Disappointing and dangerous

I normally don’t publish two posts in a single day, but this one is important.

On Friday, July 24th, Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California (16 miles northwest of Los Angeles) announced that they were going to defy the state restrictions imposed after a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic and reopen worship services to the public. Health safety precautions and protocols such as social distancing and PPE masks would not be enforced at the church or even encouraged.

The photo above is from the Sunday morning worship service at GCC on July 26th. It’s clear that social distancing is not being observed by the congregants and not a single mask is in evidence among the tightly packed crowd. The congregants are standing and enthusiastically applauding JMac for his defiance of the state mandates, but will they be applauding a month from now?

From his comments, it’s clear Pastor MacCarthur views the state restrictions almost entirely as a freedom of religion issue. That very strangely belies the fact that California is in the middle of a coronavirus surge and 10,400 Californians and 162,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19.

There’s a paradigm that’s popular within conservative evangelicalism that, while grudgingly acknowledging the overburdened hospitals and funeral homes, holds to the belief that the pandemic is largely fake news, a hoax, and a conspiracy foisted upon “Christian America” by the elites of the New World Order. Some Christians have pointed to the BLM demonstrations and argued, “Many of the BLM protesters don’t social distance or wear masks and the government let’s them get away with it, so we’re not going to social distance or wear masks, ether!” The logic in that argument wouldn’t appeal to a junior high school debate team.

I quite frankly don’t get it. COVID-19 is spread in close quarters by those infected with the virus. The environment at Grace Community Church, with many people in close proximity, without masks, and singing their lungs out is prime breeding ground for the virus. Many Christians admire John MacArthur and many pastors across the nation emulate his leadership. Opening GCC and not mandating any health safety protocols is irresponsible and dangerous. Some members of GCC will attend services and forego health safety protocols, even though they know better, because of social/group pressure. What will MacArthur say to the families of members of GCC who contract the virus and are hospitalized and die? The chances of that happening are very high given the conditions I see in the above photo.

Nope, I just don’t get it. I’m very disappointed in JMac.

Postscript: In his July 26th sermon remarks, MacArthur categorized all those who disagree with his decision to reopen and ignore health safety protocols as unbelievers.

52 thoughts on “Disappointing and dangerous

    1. Thanks, David! My wife and I began to watch JMac’s July 26th sermon last night, but had to disappointedly shut it off after five minutes. I think I was writing the post in my sleep last night.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Well you’re not alone, I don’t get it either and that comment about those who don’t agree are probably non-believers sounds a tad on the non-empathy side. Matthew 4:7 comes to mind. About all you can do is hold them up in prayer. Blessings.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Well said Tom. Actually, I like John Mac because through his sermons I learned about election, effectual call, irresistible grace etc. In fact, I read his Study Bible and commentaries twice (NT plus few OT). For that reason I prefer ESV followed by NASB because of Charles Stanley. But there are things I disagree with him (John Mac) and those are the new earth, climate change, and with this one. I agree with you, Tom. I understand that people need to express their faith and running towards covid19 in exercise of ones faith is exemplary but unnecessary if there are other safer/caring ways to profess ones faith and worship GOD. GOD is everywhere. Hospitals and health professionals are strained on the other hand and we should care for them by being responsible and not adding to their problems.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Kent! I regularly enjoy and benefit from resources provided by JMac and Grace to You, but I am diametrically opposed to his rationale on this reopening issue. He’s putting his church members’ health at great risk, yet he sees it only as a “freedom of worship” issue. It’s incomprehensible to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 😢
    I agree with you! Totally disappointed!
    My daughter-in-law is seven months pregnant with our number six grand child. She’s a schoolteacher. She went into set up for class and found out that someone that was there has the Covid virus. She, my son and our grand daughter are all feeling sick right now. Kaylee went to get a test to make sure she doesn’t have the virus. Will you please say a prayer for them!
    🙏🏻❤️👑

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Thank you very much, brother! We had bad storms Monday in our area. It knocked our electricity out until yesterday morning for our area. My son and his wife live 10 minutes north of us and they are still out of power! But I’m very thankful to the good Lord for giving someone brains enough to come up with a generator LOL! Ours just ran minimal things but that’s OK it was beautiful outside! No humidity! So we had the windows open and a enjoyed the fresh air!! Praying today will be the day that the other areas get their electricity back!
        After ours came back on I reflected on how amazing electricity actually is!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We have so many blessings, but we usually only appreciate them when they’re not available for some reason. I was contemplating a generator because we had a power outage around 4-5 times every year. But the power company finally did a nice job of aggressively cutting back tree limbs, so we now experience an outage once a year or 18 months.

        Like

  4. Tom, I share your stance on this issue.

    Our salvation is definitely not a shield against catching COVID. I join you in praying that J Mac will reconsider his decision to reopen, for the safety of his congregation and the community at large.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Tom,
    You make a good point. I was at his church campus a few weeks before all this and was struck that I was the only one with a mask and trying to social distance. Of the 10,000 deaths in California I believe half is in LA area. So I think there’s legitimate concern about the health risk. I’m praying no one at the church gets sick or have the virus. I pray so that the Gospel
    I do think though with each passing week we are going to see more people who disagree with MacArthur going to side with him as the state doesn’t put a plan proactively of how we can get things running again while also trying to minimize the virus and as more people lose their jobs, lose their business, see the inevitable foreclosure and the hypocrisy of the government continue (the hypocrisy doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the virus seriously). I wish we can follow Taiwan’s example of not closing the economy and at the same time seriously practice precautions about the virus.
    Practically for our church in LA we are not physically meeting. We have church members who are in my leadership working in hospitals who have co-workers get sick with COVID so its a real risk. That risk is compounded for our church since we have seniors. Also some members have coworkers got sick with the virus (confirmed) and in one instance one member had a coworker who died. The actual location where our church meet has 3,000 cases and a hundred deaths. Its not just about seniors and the sick; in LA the majority of the case is now in the age bracket of 18-29 which is the age group of my English congregation. That age group are dangerous carriers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jimmy, thanks for all of your good insights into the situation in LA and also for your pastoral perspective. I know there’s a broad range of views on this and we need to frame our words with love and charity, but JMac’s position strikes me as dangerously irresponsible. After Sunday service, some members of GCC will head to the grocery or some other store where they will be required to wear face masks and to distance, all for good reasons. I don’t get the reasoning. There’s some kind of denial/disconnect going on.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think MacArthur’s stance for religious liberty is noble; but its also important to be naunced and even careful for the members to stress common sense health measures, that’s my opinion

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yup, I get the concern about religious liberty, but in GCC’s case it’s almost as if that concern has created a blind spot in regards to the hard realities of C-19. If I were to have a discussion with a GCCer about the health dangers involved with reopening with zero protocols, they would misinterpret my concerns as an attack upon their religious liberty.

        Liked by 3 people

  6. Hey, Papa Tom! I will be honest, at first I applauded J Mac’s open letter. I think people should be able to decide for themselves if they want to participate in a worship service. With that said, I think it is irresponsible on his and the elders part to not encourage social distancing, masks and even limited service attendants. I now think J Mac is coming across brazen and cavalier. I agree with you will be people be praising and applauding this decision a month from now? This could back fire badly. We are to approach God in humility not in arrogance and defiance. What I thought was a good and understandable stance is now as you say disappointing and dangerous. I pray that J Mac will repent for calling those who disagree unbelievers. That was a bullying and divisive statement. God help His Bride!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hey Mandy! Thanks! I appreciate your comments. I might possibly agree to opening churches in hot zones like LA if there are temperature checks, limiting attendance and seats to enable social distancing, and requiring masks. Many churches could hold services outdoors with protocols in place. Children’s classes are going to be more problematic.
      But GCC’s packing 3500 people into their auditorium with zero safety protocols in the middle of a local resurgence is incomprehensible. Corinne and I watched the first five minutes of the July 26th “sermon” but shut it off in…well, “disgust” is too strong a word.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Hi, Tom! I agree with all that you are saying. I just assumed GCC would take precautions with their opening. This is definitely something I am watching closely. Thank you for this post! Nathan says good evening, Tom and Corinne! Love and blessings to y’all!!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thanks for the encouragement, Mandy! Yup, people need to proceed cautiously, especially in a hot spot like LA. I wonder what unbelievers in LA are thinking about GCC’s decision. Thank you and good evening and love and blessings to you and Nathan!

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Hey, Tom, the other day Pastor Alistair Begg, Parkside Church, on a YouTube video respectfully disagreed with Pastor MacArthur’s decision on holding services. He did so while citing scripture. Parkside does have service, but outdoor and with appropriate physical distance and the option to stay in vehicles in the parking lot while listening via FM radio broadcast (low power).

    [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwFt01w705k]

    L-RD Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m with you brother, I’m disappointed. Asserting our rights defies Christlike humility, esp amid a public health calamity. Why wouldn’t we, by all means, error on the side of caution?
    I’m very conservative but also saw 24,000 bodies pile up in NYC, most landing in mass graves – it’s no hoax.
    A shepherd has a solemn call to protect his sheep.
    Yes, I too am disappointed.
    Press on brother.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Lisa Beth. You were in the epicenter and we were close enough in Rochester to know C-19 was/is no hoax. It boggled my mind to see the rest of the country react to the virus with such indifference and denial after what NYC went through. And it came back to bite them.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. >”California is in the middle of a coronavirus surge and 10,400 Californians and 162,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19.”
    Wrong. It’s all a hoax. Nobody has died from anything except very old frail people who normally die from the flu – since that’s all this is.

    Like

  10. Please, listen Cal Dude. The first folks I knew to get Covid, late March, are our closest friends. They are 10 years younger than us, the husband is an ex-Marine who drives an 18 wheeler 12 hours a day. He’s the toughest man I know. He was hospitalized for two weeks, on ventilator, lost 2 months of work and has possible permanent lung damage.
    Buddy, it’s no hoax.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. 1 Cor. 8:13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to stumble.

    Where two or three are gathered in Jesus Name, there He is with them.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. the churches in Washington DC in 1918 epidemic applied for permission from local authority to have services. When the authorities denied, they accepted that and instructed their church members to hold worship in their own houses on Sundays.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks, Patricia, for the example from history. It’s wise to take health safety precautions during this epidemic . It’s very foolish to ignore/deny the dangers.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Thanks, Patricia. My wife and I are “between churches” so we are in no great rush to return back to services in a brick and mortar building as some are. In fact, Grace Community’s streamed Sunday message became our virtual Sunday service, but we are now going to have to get our Sunday message from elsewhere.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. One thing about the wordpress community is one can find fellowship in the Word here. Though, the past week my brother passed away. Not from Covid, but heart attacks. He was only 58. But I needed more than wordpress interaction, i reached out and called three ministers in town. They put us all on prayer chains and it was one aspect that is missing on WordPress. Its a comfort to be able to call on three different ministers.
        My husband and I enjoy MacArthurs series on Revelation. My husband disagrees with his choices on this issue, but, we both agree he is still a great expository preacher.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Patricia, I’m very sorry your brother passed away and I pray the Lord’s comfort for you and your family.
        Yes, I very much enjoy the interaction with the WordPress Christian community and my wife and I are fed daily via audio sermons from old-time pastors, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and J. Vernon McGee, and from the video sermons from the two Arkansas pastors I post on Tuesdays.
        I do miss the personal interaction to a degree, however….our last church was a mega-church and they compensated for the impersonality with small groups. We belonged to a small group which met weekly for 1.5 years. To be very candid, it was a continual struggle because my wife “does not play well in the sandbox with others.” We’re both 64 and doing well with our current arrangements. The Lord may lead us to a new church someday, but I’m in no rush.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Thank you Tom. I appreciate your words of encouragement and support. Thank you for prayers. My family is in the wringer over this loss. I absolutely dive in deep and enjoy Martyn Lloyd Jones sermons. what an amazing voice he was and still is.

        As a survivor of religious cults, I have walked a path with Christian Pastoral counseling and now, I am not in any membership. I value the connections I share with three ministers locally whom offer prayer and support.

        Sometimes, its Gods Providence that alienates us for his shaping us. Gods Providence allows for his people to enter those solitary lanes for Gods purposes. It may be that his providence directing separations may be working in us his shaping us for the Kingdom yet to fully come.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Patricia, thanks for your comments. May the Lord continue to comfort you and your family during this difficult time.
        RE: God’s Providence and solitary lanes
        Yes, I agree. Our inability to “get along” within the church small group wasn’t an altogether bad thing because the church had some deficiencies which we eventually could not overlook. We’re open to the Lord’s leading in regards to a church home down the road, but we’re doing very well in our solitary lane at present.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. My son and daughter-in law are both respiratory therapists on Long Island, NY. They’ve seen refrigerated trucks and many deaths. I was also thinking why not tell the congregation to meet with a few of their brethren in their own homes. I fear for those who have put themselves in harms way unnecessarily.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Cathy. Yup, I think JMac needs to spend few days at one of the LA hospital emergency rooms. His view of this strictly as a freedom-of-religion issue clouds out the medical realities.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I somehow missed this post Tom.
    I am divided on this issue. And this is why, in Sydney now we are allowed to meet in places of worship provided we observe certain regulations. Masks are suggested, cleaning , temperature and personal details recorded and absolutely no singing, no Lord’s Supper and no fellowship afterwards not even in the car park.
    And yet two weeks ago a group of more than 400 people obtained a special permission to meet at their place of worship (close to where I live) as they celebrated one of their religious feasts. Too many contradictions as far as I am concerned.
    My prayer is that no one at JM’s Church comes down with the virus, he has taken a risk for the many people that trust in their teacher and pastor. On the other hand I applaud his courage and determination to do what he believes is right. We may be close to the day when we may have to stand up for what we believe, I do pray for the courage I need.
    Thank you Tom for sharing your heartfelt thoughts.
    Blessings brother.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Crissy, thank you for your good feedback! Pastor JMac and like-minded Christians view the C-19 restrictions as an assault upon freedom of religion. People like myself see the restrictions not as a freedom of religion issue but as very necessary health safety precautions. The paradigms are different so there’s not a lot of common ground. I definitely agree that government policy and enforcement has been inconsistent. In fact, our president has consistently undermined the warnings and guidelines of his top public health safety officials. His behaviors have encouraged others to disregard protocols. I really do understand JMac’s frustration and his desire to hold services. But he’s putting his congregation at great risk. There aren’t any protocols at GCC, no distancing and no masks. In a couple of recent interviews that I’ve seen stemming from this GCC controversy, JMac has actually ridiculed the use of any/all protocols. When presented with data that shows Los Angeles County is in the middle of a public health crisis (224,000 confirmed C-19 cases to date, Australia has 24,000 confirmed), he responds with disdain and disbelief and the statement that people can twist data to suit their own agenda. I do pray that people at GCC don’t get sick, but I believe JMac is unnecessarily putting their health at risk.
      My post took a strong stand and was undoubtedly offensive to some. One long-time blogging friend cut ties because of it. So I appreciate your views and a chance to clarify my opinion a bit more.
      Lord bless you, sister!

      Like

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