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June 21, 2021

Second Alberta Pastor Plays the Victim for the Self-Absorbed Church

By Anthony Wade

Another Canadian Pastor stages his arrest for publicity...


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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

It is not the purview of a pastor to make decisions based upon their conclusions of matters they do not understand, such as viral scientific knowledge, epidemiology, or the spread of pathogens. It is sheer lunacy to expect that our pastors would have this knowledge base to override people in the government who have decades of such experience. That said, the purview of the pastor is most certainly the word of God but only if it is being correctly interpreted and applied. In the cases such as Pastor Stephens, the word of God is being used. It is being leveraged to support a position already held. Yes we are supposed to practice hospitality but that directive is not contained merely to the church service. In fact, most would argue that it far exceeds our little hour and a half on Sundays. Where is our hospitality in our workplaces? Where is it in our communities? How in the world is it hospitable to deny science and the law and potentially spread COVID amongst your community? Realize it was complaints from other Alberta citizens about the church continuing to meet that prompted the crackdown. As for meeting together, the bible is clear that we should not forsake the gathering of the brethren but that is hardly in the context of mega-churchdom today. It was a warning against people who thought they did not need to be part of the larger body of Christ. You are not speaking nor living by the truth if you deny the key verses just because you have reasoned yourself to a different point than the governing authorities. The government seized the building because Stephens refused to comply with the law and they then seized Stephens for breaking the same law in secret, after the building has been seized. Fairview could have still been the church. They could have creatively met until it was safe to gather again. They could have fought legislatively and at the polls to change laws they felt were unreasonable. They chose none of that and simply said, screw the law. That is not biblical in the slightest.

"AHS still wants Tim to tell people what to wear, where to stand, and forbid some people from being the church - the gathered people of God who unite in presence and voice to worship the risen Christ who redeemed us with His own blood. I asked the police officers if they've ever broken the health orders. They answered yes many times. So has everybody else. Even our Premier admitted it in his half-apology for his Sky-Palace "working dinner." But I guess if you are an officer or a politician, you get a pass when you break the health orders. Time went before a Justice of the Peace this evening. He was offered bail conditional upon his agreement to abide by all public health orders. He couldn't agree because doing so would prevent him from faithfully shepherding the flock that has been entrusted to his care. He will remain in custody until his next court date on June 28." - Raquel Stephens

This is just getting silly. The what to wear must refer to masks. The where to stand must refer to social distancing guidelines. I can only assume forbidding certain people must refer to those who are pre-disposed or already positive for COVID. This redefinition of the church does not stand. We are not the gathered people. Nowhere in the bible does it refer to the church as such. Christ's sacrifice remains regardless of whether we are corporately gathered. The next line of attack is known as" whataboutisms." So other people, who are not bound by scripture, also broke the law so you think this justifies your own breaking of the law? Seriously? Perhaps the most telling part of this statement however is in how Pastor Stephens dealt with bail. He could be free today. He chose to stay in jail. Of course, the government would expect that he obey the law as the condition of his release. This is standard practice. How sad is it that this pastor thinks the only way he can faithfully shepherd the flock is to meet for and hour and a half on Sundays? Could he not have had prayer calls for the sick? Zoom meetings for praise and worship? Organize community outreach to show the true hospitality of the church? Nope, must have that hour and a half of purpose driven slop in order to be the church. How truly sad. The Tweet concludes:

We are shaken, but our faith is not. We are sorrowful, but always rejoicing. As I prayed with the saints tonight, I couldn't help but sense their joy at this opportunity to proclaim the excellencies of our Lord Jesus. In God's providence, Tim's imprisonment will strengthen us in the faith and embolden us to love and obey Christ, no matter the cost. Pray for: Tim to stand firm; that he would meditate on the love of Christ and His sacrifice for sinners; that he would be comforted in his chains; pray for his release. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you are also in the body. (Hebrews 13:3) - Raquel Stephens

Fighting with the government as you disobey the law is not proclaiming the excellencies of our Lord Jesus. It is not showing hospitality to expose your sheep to a deadly virus and then set them free to roam their communities. Realize however that even if you think the scientific points are wrong. Even if you think the government is being too protective, or acting too much like a nanny state, it is not the role of the pastor or church to disobey the law to express our disagreement. Never lose sight of the progression here:

Government passes health code laws to protect the overall citizenry from COVID.

Church disobeys those laws and gathers anyway.

Government pleads with the church to stop disobeying the law.

Church disobeys those laws and gathers anyway.

Government forcibly shuts the property down so the law cannot be violated.

Church moves the public gathering to an undisclosed site and continues to break the law.

Government arrests the pastor and offers him release if he just promises to stop breaking the law.

Pastor refuses and stays in jail.

Pastor Tim Stephens is no martyr. He is not being persecuted and neither is the church. This is a staged fight picked by Pastor Stephens to draw attention to Pastor Stephens. The church is so much more than an hour and a half on Sundays. If that is all you have then you have nothing. The worst part perhaps is twofold. This convinces Christians that the entirety of church can be reduced to four worships songs and a sermonette. It also divides the church against the very people who actually need the gospel.

Reverend Anthony Wade - June 21, 2021

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.