I am not the type of Christian who claims that when I speak it is a “word from the Lord.” Claiming that type of weightiness should terrify a person. Typically, when a person stands up in a church setting or proclaims on social media to be an omnipotent and omniscient being’s mouthpiece, it invokes a mental eyeroll from the core of my soul. However, when the COVID-19 s*** hit the fan, it became immediately apparent that idols were being exposed by God.
The beginning of the realization about the looming impact of the Coronavirus seemed like an odd moment to me. Christian leaders from all over the world proclaimed the evil of this looming virus. There were those who declared God’s protection over America, others who said COVID-19 was somehow a spiritual attack, and some who continued to meet defiantly in large groups even after quarantine restrictions were suggested or imposed. Then, there were the less mentally stable celebrity-pastors who claimed they could blow away the Coronavirus with their spiritually-charged exhale of breath (looking at you, Kenneth Copeland)… while others claimed it was a “leftist” conspiracy that true patriots need to resist… while still others doubled-down on the “Trump is God’s anointed leader” mentality. Many so-called “prophets” spoke up about “God’s word” for what was happening… and many of them contradicted each other. It’s almost as if some of them were probably doing more self-promotion than listening to God. That idol of celebrity and stage is a difficult one from which to let go.
It was like all of the proverbial hinges of the shallowness of the American Church industry were finally rusting and falling off. I was excited that, maybe… finally… my fellow Christians would realize that so much more hope and freedom lies beyond the door of these media-thirsty parody leaders. But, like so many other ridiculous theories, my social media feeds seemed to be filled with many folks still regurgitating such nonsense. In fact, it seemed like the more outrageous and irrational the claims became, the more solidified the support for them became. The idol of political affiliation is hard to deny.
Churches grew angry over the inability to, once again, center their faith around a building. No one knew what to do; the importance of busyness came to a grinding halt. Some pastors were so desperate to keep their machines going that they threw accusations of fear at their parishioners who refused to attend a Sunday meeting. They questioned the faith of anyone who took the common sense approach of precaution. When asked by media about the risk of meeting together, one pastor stated that he would simply heal his church members if any contracted the virus. The idol of control and influence is hard to release.
The reality is that those same leaders were operating out of a fear of losing their platform, their stage, their book sales, their church building, their… [fill in the blank]. So, as psychologically predictable… that fear was deflected onto others and shrouded in Christian lingo. The idol of self-justification is hard to surrender.
The priorities of many churches were exposed and laid bare for all to see. Was it concern for those who were in need? Was it agony over the inability to visit those in prison? Was it a desire for the well-being of the individuals who make up the church? Or… was it the fear of failure to facilitate the continuation of a facility? The idol of the self-security provided by a building is hard to leave.
While this all sounds negative, please don’t take it that way. It is an exciting time. I have never been more excited than now about the future of the Church in the United States and worldwide. Folks will reveal that their political and national allegiance far outweighs their loyalty to their fellow believers, but this revelation of idolatry will inspire many to return to the core of the Christian faith. A focus on consumerism and shallow expansion will be replaced with a desire to express love for God through the selfless love of all people.
There were so many churches and leaders who were leading well during this time. Many were taking the opportunity to reflect on how their ministries operated. Resources were being diverted to care for the poor and sick, even at the risk of exposure. One church with which I am affiliated took the opportunity to tear down their stage and rearrange their seating into a circle, so that everyone was seen as equal. I thought that was pretty cool.
Don’t let the media, who loves to present the loudest (and most ignorant) mouth as the representation of the Christian faith, discourage you. Don’t let absurd statements from celebrity-obsessed pastors and leaders drive you away.
Now is an exciting time.
I’ve spent a lot of time reading through Psalms lately. So, I’ll just end this really weird blog post with a quote from Psalm 41:
Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him.
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