One of the podcasts I listen to is hosted by a conservative southern Christian. He has been really out-of-sorts since March when states and cities wouldn't allow churches to open for worship.
He's out-of-sorts about wearing masks, telling businesses they can't operate, closing schools, etc. But he's REALLY out-of-sorts about being told he can't go to church.
He declares day after day that church is an essential service. The government has no legal right to prohibit the free exercise of our faith. The Bible tells us we must worship regularly with each other. Why should you be able to wander the aisles of Walmart with several hundred other people, but not be allowed to attend a church service observing proper social distancing? Why should the police shut down parking-lot worship services where no one is even leaving their car?
He has frequently hosted ministers who defied shut-down orders and opened their church doors for worship or continued to host parking-lot worship services. He holds them up as true Christians, practicing the word of God, willing to stand up to the government trying to limit their freedom to worship. Pastors who shut down their churches are sheep, giving up their God-given authority, and bowing to the dictates of the heathen liberal, God-hating government.
(I listen for the entertainment value 😊)
In mid-July, the podcaster ran a sound-clip from Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Stanley leads a 30,000+ member church with multiple campuses. The church, originally scheduled to reopen in August, decided to postpone in-person worship until 2021.
The podcaster blasted the pastor and the hypocrisy of what the pastor was saying on the sound-clip: In the sound clip, Stanley says, "Church is an essential service, but a one-hour service with hundreds crammed into a room is not an essential service." The podcaster interpreted this to mean that church is no longer necessary. (Oh, and if church is not essential, maybe tithing isn't either.)
I don't often yell at podcasters, but I find myself yelling at this one. "He didn't say the church is non-essential!"
While other evangelical pastors rant about first amendment rights, religious liberty, and government overreach, it's nice to see an influential pastor ignore the noise and state that The Church is more important than a church service.
"The church has never been designed to be limited to buildings," said Senior Pastor Brian Tome of Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. "Look all over the world and history, you'll find people of faith that have thrived and grown without haze machines, free coffee, or a parking team." (WLWT5 news report, July 15, 2020)
The podcaster can rant all he wants. But the pastors have it right. Sitting in the pews isn't what makes us church. Walking in the community is.
- Ann Iona Warner