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Now, more than ever, America needs a muscular church unafraid of earthly powers and principalities—not the one we’ve seen cowering during the decisive fights of our day.

We need more pastors like John MacArthur of Grace Community Church outside Los Angeles, who has very publicly refused to bow to the culture of fear.

At the insistence of government, many churches have forsaken gathered worship, while others have “merely” allowed outside “experts” to dictate modifications to their services. Yet Pastor MacArthur and his large congregation have defied orders to cease gathering, and have refused to follow “health” dictates that would prevent them from singing and partaking in communion.

“Obviously, this is not constitutional, but more importantly, it goes against the will of the Lord of the church, who calls us together,” Pastor MacArthur recently told his congregation.

My question, though, is: Why are he and his congregation so rare? Why aren’t more churches speaking out against government intrusions into the constitutionally protected “free exercise” of religion? Why do they tremble before earthly powers? Why fear death? Why fear societal rejection, mockery, and abuse?

Churches that have shuttered their doors – whether out of fear or in appeasement – have laid the groundwork for further capitulation. What else will they sacrifice to escape criticism from bureaucrats, or gain approval from the media? What the dictators in China do to Christians by force and violence, American pastors risk doing to their congregations through their cowardly silence.

When shepherds cower in fear from the howl of government wolves, they shouldn’t be surprised to find their flock in decline.

But let’s be honest: pulpits went silent on calling out the “fashionable” sins of the cultural elite long before government bureaucrats ordered churches to close this spring.

Sermons about confiscatory taxes, no-fault divorce, abortion, or same-sex marriage might scare away “seekers.” As a result, many pastors have resorted to the safety of sermons treating Scripture like a second-rate self-help book. The left has been pulling out the threads of the nation’s moral fabric with the tacit approval of our clergy.

The Constitution guarantees a wall of protection around churches, yet too many allow in government dictates and embrace secular culture rather than stand apart from them. Indeed, criticism of government is verboten unless it can be framed in a way that denigrates political conservativism, thereby allowing emasculated pastors to demonstrate their wokeness on YouTube.

With the excuse of the pandemic, the church has slunk deeper into the silent abyss. The few Christian churches that have not altogether stopped celebrating communion have severely modified their practices in an attempt to appease the sensibilities of “public health experts” and the cultural elite. When sung, our faith’s ancient hymns have been muted by masks. The necessary fellowship for study and accountability – the “iron sharpening iron” – has been jettisoned under fear of prosecution.

The two-week shutdown in the early days of the crisis can be excused as prudence in the face of a great unknown, but after six months it is laziness… or worse. This, after all, was a period that saw the same “experts” on the one hand demand the closure of churches, but on the other excuse the leftist mobs that gathered for protests and riots. The pandemic response became a social and economic weapon, which the church has seemingly aimed at its own head.

The history of the European church paints a sobering view of America’s future. Once pastors hand their vocal cords to government, they never get them back. The witness of Christians in Germany was ruined when pastors and congregations – many sickened by the rumors of Nazi treatment of Jews and others – looked the other way for their own ease or even participated under the pretense of protecting themselves. The pandemic is not the Holocaust, but the silence of the church is just as deafening.

Hiding behind a tax-exempt pulpit and wearing a government-issued mask while handing out bureaucratic-approved self-help pamphlets may make for a comfortable life, but this vapidity crushes the soul of a nation.

Too many pastors hide behind a contorted reading of Romans 13 to give their capitulation the veneer of scriptural respectability. Such a rejection of facts, history, and theology is gross. As a free people living in a republic, Americans do not kneel before a human king – we are the sovereigns. Laws are not imposed on us; we determine the laws – and we have the absolute right to protest laws with which we disagree. Our nation was founded not on the divine right of benevolent rulers, but on citizens’ right to rule themselves.

None of this bodes well for the experiment in self-government launched on the American shores. Self-governance, of course, is a distinctly biblical concept – a rejection of kings and dictators and rulers, and an embrace of the idea that as sovereign beings created in God’s image, each individual has the right to life, liberty, and property.

The life of liberty in America began with exhortations from the pulpit. From the American Revolution to Emancipation to the Civil Rights movement, the church has been loudly at the front and center. If liberty is to die here, that death will have been preceded by whimpers of ecclesiastical acquiescence.

If the rights and liberties of the people are to be protected, the church must speak out with a loud, prophetic voice challenging the demands of those who would rule us for our own good. I thank God for men like Pastor John MacArthur, and I pray more will find their voice.

Now, more than ever, America needs a muscular church unafraid of earthly powers and principalities. The church – the institution and the people – must rise up.