Christ Community Church, an EFCA Church in the Kansas City, and Kansas area canceled services to love their neighbor in the COVID-19 pandemic. Tom Nelson and Nathan Miller explain the reasons behind the move. Also Andrew Jones from Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kansas writes a troubling blog post about COVID-19 and God. For me its a reminder as to why I could not be Calvinist in my theology.
“Grace is the love that gives, that loves the unlovely and the unlovable.”
Oswald C. Hoffmann
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:1-3 NIV
Christ Community Church
Tom Nelson and Nathan Miller
This blog has written quite a bit about Christ Community Church in the Kansas City and Kansas area. Its a large church with several locations and is in the EFCA’s Midwest District. When the COVID-19 virus started to become an issue Christ Community Church decided to cancel services for the health of their community. They moved services online. You can watch Tom Nelson and Nathan Miller discuss the canceling of the services and the reasons behind it. I will let Christ Community Church know that on Sunday morning I sat on my couch here in the D.C. area and watched their streamline service. They also discuss why people should not fear. The email below was sent out to the congregation on March 13, 2020.
A Concerning Blog Post by Andrew Jones of Christ Community Church of the Leawood Campus Kansas
The message from Tom Nelson and Nathan Miller spoke volumes about loving ones neighbor. When I read Christ Community Church’s blog post by Andrew Jones I was reminded why I could not be a Calvinist in my theology and indeed the problems with Calvinist theology from an outsider’s perspective. Andrew wrote a blog post called, “The Liturgy of Coronavirus.” For context I would encourage you to read the blog post. Andrew said several things that bothered me. Let me show you what he wrote and let me write a response to what he composed. Andrew wrote about how the COVID-19 is disrupting the liturgy of life. But consider what he says in the following and then I will respond in red.
1. God often disrupts the liturgies of the world as a means of spiritual awakening. Now, I’m not predicting a revival, per se. But God has used the disruption of geo-politics, famine, and fear to call the world to repentance and faith. The Old Testament in particular is full of examples. Remember Abraham, when he leaves God’s promised land for fear of lack of food, the liturgy of the harvest having failed. Remember Israel, still going about their business, as God threatened to send Babylon to exile them, the liturgy of political appeasement no longer sufficient. Even Jesus, when He wants to warn Israel of the temple’s impending destruction due to a lack of faith and obedience to God, does more than just say so. He turns over tables, temporarily interrupting the liturgy of the temple itself. I’m no prophet, and I’m not saying God has sent the coronavirus, Exodus-style, to overturn Pharaoh. However, there may be an opportunity here for God’s people. Which leads to…
One of the flaws with evangelical theology is that many evangelicals believe that there is a covenant between God and the United States. That in itself is warped. In reading the Bible there is a covenant between God and Israel, but there is never one between God and the United States. But if God disrupts the world with pictures and stories of people dying on respirators I would like to ask Andrew, why is a God like that even worthy of worship, adoration or praise? It begs another question is God the source of evil? With how Calvinists interpret theology this is part of the reason why I could never be one. Even John Piper has taught that God is the source of evil at the Passion Conference in Atlanta. Why worship a God that petty, repulsive and cruel? In pointing to the Old Testament Andrew illustrates another problem with Calvinist theology. They are either stuck on the words or Paul or they are stuck in the Old Testament. Andrew seems like he is stuck in the Old Testament. The best way that Christians can respond to COVID-19 is to say I don’t know. That would be the healthiest thing. Anyone who claims to say otherwise is one to be cautious about. But that leads us to another point that is made by Andrew in his blog post as he closes it.
Our worship must direct a frightened world to a sovereign and good God. There’s a reason that, at our best, the church at worship is a people unlike any other in the world. This is why, when we gather together, we sing ancient songs, read thousand-year-old texts, and even (God forbid) turn off our cell phones. It is also why, when we scatter to our various callings and occupations, we do so with a spirit of worship, welcome, and love in all that we say and do, doing our work well even as others succumb to fear or despair. Wherever we are, our worship is a counter-liturgy, a powerful proclamation, not that coronavirus will win, but that Jesus already has.
Our worship reminds us, and equips us, to say no to fear and yes to faith. To say no to despair and yes to hope. To say no to market crashes and yes to life abundant. To reject a liturgy of nihilism and death, and to say yes to the cross and the resurrection.
I say this to encourage myself. If I’m honest, I’m afraid. The liturgies of this world do bring me comfort, and perhaps, at times, I’ve put my faith in them more than Jesus. Now is the time to notice. To repent. And to believe.
We have an opportunity here. I don’t want to miss it.
I honestly wish a lot of Christians would spend some time outside their bubble. I don’t mean to be cruel. But I think of what Andrew says about the church in the context of COVID-19 and I remain baffled. To those on the outside they find a theology system that can leave people wanting and disastrous in many ways. My experience with evangelicalism was painful, abusive and one filled with regret. There is a reason why I don’t go to church or read the Bible much anymore. What do you do when what you were taught does not work out in the course of life and then the church turns and makes you the issue? When I was in college I was involved briefly with Mormonism. The behavior by many evangelicals can be similar, to where they can turn on you and make you the issue. Its hard to say that but the realities of life can be difficult.
This blog does respect Andrew saying that he is afraid. But here is the problem Andrew is assuming the COVID-19 virus is part of disrupting the world’s liturgies. That is not a bridge I could go down if I am honest. But there is another point to make. Andrew says that it is time to repent and believe and this blog would like to ask the question. Would Andrew Jones repent of any spiritual abuse if it were to happen at Christ Community Church? This blog would remain doubtful. Why? 1,600 posts of abuse in Acts 29, EFCA, Sojourn Network in Louisville and the Southern Baptists. Do you know how many times in my travels on the East Coast or to the Midwest I have sat across from someone and they say, “Dave all I want is Pastor _____ to say they were sorry.” Andrew needs to understand that Christians don’t believe in repentance. What has taught me that? Writing about corrupt EFCA churches in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. , Kansas, Minnesota, California and elsewhere. When a person tells me that they are an Evangelical Christian or a pastor my first inclination is to be skeptical. That is what I have learned from evangelicalism. So while Andrew Jones says its time to repent the question remains will he? I would love to be proven wrong bit I will not hold my breath.
Now what shows love? To counteract what I have said above what stuns me?
- When a Christian missionary friend from Salina, Kansas invited me to work on his farm after my Mom died and to just talk and for him to grieve with me.
- When I was driving to New Jersey to write about a corrupt and abusive EFCA church in Blairstown and out of no where a former member sends me a text and offers to put me up for the night. That stuns me and revealed a hospitality that is rare.
- When I sat alone in the dark in my old room in Fresno, California crying about my Mom’s death the previous day and I get a text message from someone in the EFCA saying they are sorry for my loss and that they are grieving with me and praying for me.
- Arriving at the hospital at 3:30 in the morning and watching my Dad struggle with breathing shortly before his death. Frustrated I sat in a chapel alone, frightened and exhausted. Getting a phone call at 4:00 a.m. from an EFCA pastor in Pennsylvania to check in on how I was doing during that medical crisis was touching. I wrote about that in, “Benjamin Vrbicek of Community Evangelical Free of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is the First Amillennial Pastor Ordained in the National EFCA.”
The fact of the matter is that Evangelical Christians could conquer the world if they wanted to. They could conquer it with love and grace. But the reality is that love and grace are largely absent from their belief system. From my perspective many Calvinists are stuck on God’s sovereignty or authoritarianism. Many traditional evangelicals are stuck on the culture wars and politics. My definition of Christian nationalism is that Jesus suffered and died for a Supreme Court seat in Washington, D.C. That is how God loved the world. So that leaves really no place for those on the outside to go. That is chronicled here at this blog. This blog has a lot of respect for Christ Community Church but from an outside perspective I hope this will give Andrew Jones something to consider. This blog wishes Christ Community Church well.