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Christ and Common Sense: The local church is essential because God says so
Christ and Common Sense

Christ and Common Sense: The local church is essential because God says so

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Tim Dinkins
I remember when it hit me that just going to church was going to become controversial. I was standing in line at the Lemoore post office. We all had our face coverings on, standing six feet apart. I started talking to a woman in line about the governor’s orders. Before I knew it she was asking me if I was an essential worker. I told her I was even though I knew she would disagree with my answer. I thought she would ask me where I worked, but she never did so she never found out that I work at a small church, which is a job that was not included in the list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.” That short conversation took place sometime after April 28, the day when the CDPH released a twenty-three page document that intentionally left religious employees off the list.

You can look it up yourself. The premise of the document assumes that the health department has the authority to decide which workers are essential and which are not. I don’t have time to discuss the legality of shutting down secular jobs that are deemed “non-essential.” I do have time to discuss the fact that religious work does not fall under the jurisdiction of the local and federal government. They don’t have the authority to tell local churches whether they can meet or whether or not they can do the Lord’s work. You see He never gave them that authority.

The Bible clearly states in Romans 13 that God gave governments authority for the good of the people. If the people do wrong, they should live in fear of the government’s authority, but if the people do what is right, they have nothing to fear. God is the one who defines right and wrong, not the government. In the case of working in the local church I knew it was right for me to continue working. My conscience was clear. My job was to minister to the souls of people in our community. I knew our people would suffer harm if we obeyed the governor’s orders. That is why I never doubted whether my job was essential. I looked to God’s definition, not the governor’s.

God made his view of the necessity of the church clear when Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) In Hebrews 10:25 He explained how often Christians are supposed to meet, “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” He was specifically referring to local churches gathering together. The leadership of each local church has the authority to decide when they will meet, not the health department or the governor.
 
 
The question of whether the local church is essential should not be answered by the state. That is outside their jurisdiction. The first amendment of our country’s great constitution makes this clear, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” American citizens have the right to peaceably assemble, especially if it is for religious reasons.

Why have Christians in California forgotten this? I think it is because the government told us that this strain of the virus was going to be so bad we would have no choice but to add a temporary amendment to the first amendment. The governor did this by executive order during a state of emergency. He told us “the right thing to do” was to shelter in place, indefinitely. The only reason the governor’s orders continue to keep Christians from freely gathering is because people are willingly enforcing it even though it will never become law. This should not be a surprise. The governor was very careful about the way he worded Executive Order N-33-20. He asked the CDPH to define what was essential and when interviewed about lifting the order he said, “We are going to do the right thing, not judged by politics, not judged by protests, but by science.”

How interesting. How shrewd. He is going to let science be the judge for when people can return to work in local churches. Actually, N-33-20 does not only apply to those working in churches. It also applies to those who are attending churches. The governor would like people to think that “science” has the authority to tell Christians to stop going to church. How curious. Who is on the board of “science”? Where can I talk to the all-knowing leader of this great institution? Can you pull back the curtain and let us see who is behind this great artifice?

The governor doesn’t want us to recognize that science is fallible. He doesn’t want us to realize that science does not have a consensus on COVID-19. Science has a limited scope. Science has a limited jurisdiction. It does not get to tell churches whether to meet. That is what God gets to do. The church is under His jurisdiction.

And what a glorious jurisdiction it is! Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:18-19) When Christians in California decide it is time to freely worship, then the governor’s overreach of churches will come to an end. His tactic of using social pressure to keep churches closed will begin to crumble and it will become clear that the courts can not enforce executive orders that undermine this country’s constitution. Jesus Christ is Lord of the local church. He brings each one into existence and only He gets to decide when they stop being essential.

Tim Dinkins is the teaching pastor at Grace Baptist Church Lemoore. You can read more of his articles at www.christandcommonsense.com. Feel free to write him at timothydinkins@gmail.com.

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