Throughout the nation, governors and mayors have issued stay-at-home orders for all but “essential” businesses. The COVID-19 virus has proven extremely contagious, hitting all age groups, some harder than others. Into that mess comes a handful of pastors who have, for some reason known only to them, decided to hold church services for congregations larger than the recommended 10 people.
At least one of them was arrested, one ticketed, and the other is under extreme attack by just about everybody. Pastor Rodney Howard Browne, a well known mega church pastor in Tampa, Florida was arrested for disregarding the no meetings order. In Central, Louisiana, Pastor Tony Spell was given tickets with 6 charges of disregarding the no meetings order by holding large meetings. In Idaho, Pastor Tim Remington, a North Idaho legislator and Pastor at The Altar Church, held a meeting on Sunday against the orders of the Governor.
Before you all have a reaction either way, let me break this down for you:
Acts 5:29 says that when the Roman authorities told the Apostles not to teach in the name of Jesus, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.'”
Does that fit in today’s situation? The Romans were trying to clamp down on the Gospel being shared. There are many today, like atheists, who want no hint of the gospel to be seen in society – which is impossible. God cannot be stopped, not by evil men, not by governments, not by edicts of men that keep people at home. And with technology, we don’t have to be together to meet.
Historically, the church has often met in tough times – during times of severe persecution, during wars, etc. During the regimes of Communist dictators of the 20th Century, Christians often met surreptitiously to avoid arrest or discovery. It was a matter of life and death for them during those times.
But those were not a pandemic, a virus that can kill anyone without regard to religion, or status in life. COVID-19 does not care whether you are a Christian or a Buddhist, a Muslim or a Hindu – it is an equal opportunity killer. We must be aware of that wolf- and do our best to safeguard our flocks from it. The word pastor means “shepherd.”
NYC Mayor De Blasio has threatened to permanently shut the doors of any church or synagogue that violates his stay-at-home order. Legally, and Constitutionally, he cannot do that. He may be having a Control-Freak Roman Emperor moment, or he may be acting out of panic due to the high level of COVID-19 cases in New York City. There may be a little of both.
The consequences of ignoring the order
Recently, a choir in Mount Vernon, Washington decided to hold a practice with all 60 members present. Forty-five of them contracted COVID-19, two of them will never sing again… they died. (KOMO)
Yes, as Believers, we have spiritual authority over pestilence and plague. But not everyone is at the level where they can operate in such power. And if there is sin in our lives…there is a problem right there with exercising spiritual authority (read Acts: 19:14 where a bunch of arrogant idiots got in trouble for trying to exercise what they didn’t have).
The Bible also says this:
“Let every person be subject to the government.” Romans 13:1a
In this particular case, it is wise to heed the directions of the government. No one likes being told what to do, no one likes being held captive in your house, no one likes being separated from spiritual family members. There is a time and a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3). But there is an enemy on the loose right now, one that will not hesitate to kill if it gets a chance.
Prayer is a great weapon, we need to use it, and learn how to exercise the power and authority that comes with it. As for worship on Sundays, there are DVDs, recordings, sermons, that can be made available to you. Lots of mega churches and even smaller ones are meeting via technology rather than in person. It’s a better choice than losing a member to the virus.
The following is a recording done via cell phones with 31 different voices – it’s pretty spectacular. Just close your eyes and let the words sink in:
Featured photo: Mt Olivet Church file photo (not related to story)