Let me begin this way. Jesus said, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20
Since March 8th, 2020 this country has gone through some of the most severe tests in the nation’s history. I’m not trying to minimize any healthcare crisis, political crisis, or military crisis our country has faced in the past. Fighting for freedom and attempting to dispel injustice around the world is what America has done since its inception. Wars and rumors of wars will continue. The tremendously complex organisms that operate together today to sustain life on earth are precariously at risk on a daily basis, and this will not change either.
Yet there is one very dangerous aspect of what is going on in our lives, right this minute, that has the potential to alter our reality forever. You might think I’m talking about the looming presidential election. You might think I’m referring to replacing a new Judge to the Supreme Court of the United States. But I’m not.
The single dangerous aspect I’m addressing here is the church. For far too long in America those who would call themselves “Christians” have led a pretty cushy, non-persecuted life. We have all taken for granted that our freedom of religious expression while protected by our Constitution would last forever. Consequently, like blind and deaf sheep we have wandered seriously and dangerously close to the precipice of destruction.
Consider first how a judge this past week upheld Los Angeles County health restrictions and issued an injunction prohibiting indoor worship at MacArthur’s congregation, Grace Community Church. Even this famed pastor, author, teacher is now being tested beyond his wildest imaginations. What was John MacArthur’s response?
He told Laura Ingraham on Fox News The Ingraham Angle, “… My biblical hero, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Apostle Paul. And when he went into a town, he didn’t ask what the hotel was like – he asked what the jail was like because he knew that’s where he was going to spend his time. So I don’t mind being a little apostolic. If they want to tuck me into jail, I’m open for a jail ministry. I’ve done a lot of other ministries and haven’t had the opportunity to do that one, so bring it on.”
Consider second a young pastor in Mount Juliet, Tennessee who is literally being attacked daily because his church erected a tent on their land to hold services, since they couldn’t use their building. Did you know people are driving from all over the United States to attend GlobalVision Bible Church, so they can be in a place of worship – not restricted by masks and social distancing? They are. I’m thinking about going myself.
Consider third, my conversations with three separate men in ministry regarding their take on the governments restrictions on church and worship. Even now, to my knowledge, all three of these churches are practicing social distancing, requiring attendees to wear masks, while limiting singing and worshiping like we used to do. When I spoke with these men I was struck by what I considered a very confusing and frustrating mixed message.
On the one hand, each of these men of God, spoke of the dangers of the China virus. And hear me carefully, I am not suggesting it is not dangerous. However, I prefer to believe the hundreds if not thousands of scientists and doctors now on record stating this virus is treatable, and that only those with complicating issues should have died. In fact, there are doctors who have successfully treated people with extreme issues who have survived and live to tell about it. My point is that fear should not be the determining factor in our message to the Church today. And pastors should lead from a position of faith, not fear. I’ve already mentioned two of the most significant voices in America today who are doing just that.
So, on the other hand each of the men I spoke to continue to talk about the power of God, the truth of the Word of God, and how each of us must be faithful during these difficult days. I love these men. I believe with all my heart that each of them is a true and faithful Christ-follower. I know without doubt each is called to ministry and desires only to bring glory to God. Yet, the message is still mixed. Here’s why.
Either Jesus’ own statement is true or it isn’t. There is no gray area here. If we gather in worship, believing when we do that Jesus is present, why should we promote fear? Of anything? Including the China virus. When Jesus is present the very power of God resides on earth. In each fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ resides the very power of God in the Holy Spirit. Jesus said it would. Is He a liar?
Pastor Greg Locke preaches that the power of God in America today is in the “Gathering.” I happen to agree because I happen to believe the bible. In the Acts version of the church the power of God fell in mighty ways when they were “gathered” according to God’s command. When the church did church together, God moved in miraculous ways. And when judgment from God came to the church, it came when they were gathered. Read the bible in the Acts of the Apostles and see if with your own eyes!
Today the church of Jesus Christ needs one singular message – Jesus is LORD, and still saves! The message should not be a mixture of “be afraid but be faithful.” All across this nation we need men and women of God to stand up and declare the truth. We need voices bold and beautiful sent to lead people back to faith in a defiant stand against the voices of fear. This country may never again look like it did before March 2020. But I have a vision of a better version of us together and gathered. I have imagined God’s people standing strong, unified, hand-in-hand, voices lifted high in praise to the LORD JESUS, worshiping without fear, in His presence. It looks something like this:
3And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and marvelous are Your works,
O Lord God, the Almighty;
Righteous and true are Your ways,
King of the nations!
4“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy;
For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU,
FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”
Do you believe the statement of Jesus?
“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20
The power is in the gathering.