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Pastor Dan Hawn publishes a weekly article which is also emailed to members and regular attenders.  Let us know if you would like to receive this weekly article via email. During the pandemic, the Blog will be bi-weekly, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


Disobeying the Governing Authorities

 

Since the onset of the pandemic, the vast majority of churches in America (including FBC) have been compliant with various guidelines and mandates issued by local, state and national authorities. This included the cessation of in-person worship services from mid-March until mid-May (FBC re-opened on May 24).

Many churches still haven’t re-opened, and in California (which did re-open for a time), the governor recently announced a 2nd lockdown for 33 of the most populous counties.

Only this 2nd lockdown is getting some pushback.

Last Friday, the 6,000-member Grace Community Church outside Los Angeles, announced that it would defy the governor’s order and continue conducting in-person worship services.

Grace Community is a prominent evangelical church, led by John MacArthur, who has pastored the church for 50 years. He is the author of dozens of books and has a worldwide ministry. (His verse-by-verse commentaries have long been a favorite of mine.) In addition, the seminary he founded has trained thousands of pastors.

In a 6-page letter to the members of Grace Community, Dr. MacArthur (writing on behalf of the church’s elders) explained their reasons for defying the governor’s order. The letter is entitled “Christ, Not Caesar, is Head of the Church.”

It’s a thoughtful letter and I’ll highlight some of the main points:

1.      Scripture does require obedience to the governing authorities, whether we like their rulings or not. However, when the governing authorities attempt to assert authority over the church, or issues orders that forbid obedience to God’s law, the church must resist.

 

2.      God has established three institutions within human society – the family, the state, and the church. Each institution has limited authority, but in this case, the state of California is exceeding theirs. The state has no authority to regulate the worship of the church.

3.      Grace Community isn’t making a constitutional argument, but a biblical one.

4.      The persecution of the church by government authorities has been the norm, not the exception, throughout church history. God may be using these present pressures as a means of purging and revealing the true church.

5.      The letter explains Grace Community’s consent to the original lockdown in March.
Locking down was supposed to be a short-term stopgap measure in order to “flatten the curve.” In addition, there were horrific projections of deaths. Well, the projections were way off and the new order is for an indefinite time period based on a questionable interpretation of data. Meanwhile, abortion clinics, marijuana dispensaries and liquor stores are deemed essential businesses and remain open.

6.      The lockdowns are spiritually harmful to Christians. The ability of pastors to shepherd their flocks has been severely curtailed. The unity and influence of the church has been threatened. Opportunities for believers to serve and minister to one another have been missed. And the suffering of Christians who are troubled, fearful, distressed, infirm, or otherwise in urgent need of fellowship and encouragement has been magnified beyond anything that could reasonably be considered just or necessary.

As expected, Grace Community is getting a lot of criticism, including from fellow believers. As one pastor pointed out, a person can agree with everything Dr. MacArthur writes and still come to a different conclusion about ceasing in-person worship for a period of time during a pandemic.

What do you think?

Pastor Dan

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