As I have repeated ad nauseum in my forays into the blogosphere and social media, I have resisted over pontificating on the whys and wherefores of Covid-19, but like most I have a view, even if I am reluctant to dogmatically share it, for if I am going to be castigated by them who know better than I, I need to be dead sure of my facts, which I am not. My excuse is that since Covid-19 hit the headlines in February and up to now I have been focused on writing Prophets of the Bible, and glad to avoid the depressing prospect of following and then challenging the official narrative. I note the official narrative is generally opposed by conspiracy theorists and that term is applied to those who have the temerity to question, dismissed by official channels, ignored by mainstream media, and censored by big tech.
I don’t propose to change that approach, at least not yet, but I need to lay my cards (at least two of them) on the table, before addressing the sentiments and motivations behind the title. First card is while I have little doubt Covid-19 is for real, I have every doubt the official response is over-reaction and disproportionate, given the economic meltdown, mental health issues, huge social cost, attack on relations with friends and family, untoward effect on our children’s education and concerns like the mandatory imposition of vaccine and what is in effect – enforced house arrest. I suspect but can’t prove it that the response is driven by the psychopath bad guys who run the world, aided by useful idiots. Second card (and why I post) is the reaction of churches, ranging from compliance to every government directive or suggestion as to what they can or can’t do to ignoring this and incurring the displeasure of officialdom by the likes of well-known Christian pastors, as Rodney Howard Browne and John MacArthur.
As for how churches should respond, it ought to be biblically. We are called to love our neighbour and that means serving them at their point of need at this difficult time, and that includes caring for their safety. It also means encouraging fellow believers, and at a time when the use of church buildings were disallowed, we should be grateful for high tech stuff like Zoom and WhatsApp to connect us – something that was unthinkable less than ten years ago – and there are always other means to communicate e.g. by telephone and when allowed personal visiting. But it is meeting together I want to focus on and has become a contentious issue. For like me, the current dictates of (UK) government that seems to be regularly changing and requires signing in, wearing of face masks, no singing, keeping one’s distance, restricted interacting etc. is UNACCEPTABLE and is tantamount to succumbing to human fear and bowing to tyranny. Here obeying God rather than man outweighs obeying those in authority (Romans 13). An essential part of church life is meeting together to encourage, pray, worship, share, teach, learn, break bread, prophesy, evangelise, serve and now what many churches offer doesn’t do it. At the same time, I observe many disillusioned with traditional church as well as with a hunger for the real thing.
I don’t have a definitive solution. I am not a pastor but I am a watchman and one who is on his way out and without leadership pretentions. What I have been watching is disturbing, especially the response of the churches, albeit with glimmers of hope. It am inclined to a view that many of the leaders in churches are hirelings, because they neglect the sheep and do not teach the truth of God’s word. While we ought to respect those in authority, a point is reached when respect needs to be earned. Those that (rightly) challenge the status quo are often put down and either lump it or leave. I think about the church that existed in the generation following Jesus’ death. Having been kicked out of the synagogues, they resorted to meeting in people’s houses, and they turned the world upside down. It was something I dreamt of as a teenager, and a new Christian, with what I saw in the fledgling charismatic movement fifty years ago. Mistakes were made and casualties too – but it at least showed what was possible. Providing we learn from those mistakes and the right people are there to lead / serve such a movement, it may be the time has come yet again.
Quick update: I was pulled up by a friend on the use of the term house church, which will mean different things to different people. My meaning is it is the small groups (starting with TWO) that may meet in homes but could meet literally anywhere and do so for Christian fellowship, mutual encouragement, prayer, studying the Bible and serving the Lord in whatever way the Lord leads. The question asked fifty years ago – is this (now new definition) house church in addition to or instead of traditional church – is still valid and the answer is – it depends – but whatever the answer, it should be based on love and truth, grace and humility. And one more thing – it is not about getting one’s own way or avoiding being in situations we disapprove of (no church is perfect) but it is about being church and giving the Lord the honour due to His holy name.
Another quick update: In another exchange, it was put to me that as Christians we should be prepared to suffer and given how many people have suffered due to various impositions as a result of Covid-19, why should churches be exempt? My response is I agree about the suffering – two reasons are Jesus words to his disciples they will suffer persecution and to would be disciples that they needed to take up their cross and then follow him. But churches should also be a prophetic voice and whether or not one chooses to acquiesce to what seems unreasonable demands by government, we must not stop being that prophetic voice, which includes seeking after holiness, doing good to those around us, being good citizens, preaching the gospel, meeting together in a manner befitting children of the King AND speaking truth to power. When the true church does what it ought, suffering will invariably follow.