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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 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, 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. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. - Romans 13:1-5 (ESV)
A second pastor from Alberta Canada has now been arrested. The news headlines sound horrible and the church is being fed the victimization narrative to make them feel that "persecution" has come to the body of Christ. No greater plan the devil can achieve then to convince the church that their own arrogance and disobedience to scripture can be whitewashed by faux persecution. This way when the real persecution, and that is coming, the church will be woefully unprepared for it. As with the previous arrest of Pastor Coates in Alberta, which has already been reported on, this latest is also regarding the refusal of an individual church to obey Canadian law regarding COVID.
Let's start there. The Canadian government has decided to still ban large indoor gatherings for the correct fear that since only 12% of the population are vaccinated, such gatherings are virtual petri dishes for the expansion of the virus. That is not an opinion beloved. It is scientific fact. There are several anecdotal stories of defiant pastors who have died because of their own arrogance. However, even if you doubt those facts, it is not your choice to decide governmental policy. Thankfully in our countries, there are mechanisms if you disagree with government or even government overreach. Outright disobedience to the law is not one such mechanism. It is in fact unbiblical by looking at the key verses today. This is not Nazi Germany by the way and such comparisons are infantile and insulting. This is also not just a matter of protecting the churchgoer but everyone else they must come in contact with after leaving the sanctuary. The disobedient church starts with a pastor who seemingly does not care about his own flock and a flock who then does not care about their neighbors. The pastors in question do not have the scientific education or understanding to make such life and death decisions. They should stay in their lane and realize more creative ways to still be the church, even during a pandemic.
Unfortunately, this lack of creativity stems from how they have been raised and taught to be pastors. The Purpose Driven Church (PDC) model defines church by the hour and a half service they have each Sunday. The PDC actually encourages that small groups and this hour and a half are all that is needed to be the church. The pastor's role is bastardized from a shepherd to a CEO vision caster and anyone who disagrees is "blessedly subtracted." The result is a cult-like church with a cult of personality pastor who can do no wrong. So, when faced with lockdown orders, these pastors lost their only source of power, which is the echo of their own voice. Tithing dropped to levels that their own bloated budgets could no longer be supported. The only resort they saw was to start gathering again but the only way to get there was to play the victim and cast the government as the antagonist, the persecutor. While I agree that there is no substitute for a corporate gathering, the early church was founded on house-to-house churches and not this mega-churchdom that throws their own sheep into the COVID wood-chipper. So let us review the latest hireling to thumb his nose at the law, Pastor Tim Stephens. I do not say hireling lightly. Stephens deserves this title because he clearly does not care one whit about the health, safety, or life of the sheep he has been entrusted with. This arrest was largely staged by the pastor, who knew full well what would happen if he continued to defy the law. I say continue because the law tried to make the pastor comply, as they had done with Pastor Coates. In both cases however the pastor wanted to be arrested. They wanted to use the ensuing publicity to further their narrative and cause celebre. This all started when Stephens refused to obey the law by holding his regular services at Fairview Baptist Church. After having his building shut down, did Pastor Stephens call for a fast? Did he reflect on how his actions caused his church to be at war with the governing authorities? No, he took his church underground. He started holding his services in an "undisclosed location." This location was discovered and Stephens was arrested. Here was his tweet prior to the arrest:
I just got a tip that the police may be on their way to arrest me. Why? I continue to lead our church to worship Jesus as Lord over every earthly power. More to come... Pray brothers and sisters. Stand firm, keep the faith. - Pastor Tim Stephens
No Pastor Tim, that is not what you were doing at all. You see you could have led your church to worship Jesus Christ without violating the law. You could have creatively figured out how to virtually serve your sheep and your community during the most lethal pandemic of our time. You could have been the church instead of confusing the church for your oration on Sunday mornings. Not only that but this tweet reveals that this is nothing more than a publicity stunt by Pastor Stephens to gin up sympathy. It is a self-martyrizing tweet designed to confer a savior-esque status to Stephens. After his arrest, his wife tweeted a far longer statement that continues to reveal the duplicitous nature of this stunt. Let us reason through this statement:
"I have been arrested because I am convinced by the word of God, reason and science, that we must gather as a church and live our lives with freedom in Christ. You know how we have sought to continue to follow scripture this past year; to practice hospitality, to meet together (and all the more in difficult times), to speak truth, and live according to truth. That was from a letter he wrote to our children when he was arrested last month. And I'm sharing it now because he was arrested again today for an outdoor service that was in violation of Alberta's health orders. The govt has now seized both Fairview's building and her pastor." - Raquel Stephens