Recently, a Canadian friend sent me a video via email.
My friend had the clip entitled “Only in Canada!” I retitled the clip “The Apostolic Bear!” As I watched the bear, she reminded of an apostolic core value reflected by Paul in these verses:
“Let all things be done decently and in order.”
(1 Corinthians 14:40)
“But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.”
(1 Corinthians 11:34)
“For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.” (Colossians 2:5)
“For this reason, I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—” (Titus 1:5)
In his contemporary culture, Paul could probably get away with exercising his grace in a more authoritarian manner. After all, the government of his day was authoritarian; Hail Ceasar!
In our more democratic climate today, the apostolic ministry’s responsibilities remain the same—the manner of ministry changes. The commitment to confront disorder in the church remains. Today churches voluntarily choose to receive recognized apostolic grace from selected individuals. Those who walk in apostolic grace should not force themselves on local bodies. The apostolic focus is on relationship development. Responding to suggested corrections to improve order by one graced with apostolic ministry is at the discretion of the local body’s authority structure.
Apostles lead by example. In their personal life, the ninth fruit of the Holy Spirit should be ripe. (Galatians 5:22-23) They are in dominion of their personal lives.
During this Covid-19 season, as best as I am able, I am following developing scientific understanding of this virus and the counsel of proven global health experts. I am honoring the restrictions set by my government. As recommended for my age group with underlying health challenges, I have self-quarantined as much as possible.
In this season, some Churches and Christian ministries disregard Paul’s admonition, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1–7)
These churches and ministries regard the imposition of Covid restrictions as a specific attack on religious institutions and religious freedom. I don’t see it that way. Government regulations concerning the current pandemic protect public health. One target of these rules is public gatherings, not specific institutions, religious or otherwise. Public meetings in all sectors of society feel the impact, not just religous institutions.
These churches and ministries also disregard the science behind the restrictions. There is a sad and somtime tragic irony in the hostory of the Chrsitian. The Psalmist wrote, “You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,” (Psalm 8:6) The wise exercise of this dominion requires an understanding of God’s creation. Science gives mankind that understaning. Science is possible becasue we inhabit an intelligent universe. That intelligence relfects the Creator. The sad irony is that the Christian Church too often rejects or is too slow to believe and act upon the science.
In this season, I receive encouragement from a person I deeply respect. He walks in proven apostolic grace. I refer to Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, California. Here is a statement regarding his ministry’s approach to the current pandemic.
“As the local and global community come together to address the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, Bethel Church is seeking to promote health across the community. In moments like these, we do not partner with fear, but choose to lean into faith and hope, as well as practicing wisdom and safety. We are actively encouraging health practices and precautions to our whole community. We believe that wisdom, modern medicine, and faith are meant to work together, and express the value for each in the pursuit of on-going health and healing. We continue to remain in close communication with Shasta County Public Health to be aware of their recommendations for Shasta County.”
Here is a recent announcement posted on BethelTV:
“In efforts to partner with our city and ensure health safety, we chose to cancel our normal Sunday service on October 4th, 2020. Instead, we are sharing with you a powerful message from Sean Smith at our most recent Open Heavens conference with you (Open Heavens 2020). We pray God blesses, and keeps, you and your family during this time. — Even though we are living in the midst of a strange time, where we feel caught off guard by the unfamiliar, God is not unprepared or threatened. He is working behind the scenes, and is using the storms of life in this season to shape you. Experience the revelation of rest that comes from the sovereignty of God. From there, the conviction we experience inside of us will be stronger than the crisis around us, and we will become catalysts for change in our communities, cities and nations, bringing an open heaven.”
Here is a link to a recent article articulating how Bethel is handing a recent Covid-19 outbreak in its Supernatural School of Ministry.
The keyword I take away from Bethel’s various communications with regard to Covid is the word partnering. We face extreme, life, and death challenges in light of the current pandemic as reflected in the growing death toll. I appreciate that the local ministries under Bill Johnson’s watch are striving to be in order by partnering with Shasta County Public Health and their city, Redding, California.
Partnering is wisdom. The church is not winning the culture wars, and legislation will not win the culture wars. A central theme in the Bible has to do with the limitations and ineffectiveness of law concerning regulating the human heart and spirit.
If we intend to influence the culture, we must establish partnerships within the culture to exert influence. Wars divide and create casualties on all sides. We have spent much time in Mexico during the past two decades. We have heard first-hand accounts about the drug cartels’ activities and, on occasion, have experienced first-hand their presence. Looking from Mexico back to the USA, I often think, “If no one in the USA used these illicit drugs, these drug financed cartels would cease to exist. Decades of legislation and drug enforcement have not been effective in curtailing the problem. Forming partnerships to make these drugs unnecessary, which many have done and are doing, is a more practical and productive approach to addressing the drug problem.
As I look back on my ministry career, the accomplishments I am most proud of are the result of partnerships. I partnered with other pastors and ministries and with community members and community groups outside the church. There is more potential to influence communities through partnerships than through warlike confrontations.
Taming and ultimately defeating Covid-19 involves the kind of partnership espoused by leaders like Bill Johnson. The war is with the virus, not be between institutions. The Christian Church waring against the legitimate exercise of governing authority and ignoring health experts’ counsel is harmful, not helpful. The Chrsitian Church partnering with the culture creates favor for it’s message and Jesus’s Kingdom.