Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. - Romans 13:1-4 (ESV)
I had hoped this story would just go away quietly but Pastor Tim Stephens from Alberta Canada got himself arrested FOR the publicity, so my hopes were always on shaky ground. The abridged version of this tale is simply that the Canadian government has imposed several COVID restrictions they feel are common sense to protect the general public from the deadly pandemic. One such restriction, which is born out of science, is to not allow corporate gatherings where the virus is more likely to spread. The modern church experience is a literal petri dish for the spread of COVID. Then you mix in the fact that a majority of Evangelicals refuse to get the vaccine for, of all things, political reasons, and one can understand why a government may come to such decisions. The problem for the pastors raised on purpose driven theology is that their churches cannot subsist without the hour and a half service each Sunday. It is in fact all that the Purpose Driven Church teaches church is good for. In the old days before Warren, the church cared about the people. The pastors tended to the sheep. Not being able to meet on Sundays would not present such an obstacle to the church being the church. It did not slow the church during the Spanish Flu outbreak, as an example, when gatherings were also prohibited.
So Pastor Stephens disobeyed the key verses for today, stuck is thumb into the eye of governmental authority and held church services in violation of law, with a disregard for loving thy neighbor, and a general defiance of common sense. When the law begged him to stop, he refused. When the law shut down his facility, he moved it underground and bragged about doing so. With an outraged public, who Stephens is supposed to reach with the Gospel, authorities had no choice but to arrest him. Pastor Stephens used it as a photo opportunity to showcase his bravery in defiance of tyranny and with a tearful goodbye to his wife and children marched off to face a judge who wanted to release him and end this charade if he would promise to do one thing - please obey the law. Stephens demanded jail instead and after 17 grueling nights in a Canadian jail, he has been released and the purpose driven apostate churches everywhere shouted Hallelujah! Charisma News leads the way with the above linked article. Let us reason through this hopefully for the last time:
"After 17 nights and 18 days, Canadian Pastor Tim Stephens walked away from his Calgary, Alberta, Canada, jail cell and, with tears in his eyes, delivered a heartfelt sermon this past Sunday morning in which he urged congregants not to fear taking a stand for Christ.
Stephens was arrested June 14, 2021, after his underground church met for the second week in a row following the shutdown of its campus for violating province COVID-19 rules. He had previously been arrested May 16 and spent two nights in jail." - Charisma News
This is the first big lie that Pastor Stephens likes to hang his hat on. That his self-indulgent, narcissistic press event was "taking a stand for Christ." There are countless stories here in America of churches spreading this disease due to the ignorance and utter stupidity of men like Tim Stephens. The cruelty and lack of regard for life is simply staggering. A pastor is charged primarily with taking care of the sheep entrusted to him. Yes preaching the Gospel is vitally important but that is vehicle that gets us to the goal of growth in Christ. Was there nothing else Tim Stephens could do during a time of lockdown to still be the church? Was his training so limited that he saw the disallowance of an hour and half on Sundays as a direct threat to his church and Christ? The purpose driven church teaches pastors that they are the vital lynchpin of the church instead of Christ. You see, Jesus can work supernaturally during a pandemic while a mere human pastor seemingly cannot. What are the congregants missing anyway? A handful of human-centric "worship" songs followed by a sermonette on how great they are? Oh and the collection of tithes and do not think for a second that is not also at the heart of what is going on here.
'The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represented Stephens, announced his release July 1 along with the release of his church building, Fairview Baptist Church, from government seizure. Stephens' wife, Raquel, posted her elation on Instagram, quoting Hebrews 13:23, "You should know that our brother Timothy has been released" and adding that "Alberta lifted all health restrictions including the ones that required him to tell people what to wear, where to stand, not to come to church, and not to practice hospitality."' - Charisma News
While some scholars differ, the vast amount of commentary has Hebrews 13:23 as meaning Paul releasing Timothy, or sending him out, as the Greek defines. Why let a little thing like correct biblical interpretation get in the way of such a staged event though? If you are not going to obey Romans 13, what do you care what Hebrews 13 is actually saying? The second big lie here however is this litany of demands from the government. Did the government really try to say what congregants have to wear? Of course not unless you count masks! Did they try to limit where they could stand? Of course not unless you count social distancing! Did they try to say who could come to church? Of course not unless you count symptomatic or people with pre-existing vulnerabilities to the virus! Did they try to say to not practice hospitality? Of course not unless you count the over abundance of personal contact among church going Christians! Are you sensing a theme here? At every turn the government is trying to protect people and Tim Stephen's church is taking those protections and distorting them into faux persecutions.
'"The Kenney government's persecution of Christians for the "crime" of peacefully assembling for worship will not, and must not be forgotten," said Jay Cameron, litigation director with the JCCF, in its statement. "The Alberta Crown has failed entirely to produce evidence to justify its tyrannical lockdowns, a prerequisite under the charter to justify lockdowns measures that have inflicted much harm on Albertans in the past 15 months." Stephens told his congregation that he was "encouraged that many of you were strengthened and emboldened in your faith," as he preached from Matthew 10 on the topic of persecution. "The last 17 nights I've spent in jail have given me opportunities to declare the glory of Christ, within and without," he said. " [There] never has been a time in my life when I've been so hated by people. But never has there been a time in my life when I felt so loved by people [at] the same time. Don't fear men. Shout from the rooftops that Jesus Christ is King of all kings."' - Charisma News
The third big lie here is the faux persecution. The literal victimization of the church. The Canadian government did not single out Christians anymore than the American government did. The restrictions were for any large gatherings. The people were emboldened in their faith of whom? Pastor Stephens I presume because there was nothing in this about Jesus Christ. Jesus would not be for measures that endanger the lives of His sheep. In His days on earth, the Jewish people lived under real governmental persecution yet Jesus not only did nothing about it but then divinely inspired Paul to write the key verses regarding the obedience to local authorities and governments. In Matthew 10, Jesus teaches about the real end times persecution that is to come, not a public relations ploy by a slick pastor trying to force his government to let his church meet. Ironically Stephens admits here that this nonsense has caused many to hate him. Mind you this is not the biblical hate due to those who preach the Gospel. No this hate is from the very people who need the Gospel the most! So what cause did all of this serve? Only Tim Stephens' cause. You can shout from the rooftops that Jesus Christ is the King of Kings without orchestrating your own arrest through willful disobedience to scripture while victimizing the entire church and pushing away those that need a savior the most. Just sayin.