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Pastors Lead from the Front

A scene from the movie Patriot starring Mel Gibson is an appropriate picture of what we need from America’s pulpits today. After the late Heath Ledger gave a rousing call to arms aided by his love interest in the movie, actress Lisa Brenner, many of the men decided to join the colonist's cause and fight the British. Actor Rene Auberjonois played Reverend Oliver, and he is shown in the final scene of this portion of the film joining the men of his congregation. When questioned as to what he was doing, Reverend Oliver responded, “A shepherd must tend his flock, and at times, fight off the wolves.”

Too many shepherds have refused to lead the flock into battle. In fact, many of those who refuse to lead their flock into the culture wars believe they are not supposed to be involved in societal issues. A Barna Research Group survey taken a couple of years ago reveals that while most pastors can identify issues that are debated in the public square, an overwhelming majority of them when asked if they preach about these same issues, answered that they do not.

The current turmoil America is experiencing comes during an unprecedented period of our history. Several State Governors chose to issue health emergency orders resulting in varying degrees of house arrest for its citizens. Most people observed these edits initially. A joint campaign by governments and media to create an environment of fear assured this compliance.

These health emergency orders were extended to every individual and business in these states unless a state governor determined that a business was essential. The reality of this arbitrary decision by governors is that they decided that they had the sole power and authority to pick the winners and losers in the economic landscape of their state. Large box stores stayed open and small businesses were forced to close.

Beyond the fact that governors do not have the authority to pick and choose which business would benefit economically by the complete end to their smaller competitors, shut down, stay at home, and lockdown orders are in most cases unconstitutional and egregious misuse of state power.

One issue that has arisen during this overblown response to a virus less impactful than the seasonal flu is the complete trampling of the First Amendment rights of Americans by these state governors. A feature of the lockdown and stay at home orders was that no more than ten people could assemble in public venues or events. Most of the states included churches in their restrictions and the ones that did not include churches in the ten-person limit public gathering, included churches in the closed as non-essential businesses directives.

Surprisingly, many pastors and churches complied with this directive and closed their doors. Others decided to use available technology and began to stream their sermons over the internet to their congregants at home.

Most states are now in some stage of reopening and many churches are complying with these guidelines as well. I have personally been told of two churches in my area that have told congregants that they will only admit a certain number of people and when that number is reached all others will be turned away. Another church is requiring the wearing of masks by all attendees.

The sheer ignorance displayed by these pastors and the people that make up these local assemblies is alarming. With all of the information available that easily refutes every point of the state edicts, why would pastors continue to abide by these guidelines? The answer will shock you. I hope it shocks you into action against the deliberate destruction of our liberties and freedoms as Americans.

What Has Happened To America?

What has happened to America has a direct relationship to what has happened to the Christian church in America. Why are churches obeying illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional edicts by state governors and in some instances their state health director? Why hasn’t there been a more vocal and sustained resistance to the perceived authority of the state to demand churches close their doors?

The answer to these questions centers on the fact that the church has fallen into idolatry. State governments were very pleased with the responses from pastors and Christians to their decisions concerning how they viewed the church. Being declared a non-essential business should have set pastors on fire with righteous indignation and Christians across America should have been loudly protesting this obvious travesty.

Marriages, funerals, baptisms, hospital, and nursing home visits, community outreaches, food pantries, and benevolence to the destitute are hardly non-essential in any community. These things only scratch the surface of what churches and pastors do in their respective communities. Even more important than all of this, however, is the truth that Christians are commanded to meet together for worship, fellowship, and edification. There is simply no replacement for personal meetings by the body of Christ.

That being the case, why did so many pastors obey the government and close their doors? Why did these same pastors when questioned about it make a weak defense of their decision based on some form of “we must obey the government” or “it is within the government’s purview to tell us we can meet or not meet”?

The reason is simply this: pastors and Christians in large numbers have made the state their idol. I can hear the howls of objection right now. Facts do not care about your feelings. If you are offended or object to that conclusion then keep reading.

Romans 13 says that all authority resides with God. He delegates that authority to others. That is what transpired in the Garden of Eden when God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiple, and fill the earth. God delegate His authority to Adam and Eve when He told them to subdue the earth, to have dominion over it.

That same delegation from God is given to governments. That’s why Romans 13:1 says that there is no authority except from God. The Apostle Paul goes on to explain that a legitimate government is one that is a servant of God. In other words, legitimate God-authorized government is not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil (verse 3). Furthermore, the God-ordained government is one which is a “minister” of God that serves the good of the citizens (verse 4). The word minister is the word from which we get the word servant. It is the word deacon in the Scriptures and means one who serves.

In these lockdowns and shut down of economies and churches the government has shown itself not as a servant of the people but as their master. Governments at every level have become authoritarian and frankly, tyrannical.

The state (used of all forms of government at every level), has exposed itself as the final authority in every matter it considers. Is that true for Christians? Is the state the final authority in all matters? It certainly is not!

As the state continues to expose itself as the secular god which rules over all matters of which it chooses, it is becoming increasingly unlawful and certainly unconstitutional. Nothing in the state constitutions and certainly not in the US Constitution gives the state the legal right to shut down the church. Indeed, quite the opposite is true. The First Amendment gives no qualification that restricts its intent and clear meaning.

Resistance to the exercise of ungodly authority by the state is necessary and righteous. The doctrine of the lesser magistrate is something I urge all Christians to become familiar with. Interposition is a biblical reality. Here is what I wrote about the lesser magistrate and interposition elsewhere:

The word magistrate refers to anyone in civil government with authority. This includes both elected and appointed individuals. The local magistrates are your local judges, mayor, city council members, law enforcement, and State Government officials such as State Senators and House members who represent your district.

The responsibility of these local magistrates is to push back on any higher authority that issues an evil, tyrannical, or otherwise harmful ruling and attempts to enforce compliance upon everyone. The Founding Fathers were right to separate powers into branches and to hold State’s rights as sovereign over the Federal Government but today this idea is deemed revolutionary.

What is necessary today is for local governing authorities to push back on evil laws that are contrary to our Constitution and to God’s design for governing. This idea is biblical and is known as interposition. God is looking for people to interpose, to stand in the gap against evil today.[1]

Samuel Rutherford in his classic Lex, Rex, opposed the form of tyranny we see today. Then it was known as the divine right of kings. Today it is known as whatever the state decides it wants to do. Rutherford’s argument then that kings serve under the authority of God and are responsible to uphold God’s laws is just as applicable today. When the state refuses to do what God’s laws require they render themselves illegitimate.

Resistance to unjust edicts is illustrated many times in the Scriptures. The stories of the Hebrew midwives, Moses, Daniel, and Rahab are just a few. When the church does not resist the state and remains silent in the face of tyranny, the state views that as an endorsement of its actions.

The very definition of tyranny is ruling without the sanction of God. Civil authorities are not legitimate when they advocate for things God hates. Therefore, the Christian is under no obligation to obey a godless authority.

The church that obeys any government which says, “Do not meet” or “You can only meet under the conditions we specify” is no church at all. It is a social club whose membership worships the secular state. The old saying, “That which you fear to disobey is that which you worship” is true.

Pastors it is your responsibility to lead the sheep that God has entrusted to your care. It is a difficult task at times, and thankless at other times. Remember this; you are serving your King first and foremost. He will require an accounting of what you have done with the resources He has given you.

If you bury all the opportunities He provides for you to speak out about controversial issues for fear of offending someone, of refusing to loudly defend the preborn human beings slaughtered daily in the murder mills across this land, of standing against sexual dysphoria and confusion, of exposing the wickedness motivating the racist groups such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa, of denouncing the government overreach and encroachment upon our Constitutional rights including our freedom of assembly without government interference of any type, you are a hireling and your judgment is sure.

America is in the throes of darkness and evil that has been planned and exacerbated by a controlled media and compromised civic institutions. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the primary responsibility of the church to proclaim to the world, is the only solution now. Politics are beyond question useless, to stem this tide of radical hatred and satanically controlled propaganda.

If pastors will not lead in this our darkest hour then America is doomed. Get off your knees, stop apologizing for the wickedness of the past which you had no part in, nor did those to whom you are apologizing to, and lead God’s people in truth and courage. If you will not, then my prayer for you is that God will utterly remove you from your pastoral or leadership role and that He will place you where you can do no more harm to the body of Christ.

Semper Fidelis to Jesus Christ!

[1] Mike Spaulding, #MTPGA Make The Pulpit Great Again: 12 Things Christians Can Do Right Now, (Transforming Word Publishing, Lima, OH, 2018), p. 46. See Ezekiel 22:27-31 for an example of God seeking those who would stand in the gap against the government and societal evil.