The clouds overhead seemed to breed concern and angst. The rumors swirled through every vein of the state, the threats were real now. The man of God and the church leaders had been ushered into conversations in the last few months about what was at stake and the immensity of the risks that were now becoming apparent. Most never thought they would face decisions of this magnitude in their lifetimes. “Pastor” a church elder finally spoke clearing the strong silence of the meeting, “If you feel that this is God’s will for this church, then we stand with you!” “I do” came the reply. Through much prayer and consideration of the variables that surrounded what they came to see in this new season of elevated stress inflicted on ministries all around them, the church made the decision, we will have church in person this Sunday in our sanctuary regardless of the threats of fines, arrest and even imprisonment of their beloved Pastor. Sounds like the description of a church located somewhere in central Europe in the late 1930’s as Hitler’s war machine roared onto the world stage, but it’s not. It’s 2020 in the state of California!
From FRC Action we meet Chee Ahn, Senior Pastor of Harvest Rock Church who was contacted by an official in City Hall who said the pastor would be arrested within the week for refusing to abide by California’s restrictive measures that prevent churches from holding indoor worship services. After receiving the call, Ahn recalls, “So, I was just waiting, but nothing happened.” Undeterred by the threats, Ahn is continuing to hold services. “We believe we haven’t broken the law…[and] this great country has given us the freedom [to worship]. But Governor Newsom has violated the Constitution by locking down the church and declaring us not essential.”
Pastor Ahn, who has also led Harvest International Ministries for 25 years, compared the current situation in California to what he has seen overseas, particularly in communist China. While Christians in China are forced to gather illegally in underground meetings due to the “totalitarian communist one-party regime,” Ahn sees the same antichrist spirit “waging war against our freedom in the United States.” According to Ahn, there is a spiritual component to the current battle over religious liberty and pastors must be willing to speak truth to power and insist on their obligation to God and their congregation to open their church and continue the gospel work entrusted to them.
Dr. Lawrence White in his sermon “The Sin of Silence” shares, we live in a society where passions are rider less horses, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, in which there is a desolation of decency. In which love has become a jungle emotion, lust exalted to lordship, sin elevated to sovereignty, Satan adored as a saint, and man magnified above his maker. In the face of this relentless onslaught of evil, the church of Jesus Christ has grown timid and afraid. We have abandoned the truth of God’s Word, compromised the stern demands of His Law, tailored our message to meet the felt needs of sinful men and prostituted ourselves and the Gospel that we profess to proclaim, for worldly popularity and success. God did not call us to be popular or successful, God called us to be faithful. Faithful preaching never comes in the form of safely vague, pious platitudes. Faithful preaching must identify and denounce the false gods of this world that call upon our people to bow down before them every day.”
History records for us an event called “Kristal Nacht,” the Night of the Broken Glass. On this particular night in 1938, Nazi thugs moved through the cities of Germany smashing the windows of German homes and shops, burning the synagogues. Innocent people; men, women and children were beaten and killed simply because they were Jews. An eyewitness recalled, “I was there as a young man,” he sobbed, “and I can still hear the sound of the shattering glass. There were many of us who were Christians then but we did nothing. We looked the other way and we did nothing. That was the beginning of the Holocaust because the Jew haters knew then that no one would stop them, no one would stand in their way.” It seems as though each time I reach back to examples of what happened in the 30’s and 40’s in Europe I find myself accused of using scare tactics because “Pastor, it’s just not that bad here and now!” I know it’s not and you can never understand how very thankful I am for that! But for the sake of the children of this generation and the generations that follow. God has chosen you and I with this challenging moment in time.
In 1776 when Patrick Henry surveyed the political and cultural landscape, he listened to the voices of objection and compromise. Ultimately, he knew in his heart the truth that inaction was unacceptable and tantamount to sin. It mattered not what course others would take. Something must be done for the sake of liberty! For him, there was no price too high to pay! When it comes to losing the religious freedom of America’s churches… Forbid it Almighty God!
This writer’s opinion is their own and not the opinion of this newspaper
Tim Throckmorton is the Midwest Director of Ministry for the Family Research Council. He can be reached at 740-935-1406