech.

Christians and God.

This week pastors across America are starting to speak out against coronavirus orders that restrict religious gatherings in the name of the common good.

Last week Tennessee pastor Greg Locke said he would rather go to jail than close his church.

He said:
"Churches should be open. There are no excuses. I will go to jail before I close my church."

In July, three California churches sued Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom for singling out houses of worship in his latest coronavirus restrictions.

The churches, Calvary Chapel of Ukiah, Calvary Chapel Fort Bragg, and River of Life Church said California leaders are unfairly targeting them by allowing massive protests to continue while heavily restricting religious worship.

Newsom has said publicly there's a difference between the demonstrators and the churches. He has said, "We have a Constitution, we have a right to free speech," and..."we are all dealing with a moment in our nation's history that is profound and what you think is best."

However, when well known California pastor John MacArthur preached a sermon titled, "Christ not Caesar, is head of the church," Newsom's officials reacted.

MacArthur and the mega-church leaders at Grace Community Church say they have given this much prayer, and:
"We the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded heir legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services."

On July 13, Newsom had announced new restrictions requiring churches in a number of counties to cease holding indoor services. He had previously ordered all churches to stop singing hymns and worship songs.

Grace Community says, "We cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings."

The pastors and elders told the press:

"Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord's clear commands."

They are not making a constitutional argument, they're making a biblical one.

One of the considerations by many churches that are prayerfully considering this matter is that major public events that were planned for 2021 are already being canceled, which signals that "Caesar" appears to be planning to keep restrictions in place into next year---even beyond.

Grace Community said that was also a factor in their decision making.


I agree with Grace Community.

I think every consideration should be made to practice safety---particularly for the elderly who are most vulnerable.

I personally believe that while this pandemic is very real, its presence in our culture is being used to manipulate both political discourses in the run-up to the November election---and it's being used to silence and suppress the voice of the evangelical church in America. And probably elsewhere.

Pastors and church leaders are at a point where, I believe, they are going to have to make some decisions,

I think the first question must be, "Will continued compliance be disobedience to the Lord's commands?"

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Obedient. Be Prayerful. Be Vigilant.