COVID and the Church — The Road Back

With 325,000 deaths and growing (~10x more than the flu), it’s obvious any pastor or person denying covid reality is so laughably absurd to be relegated to the order of flat earthers (and others in the tin-foil hat brigade). There’s really not much more to say and write than what’s been said — if someone wants to deny what literally lays in front of their face and blame black helicopters, there’s not really much you can do to show them otherwise. The delusion is strong with them.

Sadly, Oregon went out of order early in March, as some pastors sued to remove pandemic protections.

“Twenty-four of Oregon's 38 counties have had no coronavirus-related deaths and relatively few coronavirus cases,” the complaint says. “Only in the counties of Multnomah, Washington, and Marion, which boast the three highest totals of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, have death tolls climbed into double digits—and even then, the percentage of deaths relative to the total number of cases in each county has not exceeded 6.1 percent.”

Sadly the list sponsoring this nonsense included Calvary Chapels and leaders, and at least one baptist church. Of course, they were 100% wrong as any mathematician knew at the time — diseases like covid grow exponentially and a few cases quickly spiral out of control. Of course, those pastors and lawyers know that now, but their ignorance and failure to listen to people who did know could have been catastrophic had the courts actually listened to their ignorant arguments.

Now at the end of the year covid cases exploded, causing undeniable hospital shortages.

“If you have a heart attack, if you get into a car accident, if you fall off a ladder, or have a stroke, we may not have a bed for you,” said Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer of L.A. County-USC Medical Center.

He added: “I’m not going to sugarcoat this: We are getting crushed.”

And that’s not an isolated incident.

For something some “pastors” claimed was no big deal, only a few cases, no worse than flu, not real, and no reason to take precautions for, what caused this hospital crisis? They’re strangely quiet now (more on that shortly).

It is unquestionable many pastors have been wrong on everything, abandoned their mission, and destroyed their witness. Yet they can’t simply admit they were wrong, because they’re too prideful.

We’ll begin seeing pastors deploy a Clintonian tactic — “move on” — as in that’s old news, we don’t want to talk about it anymore, we’re focused on the future. Or in Christian terms, “we’re going to focus on the Lord from now on” (and ignore a year-long deliberate misinformation campaign).

Why?

Because reality shattered delusional ideas covid is neither real, or it’s no worse than flu. To continue to espouse such absurdity places the pastor squarely in the tin-foil hat category. Reality can only be denied for so long, after all.

But of course, they can’t admit they were wrong due to their pride, so what to do? Let political strategy infest the church and use Clinton-era political philosophy — just ignore it and “move on,” never admitting you were wrong the entire time. Sadly, nobody ever goes back to question if they still believe earlier claims, after being wrong on:

  • Math (“it’s just a few cases, so won’t be a big deal”)
  • Spread (“It’s only in city xyz, won’t affect us here”)
  • Lethality (“It’s just the flu”)
  • Misuse of the Bible (“God commands us to…”)
  • Morals/ethics (why won’t pastors protect the flock?)
  • Law (Promoting lawlessness and encouraging members to do so)

As it’s unlikely they won’t admit it or apologize, it’s time to ignore pastors causing division and infusing politics in to the church; those pastors who proved they don’t know what they’re talking about and won’t apologize for being wrong on everything this year.

That’s all history; it’s unlikely anyone wearing a tin-foil hat will be persuaded of reality so we won’t try anymore as considerable data exists for anyone wanting to discover the truth. But more important, what lessons must the church and pastors learn so this disastrous pattern won’t repeat?

How Did Pastors Go So Far Out of Order?

How did the United States church come to the place in 2020 where pastors are so out of order they encourage lawlessness and fail to protect their members? Isn’t a pastor’s job (among others) to protect the sheep? What do they have to say about willfully abandoning their job?

Listening to their claims, they don’t really present an argument. It’s mostly general ideas (some we’d all agree with) like “we must follow God” (true), but they utterly fail to explain how that general principle applies to ignoring protections during a pandemic, or how such an idea validates promoting lawlessness.

After reading everything I can find regarding the new doctrine we must meet Sunday in-person or you’re in sin, not much actual logic appears. Usually when asked for reason, the discussion goes like this:

“We MUST eat five Big-Macs per day”
“Why?”
“God commands it”
“Really? Where? I must have missed that verse”
“You know, the bread of life”
“Um, okay, but God didn’t specify a Big-Mac, or how many, or how often. I’m eating Whoppers.”
“You fool! Why are you listening to propaganda? Whoppers aren’t the same. They’re unacceptable substitutes for a Big Mac.”
“Let’s leave that alone, where does God command us to eat Big Macs every day?”
“(voice raised) You’re not a real Christian!”
“You didn’t answer the question or provide a reason — how do you get from eating bread and taking care of your body to a command we must eat five Big-Macs a day?”
“(voice really loud) God commands it! All real Christians stand with me!”
“Ok, all I’m asking is where this command exists? I’ve never read it”

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

That may be a tongue-in-cheek illustration, but consider an actual example (representing what will similarly be found from other churches and pastors) from a well-known California church (archive link) explaining the reasons they won’t (and shouldn’t be made to) follow pandemic protections, roughly summarizing each paragraph in the article:

  1. Christ is Lord. We are to follow Him.
  2. We are to follow government, unless it causes disobedience to God (whether we agree with the laws or not).
  3. Government is not head of church.
  4. Each institution should not exceed their authority.
  5. Limits on capacity during a pandemic exceeds that authority (!)
  6. Government should not control worship.
  7. Pastors and elders should not follow that authority exceeding its limits.
  8. Church does not need states’ permission for services.
  9. Christ’s authority is supreme.
  10. Romans 13:7 does not apply when government supplants Christ as head of church.
  11. Biblical order — Christ is Lord over Caesar. Christ is head of church, not government.
  12. Not presenting a constitutional argument, but Biblical.
  13. Christ is faithful, government not so much.
  14. Ekklesia requires assembly (Hebrews 10:25) and no government can restrict that.
  15. Covid attendance and capacity restrictions, and distancing, make gathering impossible (!)
  16. Americans aren’t used to government intrusion into church.
  17. Government policy isn’t aligned with Biblical principles.
  18. Church of England, Calvin, Puritan examples.
  19. Repeat Christ is head of church, therefore church will not bow to intrusive government restrictions.
  20. We will follow God, not man (Acts 5:29)
  21. Their prayer is “every faithful congregation will stand with us in obedience to our Lord.”

Much of this Christians would agree on (Christ is head of church, we are to follow Him, etc), but other parts of the article are doubtful at best, and completely wrong or incorrect.

Point 5 (limits on gatherings) is dubious at best. Groups ignoring pandemic protections probably follow some limits (fire codes, parking, etc), but not others (pandemic). This after point 2 states (and conflicts with) to follow law whether you agree with it or not.

Point 15 (assembly is impossible or impractical) is flat out incorrect. Gathering is quite possible; it’s just done differently during a contagious pandemic for the protection of members and visitors.

Notice the argument many promote in 2020 boils down to “we don’t agree with this law, therefore we’ll use the ‘God is supreme’ card to ignore it.” In essence, this new 2020 doctrine is “if you think the law is stupid, you can ignore it.”

Do churches try and put 1,000 people in 150 square foot room? Of course not. Yet why are they letting government tell them how to worship? Do they follow building codes to protect members from poor construction? Why are they allowing government to tell them how to worship?

It’s not explained:

  1. What command government violates (churches may continue to assemble in various ways, in compliance with the law if they so choose, however they choose to not follow the law).
  2. Why some restrictions (fire code capacity, parking, building codes, etc) they’ll follow, others (pandemic limits) they won’t.
  3. Who gave them authority to:
    a. Make rules for the entire church.
    b. Make those additional rules into a with-us-or-the-highway issue (“every faithful congregation will stand with US”).

This represents the new 2020 doctrine saying Christians must meet every Sunday IN PERSON or else. It’s a new doctrine spreading to many states and organizations. Similar to the Pharisees, it takes a generic statement from God, adds in additional rules everyone must adhere to to be in compliance to God’s (their) law, and attempts to force everyone to follow the new made up standard, shaming those not bowing down to their legalism.

A sad state for 2020 but of course it’s not the first time it’s happened — it would make the Pharisees proud — it’s a prime example of taking an idea from God and turning it into a divisive issue splitting the church and shaming those who understand it’s wrong and nothing more than one man’s idea.

Obvious questions this new doctrine doesn’t answer — if you break your leg, how many Sunday services can you miss before you’re in sin? What restrictions are acceptable to protect members (building codes, electrical requirements, etc) and what aren’t (pandemic)?

It’s legalism, and you’d better not question it because you’re either with them (and by implication, God) or against them.

Yet what could possibly explain the bizarre behavior seen this year from a new group of legalists? Let’s propose a simple explanation — confusing the church building with the people.

If the building becomes confused with the church, you proclaim people MUST “come to church” and you can’t use zoom, YouTube, or other technology to meet because it’s really the building, not the people, which holds priority.

Absurd? Well, watching since March and wondering why some sued, cheered others, shamed Christians who didn’t go along with their legalism, said you’re less of a Christian, fearful, part of a conspiracy, and more — all without having a reason for why during a deadly pandemic using technology to avoid meeting in a building (which presents an almost perfect environment for transmission) isn’t the correct action.

Why?

Those pastors confused the building (and the building fund) being the church, instead of the people.

If you understand the church is the people, temporarily shutting down in-person services isn’t a big deal.

Moving the building fund around to provide technology (tablets, etc) for members to stay in touch isn’t a big deal.

Protecting members by using social distancing and reduced capacity isn’t a big deal.

Those ideas display common sense for those understanding the church isn’t the building, and for anyone who seeks to protect members from a pandemic. But if someone confuses the physical building with the church?

  • You might see wild persecution.
  • You might see the end of what you erroneously believe is the church.
  • You might worry about money.
  • You might ignore safety of your members.
  • You might lash out at those asking to protect members.

Confused on what the church is might explain why so many pastors have become so out of order on covid. It might not be the only reason, but it explains why so many have gone so far out of order so quickly, without any legitimate explanation for wildly irresponsible actions.

Pastors confused the building with the church. You can’t “go to” church, you are the church. Virtually, on zoom, or any other means — it has nothing to do with the building.

Some take this mistake (we can’t suspend Sunday services) one step further — a church can’t have multiple services for capacity reasons. If they do, they’re no longer a single church!

Am I saying that a multiple-service church is not a church? Correct. I’m saying that if you are pastoring a church with two services, you are in fact pastoring two churches.

Piling error upon error. The first (“we won’t suspend Sunday services in a pandemic”) becomes more absurd claiming holding multiple services aren’t a single church!

Similar to baptism and communion, these 2020 legalists concern themselves more with their legalism than actual ministry, and like the Pharisees, take a general command without specifics to create dozens of rules you must follow … or else.

Rest assured, if the Lord wanted you to meet in a specific building in a specific way on a certain day and time, He would have instructed Paul to write about it.

If you’ve encountered some bizarre legalistic notions of baptism — do you dunk or sprinkle, blessed water or not, river or a pool — it divides the body of Christ over silly and stupid non-issue issues. Some pastors in 2020 have proven not only completely wrong on covid and how they reacted to it, they’ve now invented yet another way to divide Christians.

  • You can’t fellowship here if you take covid seriously and actually believe the church should move online temporarily. Be gone!
  • You can’t be in our membership if you think multiple services are ok.

And those illustrate just some methods pastors use to cause division over stupid non-doctrinal, non-important issues. Covid never should have caused such division — why some find it hard to believe the church should protect its members will be one of the great mysteries of 2020.

Yet they place more importance on a physical building meeting (and only one service) than actually doing ministry to a hurting world which desperately needs it during a pandemic.

Of course, this won’t be the last pandemic, and if pastors don’t adapt, history will look back on them as ice delivery drivers in the age of refrigerators. Learn, adapt, modify methods (without changing the mission), and focus on protecting members, instead of the building, how many services a church has, or when and how the church gathers.

The church isn’t a building, it’s the people. And those people can meet in a building, in a park, in a car drive-in, on Zoom, chat, video conferences or technology we can’t even forsee yet.

After watching irrational pastors for almost a year, this could explain their stunning out of order and lack of caring for their flock as they’re focused on a physical building and their strange legalistic views on how and what constitutes a legitimate “church service” in their dogma (Zoom don’t count), instead of worrying about how best to minister safely to people during a pandemic.

Strange, but it explains what we’ve seen recently.

It’s certainly possible those might return to reality, sanity, and their pastoral duty, but more importantly, what can the church learn from 2020’s pandemic, and the pathetic way some church leaders reacted to it?

The Road Back

It might be some have gone so far out of order they can’t find their way back. If so, don’t bother trying to reason with them. Instead, focus on learning the lessons to avoid the church repeating the disastrous 2020.

Admit Error

It’s understandable to fail to understand the severity of covid in the beginning, but now when a year of facts are in? You look silly denying 2+2=4, so admit you were wrong, repent, and change course based on facts.

Stand before the congregation and others, and admit you were wrong (we all are wrong from time to time after all). Not fun, but for those who said:

  • It’s only a few cases, no big deal. WRONG
  • It’s no worse than flu. WRONG
  • It’s persecution. WRONG
  • We must meet in a building or it’s not following God’s Word. WRONG

Those have proved wrong after a year of data, and only delusion, pride, and stubborness prevents someone from accepting reality existing right in front of them.

Naturally, we wouldn’t expect too many pastors to admit their error, but hopefully a few will acknowledge reality. If that occurs, please be gracious and forgiving. We all make mistakes, and while this was a big one, if a pastor (or anyone else) acknowledges their error, and commits to avoiding the mistake in the future, they should be welcomed back, not shunned.

It’s critical for the body of Christ moving forward to avoid the this-way-or-the-highway some embraced during the covid crisis. Almost everyone I know has shared a covid-shaming discussion from a pastor, Christian, or friend.

Just because it may have happened to you or someone you know, don’t return the same attitude if and when someone acknowledges their mistake in how they’ve handled the pandemic or how they’ve treated others. Show grace and mercy, if for no other reason than that’s the right thing to do.

Re-focus On What The Church Is

It’s not the building, it’s the people.

You can’t “go to” church as it’s not a place; gatherings can exist outside a building at drive-ins, parks, on Zoom, YouTube, or other virtual means… unless a pastor confuses the church and the people (and prioritizes a physical building over the safety of his flock).

Focusing on money or the building over the people will always be a serious error by any pastor.

It’s okay to shift resources during a pandemic.

It’s okay to not use the building every week.

It’s even okay to put aside plans for new buildings and change use of funds to virtual meetings, simply because this won’t be our last pandemic, and ministry must be flexible to the people.

After all, it’s about ministry to people, not allegiance to a building.

Follow the Law

It’s strange in 2020 we have to say this, but promoting lawlessness should never happen by someone claiming to be a pastor. Follow the law. If masks are required, do it. If sanitation is required, do it. If limits on attendance are needed, follow them.

That shouldn’t be a radical concept, but in 2020 so many pastors are actively promoting lawlessness it’s embarrassing.

And please, stop screeching persecution when you have so many other available means to serve, if leadership would simply be open and flexible to consider the stunning new opportunities before them.

Protect Members

First duty must be protecting members, and if that means suspending services during a pandemic, do it. Sometimes this means going above and beyond what the law requires. Take it seriously, not just what the law says, but maintain focus on serving and protecting, understanding the basis of ministry (service) continues regardless of the medium (virtual or not).

That can mean completely moving to on-line services, which of course opens up an entirely new group to minister to.

Don’t Major in Minors

Pastors’ bizarre behavior began with small-thinking and failure to be flexible and think outside their narrow box.

First, those who simply aren’t qualified in disease, mathematics or science and failed to head the wisdom of those that did know and tried to warn them about a serious condition. Infusing that with a stick-it-to-the man complex creates a toxic stew of non-ministry.

Don’t split Christians for non-doctrinal reasons. The entire covid political issue remains a rock better left unturned, and those that did are (and were) foolish, abandoning their primary mission for politics and legalism.

Sadly, 2020 and the way the church meets has joined baptism, communion, and Bible translations on the list of great Christian divisions. This of course didn’t need to be, if pastors learned to leave stupid issues alone and not make them a litmus test.

Instead of ministry, the 2020 edition of church focuses on technical details which some legalist made up (“We won’t suspend service as God commands us…”). Rest assured, if the apostle Paul wanted us to only meet a certain way in a certain building, he would have instructed on it; 2020 pastors must think they’re smarter than Paul by adding rules where they never existed.

Don’t Mix Politics and the Church

While basic principles should be discussed, taking a hard political stand on a non-doctrinal political issue and splitting the church is just about the worst thing a “pastor” could do.

Stop using the church as a political instrument for your personal views.

Don’t get involved in silly lawsuits, don’t say you’ll convert the church to a strip club, don’t cause riots, don’t split or shame church members — all those are political or non-doctrinal issues.

Avoid them.

Don’t be Inflexible.

Unprecedented opportunities await those who notice a new realm of opportunity has opened. Video meetings, etc are a huge opportunity; while the technology has existed before, right now people are open to using new methods. Only a fool would deny such an opportunity — unless you’ve confused the church with the building.

Stop majoring in minors focusing on Sunday meetings in a physical building. The church isn’t a building, it’s the people.

Instead, use the new opportunities now available.

If that means moving money around, putting resources into visual meetings instead of a building, do it.

Don’t be an ice delivery driver in the age of refrigeration. Adapt. Be flexible.

Don’t Repeat the Same Mistakes

Those failing to learn from history will repeat it. Pastors need to learn from the pandemic, as it won’t be the last pandemic or major issue. The US church in 2020 exists in a sad state; we’re watching churches and pastors disintegrate before us as some willfully walk away from common sense and their duty, descending into chaos and division caused by their strange invented legalism (It’s the Big Mac, stupid!).

Don’t be so proud you can’t listen to people, and certainly don’t cause division by refusal to learn and a blind adherence to made-up rules around what qualifies as a church service.

DO Learn Leadership

Leadership is hard. Some get it, many don’t.

Ultimately, the leader (pastor) is 100% responsible for everything occuring under their command. The pastor can’t say “it’s not my fault” (or responsibility) and attempt to transfer blame somewhere else. Anything transpiring remains their responsibility.

During covid crisis, many watch the church and its pastors’ bizarre actions and don’t want anything to do with the church anymore. That’s on those pastors whether they admit it or not. They’re responsible for destroying the witness of the church, and saying otherwise is not only wrong, but denying responsibility of leaders.

Three rules for leadership (it’s not that hard):

  1. Whenever anything goes right, it’s the people under you doing a great job.
  2. Whenever anything goes wrong, it’s the leader’s fault, not the members.
  3. Lead by example — follow the law, stay calm, don’t mistreat people, understand conflict resolution, etc.

Required reading for pastors (and highly recommended for everyone else): Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink (ISBN 978-1250183866).

  • Leaders don’t yell at people.
  • Leaders don’t transfer blame.
  • Leaders don’t deny reality, but adapt as conditions change to continue the mission.
  • Leaders accept responsibility for everything.
  • Leaders aren’t stubborn.
  • Leaders listen to those with understanding in areas they’re not experts in.

DO Get Back to Basics

After a repenting pastor completes the previous work, get back to what you should be doing — teaching the Word of God and leaving divisive non-doctrinal policies alone. Learn from this and understand some rocks should be left unturned. How/where/when the church meets remains a stupid divisive issue uninformed people promoted in 2020. Repent and get back to what you should be doing.

Will This Happen?

Probably not. Political tactics infected the church, as pastors focus on a building instead of people (the church). Pastors have learned to duck responsibility, refuse to acknowledge being wrong, and other bad lessons from politics.

The church should be different, but sadly as time goes on it more resembles the cesspool of modern politics and lawlessness. Pastors must reverse course and admit their mistakes on covid, never repeat them, and focus on the mission instead of politics.

… and I’d like to solve world hunger as well — looks like neither is likely to happen.

Epilogue

On the covid crisis and the sometimes bizarre reaction to it:

At this point unless something changes, I likely won’t write too much more about it. I’ve talked to many people who have encountered covid delusional people and pastors, and it’s clear there’s no sense trying to convince them of reality any more than a flat-earther. Both the flat-earther and reality denying covid people (and the pastors promoting such absurdly false ideas) won’t be persuaded by facts.

While we will continue to learn about covid in the many years to come, it’s undeniable at this point it’s a serious problem — for those pastors denying reality and promoting lawlessness there’s not much more to say.

Remember, if a pastor screeches Christians must meet in-person on Sunday instead of using alternate technology (and they won’t cease holding in-person services [but only one] in midst of a pandemic), it’s a huge red-flag they’re wildly out-of-order on their understanding on exactly what the church is… and maybe a lot more.

The church will always be the people, no building required.

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