How two California megachurches worshiped …… | Information reporting – Bible Type

How two California megachurches worshiped …… | Information reporting

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Two California churches were eager to meet last weekend, and when their services began, the faithful burst into applause.

In Sun Valley, parishioners who filled the 3,500-seat Grace Community Church sanctuary raised and cheered and documented the moment with their iPhones when Pastor John MacArthur opened a series of personal services for the second consecutive week.

MacArthur, who has spoken out openly against churches that comply with government regulations for church meetings, said Sunday was "a very special day for greater joy" as the church was personally together again.

The Reformed preacher received so much attention for his attitude – from the viral contribution of the elders to the church website to a section in Tucker Carlson's Fox News program – that the church added another 1,000 chairs outdoors yesterday. Before the pandemic, an average of around 8,000 people attended the church's three services. On Sunday, most of the participants wore no masks, no social distancing, or avoided contact, as MacArthur Carlson said, "they did not buy the story."

The congregation sang "We Gather Together", as MacArthur pointed out when Dutch Protestants met at the church, although their king banned them. MacArthur preached about the role of Jesus as a divider and judge and said in the past few months: "I have never heard so many people talk about death on such a superficial level. You speak of eternity, eternal hell or heaven."

An hour away in Riverside, California, worshipers of the Harvest Christian Fellowship were greeted with cheeky pink and purple signs that read, "Smile with your eyes (and wear a mask)" and "Just leave room for your Bible – and more 5½ feet. “It was the third Sunday that Harvest met in a white tent half the size of a soccer field to comply with government regulations restricting indoor worship. After the first week of the tent meeting, Pastor Greg Laurie said, "Our church loved it," so Harvest added a second morning service.

Yesterday, volunteers scanned participants' foreheads with infrared thermometers to measure their temperature before entering the tent, where rows of six chairs were about two meters apart. Masks were required – though in many places they weren't worn correctly – and signs instructed devotees to wave rather than touch.

Laurie, a longtime leader of the Calvary chapel, whose 15,000-strong community joined the Southern Baptist Convention a few years ago, discussed in his sermon how people tend to react with anger and frustration to the pandemic, the economy, and social unrest. He described the mask debate as a divisive example. He said to the vowel crowd: “During this pandemic, God wants to use you. People are angry and scared, so you have to look for ways to share the love of Jesus wherever you go. "

Picture: Nicole Shanks / CT

MacArthur and Laurie have been leading their respective churches for around 50 years as they have grown into two of California's largest mega-churches and their ministries have found national supporters. While Grace and Harvest services have always looked very different – suits and organ music compared to Hawaiian shirts and lobbands – the contrast is intensified as both find ways to worship personally during the coronavirus pandemic.

For many Christians, how churches meet during the pandemic is not just a matter of style or structure. These decisions reflect their theology, with the leaders expressly expressing their priorities as a church and what they believe God would have them do in response to current circumstances.

California reissued the shutdown guidelines last month when the virus recovered, instructing the venues to “stop singing and singing indoors and limiting indoor presence to 25 percent of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, as the case may be which value is lower ”. As in Nevada, some churches sued the ban as unconstitutional.

Grace officials rejected the California order to stay at home because it was springtime, but agreed to "submit to God's sovereign purposes" and stay online. A few weeks ago, however, the reaction changed after the new regulations and after 21 weeks of cancellation of typical services. The elders of MacArthur and Grace published a 2,200 word "Biblical Case for the Church's Duty to Stay Open".

In one week, 21,000 people signed the declaration and agreed that “the honor we owe to our earthly governors and magistrates (Rom 13.7) does not include compliance when such officials try to teach a healthy teaching, corrupt biblical one Morality and practice undermine ecclesiastical authority or otherwise oust Christ as head of the church. "

Jonathan Leeman, a southern Baptist who has written several books on faith and politics, raised concerns for 9Marks that Grace's testimony does not leave much room for faithful Christian leaders to make other conclusions for their own churches reach. "Say" we can do what you want, "said Leeman. "But be careful before you say," And you have to do that. "Don't sacrifice our intellectual freedom for your political freedom."

MacArthur, who is 81 years old and has celebrated 50 years of service last year, fears that Americans' concerns about their physical health during COVID-19 have become an impairment of their mental health – and the latter determines their eternal destiny. The Barna Group found that one in three practicing Christians no longer went to church in any form during the pandemic.

He has expressed his frustration at how few large churches continue to meet despite government regulations or coronavirus risks. "Large churches will be closed until they say January," he said in his Friday update. "I can't understand that when you don't know what a church is."

Andy Stanley's North Point Community Church, with 38,000 attendees in the Atlanta region, was the first major mega-church to delay Sunday services in their building until 2021, although the church will continue to gather in smaller, more personal groups that can practice social distancing. J.D. Greear's 12,000-member Summit Church in North Carolina transitioned to a house church model for the rest of the year. The proportion of pastors who do not expect to return to normal personal gatherings in 2020 has increased from 5 percent in early July to 12 percent in the past week, according to Barna.

During Sunday's sermon, MacArthur suggested that closed churches are not true churches. "There was never a time when the world didn't need the true church's message," he said. "I have to say" true church ". I hate to think of it, but there are so many wrong forms of the church. Let it switch off."

The community laughed and then cheered.

Some critics have questioned why Grace Church didn't meet outside or adjust their indoor gatherings to Department of Health guidelines rather than resorting to some form of civil disobedience. Others pointed to the risk of infection, as experts suspect that ecclesiastical contexts, especially large crowds that do not practice social distancing, are particularly vulnerable to and responsible for several recent outbreaks.

"Given the flare in some places, the reopened churches have followed strict standards in many cases, but is that enough at the same time?" LifeWay Research's Executive Director Scott McConnell told the Religion News Service (RNS) that the reopening in the California churches has recently declined. "In my opinion, these questions are increasingly being asked."

Mac Johnson's Executive Director Phil Johnson, Grace to You's MacArthur Department, said in a tweet that due to the size of the community and the heat in California, Grace was unable to host outdoor gatherings to comply with government regulations. He also said, "You don't have to close the whole church" just because people could be sick.

Laurie, whose church has borrowed a huge tent from Evangelist Nick Vujicic for his latest adoration configuration, sees the outside environment as "our latest response to the safety of people in California".

"We didn't have to be in the sun and we could easily sit in distant seating areas and still feel like a big, happy family," Laurie told CT. The signs of the service confirmed the change with an optimistic attitude: “The same church. New message. New experience."

Picture: Nicole Shanks / CT

Laurie, 67, has seen the positive side of the pandemic adjustments from the start. He celebrated the "spiritual awakening" that took place online when more viewers accessed his sermon live streams. One of them was President Donald Trump, and Harvest got an additional bump in the audience when Trump tweeted that he had seen the Palm Sunday service. (Laurie is on the President's Evangelical Advisory Board.) To date, Harvest has received 80,000 creeds online and sent Bibles to a quarter of the new believers who joined online.

Laurie shares concerns about closed churches with other evangelicals. He said he believed that the local church could not be replaced by online services and he feared that the government would go too far in regulating worship during the pandemic. However, he also spoke out against downplaying the effects of the virus.

"I'm being honest with you," Laurie told the Los Angeles Times in April. “One of the things that somehow irritate me is the way some people don't really respond appropriately to the very real threat of the corona virus. … Sometimes people just ignore it as if we weren't asked to, and I think we want to be considerate of others. "

Co-pastors from Southern California have suggested that the question of whether those responsible see the coronavirus as a continuing threat often determines the level of precaution they will take at meetings. The outlook has become increasingly politicized, with Trump supporters saying half as often as critics say they are concerned about the virus's infection and death rates.

In the spring, Laurie tried to convince the pastors to stop serving as the coronavirus spread. "I know that you may see this as an act of great faith, but I think that in many ways you test the Lord more than you trust the Lord," he said in an article in the Wall Street Journal.

The crop pastor and awakener also remains sensitive to how the corona virus turns into another problem that causes division and disunity in the body of Christ. “When Christians love each other, they are a powerful witness. But when they're angry with each other, they're a bad witness, ”he said in the Sunday message. "What we need now is less outrage and more reach."

In a LifeWay Research survey published last week, more than a quarter of pastors (27%) said that maintaining unity amid conflict over reopening was one of the greatest pressures they faced. They were concerned about the politicization of masking and social distancing and how different members of their community viewed each other.

MacArthur admitted on Friday that there are members of the Church who may not feel comfortable at indoor gatherings or who want to wear masks and social distance. "We still love you if you do whatever you feel safer about," said MacArthur, noting that masks and water would be provided in the new outdoor seating, where the livestream was projected outside a seminar building.

For the most part, Christians who fear that their right to free worship will be taken away believe that this is not the time for victory. MacArthur is committed to the Church's decision to reopen so far that he is ready to risk the legal consequences or to go to court, he said.

The Los Angeles County Health Department is investigating Grace Church for failing to comply with its indoor worship and singing restrictions. "We are investigating reports of indoor services being held," the department said in a statement to CT on Monday.

“We remind all churches, in line with other businesses that also had to shut down indoors, that services need to be performed outdoors or practically only at this time due to the current spread of COVID-19. If the spread were much better and control maintained, we could reopen limited indoor businesses for them and potentially reopen more businesses.

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