If you are wondering why America seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, look at the church. Pastors tasked with proclaiming the gospel and discipling their flock are more focused on church growth strategies. And the congregation is no less culpable. For most people going to church want tradition, childcare, and none of their sensibilities challenged. We do not want theology. We do not want discipleship. We want to feel good. And so with the moral void expanded, the Overton Window for our society to accept a score of immoral behaviors. There was once a time where trangendering your child was unthinkable, just as there was once a time when pastors did not forsake the assembly of the saints during real pandemics.
Alas, whole swaths of the United States of America consist of no churches defying tyrannical dictates. Moreover, whole swaths of the country have churches that impose unbiblical conditions for the gathering of any saints if they gather at all. They will brazenly lie about how wearing masks is “loving your neighbor” just as they brazenly lied about doing church at home for months. And soon, they will lie about how getting a vaccine is loving your neighbor if they have not done so already.
Protestantism is built upon civil disobedience, for if we misinterpreted Romans 13 as John MacArthur famously did, the gates of hell would have prevailed. We are to give honor to whom honor is due. Christ, not your governor, is head of the church, but in many places in the country, churches lie to themselves about who they really believe their authority is. Faith without works is dead. Churches that forsake the assembly of the saints by the fiat decree of their government declare that this government is head of the church. For we would never expect Christians living under imminent threat of persecution to forsake gathering, yet churches in America with far less dire consequences wince so effortlessly. In March, churches like Eve were deceived into disobedience. Several months later, it is active defiance, like Adam.
Five months after the fact, John MacArthur faithfully opened his doors, invoking the Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates. And three months later many churches continue their defiance. Unfortunately, this high profile action did not appear to have sparked more low profile obedience.
And now we have this gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey defying their tyrant governor. In the video above, they explain that they have been arrested, fined over $1 million, and locked out. But in defiance of this, they are still operating, and they do not require masks or social distancing.
What excuse do churches have for not doing the same. If God is for us, who can dare stand against us? The God of the eternal universe will judge the universe, not tyrannical governors and the judges. Therefore, why are churches afraid of suffering even an ounce for obedience at the cost of their own Heavenly reward?
We know Christ reigns now and at the end of Revelation. So why do we not live like it? We demonstrably live in fear as everyone else does. Where is the joy that we are to have in the midst of tyranny and fear? For the way we live our lives is to be a witness of Christ’s work in us. Yet the church is largely indistinguishable from the world with its actions in 2020, if not also encouraging the fear.
Why is the church so quick to label Derek Chauvin a racist, yet leaving a gym in New Jersey to fight their battles for them, if they ever even want to return to faithfully gathering in the first place? Is not the cause of defending your livelihood more important and foundational than weighing in on a drug addict dying during an arrest? Are not the lockdowns a greater systemic injustice than what Derek Chauvin is accused of doing? But it is easier to follow the rest of the world than it is to obey Christ.
It is with great effeminacy the church has sacrificed its power to speak out on salient issues to the alter of the state only to preserve the whitewashed tombs they have become. Many churches, when forsaking the assembly of the saints, received government bailouts designated for nonprofits. It seems like the mistrust goes both ways in this broken dynamic between pastors and laity.
We know from Scripture that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. But the church is the universal body of believers, not the institutions that exist in America. So, God’s promise to the church is no safe harbor for these institutions, rather if the church in America can only faithfully operate underground, let it be. Perhaps we will have more faithful congregants willing to suffer an ounce for God’s glory and pastors unafraid of proclaiming the word.