An Edmonton-based church pastor has delivered a fiery, passionate, and at times tender sermon on why churches must gather during the pandemic, serving as a living emblem of biblical faithfulness even as he and the congregation bear the costs of their defiance.
James Coates, Senior Pastor of Grace Life Church delivered the hour-long message to his flock on December 20th, the sermon quickly outstripping his other messages to become his most downloaded ever.
It comes at a time when in some parts of Canada the lockdowns are so severe it makes Newsome’s California shutdown look like a libertarian utopia. Churches doing drive-in services in the dead of winter where no one would even leave their car if they could, given how cold it is, are being harassed, fined tens of thousands of dollars, and having their church parking lots blocked off by law enforcement officers.
In the case of Grace Life, the church has been meeting inside, at full capacity, mostly unmasked and mostly unsocially distanced, a violation of Alberta lockdown restrictions which prohibits all three and requires a maximum of 15% capacity.
Consequently, the pastor has been fined $1200, and can be fined up to half a million dollars under provincial regulation.
The congregation members have likewise been threatened to be fined and the church has been declared a public nuisance, with the possibility of being physically shut down by force being a looming specter over every service.
But not all are bowing the knee to Caesar anymore, even as they give him “the things that are Caesar’s.”
Pastor Coates, in the following sermon, describes how his church initially shut down back in March and did virtual sermons, but eventually reopened.
He breaks everything down into these questions and then responds to them, offering a faithful, exegetically sound and engaging sermon that leaves no stone unturned.
- What is the church?
- Who is the head of the church?
- What is the gathering?
- What elements are essential for the corporate gathering?
- Why do we gather?
- Are we permitted to gather at present?
- Does the government have the authority to prevent us from gathering?
- Do the present circumstances warrant such government overreach?
- Why is this happening?
Here are just two quotes from the sermon:
The question that has to be asked is whether or not we can take the essential elements of the corporate gathering and make them virtual without fundamentally altering what they are.
Just because technology facilitates certain things, doesn’t mean the Lord Jesus Christ is blessed in heaven that we are giving up the physical gathering and claiming the beauty and wonder of virtual reality.
Law enforcement officials were here today because we’re not permitted to gather. They do not permit us to gather. You say, ‘but James, we’re allowed to gather at 15%,’ and I say you’re right. We’re allowed to have A gathering, but we’re not allowed to have THE gathering.
Again, for 10 months now the government has forbidden us from corporate worship. To be compliant, we as elders must tell a significant portion of the body they can’t worship. Think about that. As undershepherds of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are being told by the government to tell the flock of Christ, ‘sorry, you can’t worship today. It’s not safe. The government says so.’
That is pastoral malpractice!
The full sermon can be seen below.
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