An organization named The Church of God, in Aylmer, Ontario has become a feature in the local and national news media. Although, like them, we use the same Bible-based name “Church of God” we are not affiliated to them, nor they to us. But everyone is taking note of what is happening to them.
In brief, during the present “lock down” to combat the spread of Covid-19, mass gatherings are not permitted, and only certain work is considered “essential”, and only essential travel is to be undertaken. The result is any church with a large congregation has been told to suspend its meetings. In Aylmer, a novel response has led to complications. The minister of that large congregation invited them to gather in their cars in the church car park and listen to his service on their car radios. This caused a stir; the police arrived, and tickets were threatened.
Our objective is not to address any legal aspects, and in any case we may have missed some of the details (so apologies if needed), but it does raise the question about whether it is worth risking getting locked up in jail for one’s faith. The answer from the Bible for Christians is clear: “Yes, in the circumstances described in Acts 4:19 and Acts 5:29.” Those verses read: “Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge…” and later, “But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men…” If we had the slightest idea what being locked up meant in those days, we would be startled by the boldness of Peter and John. They had real faith! Jesus had transformed their lives.
So the first prerequisite is to “listen to God”, because faith in things that aren’t true isn’t so much faith as foolishness. But listening to God to learn what is true is absolutely possible still today, because God is speaking. The Bible is called “the word of God”; it is God’s message to us. It tells us how to be freed from the penalty of all the wrong things we ever did; how to avoid the eternal lock up we otherwise inevitably face (see more here). But the message continues. These days, we are rightly concerned about how to guide released offenders. The jail punishes but may not reform. God’s message for all of us, culprit sinners, is that when He releases us from the punishment we deserved, He will also lay out a plan for our transformed lives. A “church of God” is a big part of that message. But it is no use us just reading the message, we must apply it. That isn’t as hard as it may first seem, since God’s message appeals to our reason. But more than that, it can persuade our hearts too (see more here). A full commitment on our part, what we might call “locking in“, is what God is looking for: He seeks worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24).
The Church of God in Mount Forest operates as closely as possible to the instructions we find in the Bible; we are locked in to them. Small numbers are not always a disadvantage, when even just a few people are fully committed to serving God whole-heartedly. So we have not had to meet in cars in a car park. Instead, we continue to meet where we live, and happily this conforms to all local regulations about the lock down. This means that every required activity of a church of God we find in the New Testament continues to be maintained here. To supplement those essentials, it is good that available technology can be used to preach, teach and meet, by “video chats”. So we need not feel we are locked out, or even stuck in the traffic! The biggest need now is to have the right key! Contact us for more details on how this Bible-based model of church activity is implemented.
Here are some Bible passages as starting points for you to verify what is said in this post: 1 Cor.1:2; Job 33:14; Acts 6:7; 2 Tim.3:16,17; Prov.3:5,6; 1 Tim.4:7-16; Acts 2:42