Pastor John MacArthur and the pastoral staff of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, have released a statement on Facing COVID-19 without fear. In it, they explain that on account of receiving so many messages from church leaders on how to deal with COVID-19 lockdown orders and other government-mandated restrictions on worship, they have created this “record of how our church responded to the government’s efforts to keep our congregation from gathering, an index of some things we have learned, and a few important biblical principles to bear in mind as you consider how you and your church must respond biblically.”
Explaining that “governmental encroachment on basic human freedoms constitutes a more intimidating threat to individuals, a greater impediment to the work of the church, and a larger calamity for all of society than any pestilence or other natural disaster,” this document is intended to be a guide for church leaders and congregants in navigating this new threat.
The 5500-word document gives a short account of Grace Church’s own history, some facts on COVID that lists the negative impact mitigation efforts like lockdowns have had (According to the CDC, suicide attempts by girls aged 12–17 rose 50.6 percent between February 21 and March 20, 2021) and decries the misinformation the public has been force-fed, giving a detailed list of the continually changing insistence.
Turning to what should the practical response from the church and church leadership should be, MacArthur lists four imperatives while explaining and elaborating more on each one.
- 1. The church must stand firm on the truth.
- 2. Joy, not fear, should dominate the fellowship of believers.
- 3. We must be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The COVID crisis has been (and continues to be) a malignant source of division and conflict in otherwise sound churches. It is frankly preposterous and deeply troubling that any church leader would regard COVID as a greater threat to the church than disunity. Researchers say the recovery rate among those infected with the virus is as high as 99.75 percent. Many who test positive for COVID have no symptoms at all. The vast majority who do show symptoms are only mildly ill.
Yet some church leaders have said they will henceforth forbid worshipers to attend if they cannot show proof of vaccination. Others sequester unmasked or unvaccinated worshipers apart from the main congregation. Thus they literally rebuild a middle wall of partition between diverse groups of believers, defying the principle of Ephesians 2:11–22.
Ample data demonstrate conclusively that cloth masks cannot stop the spread of the virus. There is good reason to think the hazards of constant masking outweigh whatever benefit the masks might afford. Masking has nevertheless become the most visible and universal symbol of the COVID era. It is also the primary instrument for virtue signaling among those most fearful of the COVID virus. In some circles, masks serve as a kind of secular substitute for religious vestments. They have become the chief symbol of popular culture’s sanctimonious devotion to a secularist credo…
- 4. A company of believers is not a “church” if they don’t gather.
The document is an excellent read for pastors seeking advice over how to navigate these waters in a biblical way, as well as any clergy dissatisfied with the cloud of fear their church may be operating under. You can read it here.