At Grace Redeemer Church in Garland, Texas the senior pastor Bob Jennerich wrote a blog post about how evangelicals can show love during the COVID-19 pandemic. Has that happened in evangelicalism? While there are some examples of love there is much more that shows the dark side of evangelicalism. This post also addresses the issue of COVID-19 bringing revival in the United States which some evangelicals are claiming. Finally many evangelicals often have a higher view of themselves than what is grounded in reality.
“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.”
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.
Proverbs 27:1 NIV
This blog is going going to hover and look at an EFCA Church in Garland, Texas called Grace Redeemer Church. This blog, which focuses primarily on the EFCA denomination has written about this church before. If you want to read a biography of Bob Jennerich you can do so in another post that was written in, “Bob Jennerich from Grace Redeemer Community Church in Garland, Texas on Scrambled Eggs and Faith.” As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States in the spring of 2020 Bob Jennerich wrote a blog post teaching evangelicals how to engage and love others. This blog is going to do some commentary and has a few things to say. But before I respond let’s look at what Bob Jennerich writes. You can read the original post in, “Loving Others while Sheltering in Place.”
Many of you have seen, “The Fiddler on the Roof”. In the opening scene, Tevia sings the famous song, “Tradition!” I know you can hear it in your heads now. “Tradition, Tradition!” When we moved to Texas over 8 years ago now, we were immediately impressed with how friendly Texans are. Everyone waves and says hello to each other. It’s a Texas tradition. Molly and I have been out walking a lot lately since there’s nothing else to do while we are “sheltered in place.” We’ve noticed that people have abandoned the tradition of friendliness. In its place I see suspicion. “Suspicion, Suspicion!” People seem to be suspicious that I may have the Corona Virus and that they can catch it by making eye contact!
I believe that the Corona Virus presents an opportunity, unprecedented in our lifetimes, to show the love of Christ to others. We’ve had isolated local tragedies like Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey, and the earthquake in Haiti. We’ve even had global pandemics before. The “Spanish flu” in 1918, the H2N2 virus pandemic in 1957-1958, the H3N2 virus in 1968 each killed millions. As recently as 2009, the H1N1 virus ravaged the world killing hundreds of thousands.
Why do I say then that this pandemic gives us an opportunity like no other to show the love of Christ? It’s because we now live in the information and technology age. As technology continues to advance, we can minister to others in so many ways. We can share the gospel, encouraging messages, devotional thoughts, even money when needed, while sitting in front of our computers, sheltering in place. I don’t think it’s an accident that this pandemic has come along at this time. You don’t need me to tell you that the world has abandoned God. But God has a plan. I pray that one of God’s purposes in the Corona Virus is to cause revival. If it is, He will do it through Christians who show the love of Christ to a fearful world.
1 John 4:9-11 says this: 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (NIV).
If you’re like me, you’re so accustomed to talking to Christians, that you forget that most people in the world don’t trust God’s sovereignty and goodness. I’ve been alarmed at the level of fear and panic I’ve heard from unbelievers. How can we use the resources we have to love one another as God loved us?
Remember that your phone makes phone calls! Call people that you suspect are afraid. Give them assurance and encouragement. Try your hand at writing short devotionals like this one, and send them to your whole email distribution list. I’ve recently discovered Zoom, a videoconferencing tool that allows interactive meetings. It’s so simple to use. I’ll be doing prayer meetings and Bible studies in the upcoming weeks using Zoom. You can lead prayer meetings with your friends and family through Zoom too.
We can invite people to attend church online. Some people are intimidated by walking into a church for the first time. Facebook live presents them with a no risk opportunity to attend church and hear the gospel. So invite them! We can bring meals, check on the elderly, run errands for people, and do countless other things to show them the love of Christ through service. Most of us are probably doing some of these things for our Christian brothers and sisters already. They are the low hanging fruit. If we really want revival, we will have to step out of our comfort zone, and start to serve the unbelievers among us too.
I don’t want others to look at me with suspicion. I want others to feel the love of Christ through me. I want to help others experience the peace and love of God who sent His Son to die on the cross so that we might live. I want others to know that they don’t need to fear the Corona Virus. If they have trusted in Jesus as their Savior, their place in heaven is secure. Who are the lost and fearful in your sphere of influence? How can you use the tools God has given us to show them God’s love today?
There are a number of things to digest and respond to so with that in mind lets get started.
When Evangelicals Show Love in the COVID-19 Pandemic
When evangelicals show love it can be beautiful. However it needs to be pointed out that this is not the norm instead its the exception. Over the past year there were a few situations that this blog wrote about that were encouraging. Some came from the EFCA, and others came from other parts of evangelicalism. Let’s re-visit some of them and reflect on the way some evangelicals responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- One of the EFCA churches this blog has written quite a bit about is Tom Nelson’s Christ Community Church in the EFCA’s Midwest District of Kansas and Nebraska. Christ Community Church took a number of actions that were encouraging. These are some of them. As the pandemic spread Christ Community canceled all their services and explicitly stated that it was for the safety of their communities. You can read about this in, “Loving Your Neighbor. How the EFCA’s Christ Community Church in the Kansas City and Kansas Area Canceled Services For the Health of Their Neighbors During the COVID-19 Threat.” Later on Christ Community Church took action to help a number of organizations that were suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This blog respected that behavior and wrote about it in, “How Tom Nelson’s Christ Community Church is Responding to COVID-19 in the Kansas City Area.” In Christ Community Church a pastor Tim Spanburg wrote a solid response at the church blog calling on people to wear masks for the sake of his own son and those who are vulnerable. This blog wrote a response to that post in, “Tim Spanburg of Christ Community Church in Shawnee Mission, Kansas Pleads With Evangelicals to Wear Face Masks so His Son Can Go to Church.”
- In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania another EFCA Pastor wrote a moving blog post in which he shared the pain of how his son struggled with the Swine Flu in St. Louis, Missouri and how he felt helpless. Benjamin Vrbicek’s post showed the human side of pain and relates in that rare way. It didn’t come across as preachy or arrogant just as someone who loved their son and watched the difficulty of the situation. You can read more at, “Benjamin Vrbicek of Community Evangelical Free in Harrisburg Reflects on COVID-19 and Observing His Young Son Dealing with Swine Flu in St. Louis, Missouri in 2009.”
- At an EFCA church in Minnesota a pastor does something that this blog finds remarkable. Many evangelicals are still stuck because of the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee. Evangelicals have largely rejected science though one could also say that the EFCA is more intellectual than a denomination such as the Assembly of God. Henry Williams of an EFCA church in Woodbury called on people to pray not only for a vaccine but also for the scientists working hard at finding a medical solution. I was taken back because of how often do you hear evangelicals attacking science? The answer is often. This is a rare exception. You can read more in, “While Evangelicals Tend to Clash with Science, Henry Williams of Five Oaks Church in Woodbury, Minnesota Prays for a Vaccine for COVID-19 and Scientists Working the Pandemic.”
- This blog stood back and researched and wrote about how a number of EFCA churches celebrated Easter amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. From California, Nevada, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Florida, to Pennsylvania it was impressive to see EFCA churches working to follow health guidelines and serve and respect their communities. You can read more and watch a couple of services in, “A Sampling of How a Number of Evangelical Free Churches in the United States Celebrated Easter Online in the Middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
- Another aspect that was encouraging was seeing how the EFCA’s ReachGlobal responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization worked at educating churches and preparing them for the pandemic that was hitting the United States. The slide presentations which emphasized science, psychology, and more showed a side of faith that is healthy when common sense is applied. To read more you can go to, “A Look at the EFCA’s ReachGlobal Crisis Response and and How the EFCA is Engaging in the COVID-19 Pandemic and Preparing Churches.”
- This blog also wrote about and was impressed by how EFCA President Kevin Kompelien called on people to pray for those hurting and afflicted by COVID-19. It was both encouraging and honestly rare. Often times in evangelicalism a person will come up and say, “I’m going to pray for you..” Its very flippant, terse, and irritating. When you translate the evangelical behavior what they are often saying is fuck you. Its like in the American South, people will do the same thing when they say, “Bless your heart.” If more evangelicals were sincere in a call for prayer like Kompelien then I think more people would be open to faith. To read more go to, “During the COVID-19 Outbreak President Kevin Kompelien is Calling on the EFCA to Pray for Those Afflicted by the Disease.”
- From time to time Russell Moore writes or argues something that is to be commended. As the pandemic was spreading last spring Moore took a stand and wrote a bold op-ed in the New York Times. In it he argued that the most vulnerable of society including the handicapped and elderly should be protected. He called on some evangelicals to speak up for those individuals. This happened when some evangelicals were arguing that the stock market was more important than grandma or grandpa. You can read more in, “Russell Moore on Protecting the Elderly in the COVID-19 Pandemic. Reflecting on an Older New York Times Op-Ed in Light of the Growing Coronavirus Situation in Texas.”
- One thing that is encouraging that this blog wrote about is how The Gospel Coalition and a number of Neo-Calvinists advocated for face masks and encouraged evangelicals to wear them. You can read more in, “Brett McCracken and The Gospel Coalition Push Face Masks in the COVID-19 Pandemic and The Wondering Eagle is Grateful For Neo-Calvinists Taking Such Action.”
- In the Dallas Morning News a Stanford professor who has a history with the Southern Baptists writes an op-ed calling on evangelicals to wear masks and makes his case why Jesus would wear a face mask. You can read more in, “Recommended Read in the Dallas Morning News: Why Jesus Would Wear a Face Mask During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The Norm is That More Evangelicals Live and Act Out of Fear
Despite what Bob Jennerich wrote this blog would state that the norm in evangelicalism is to live out of fear. To respond by having contempt for one’s community and show arrogance in the process. Over the past year there have been a number of stories about COVID-19 that this blog has written about that talk about this issue in different forms. Some of these stories I see in newspapers I subscribe to and research and dig deeper when writing about them. In other situations people will email me and share some information and ask me to pursue the topic. Let’s look at a few situations that show the dark side of evangelicalism.
- The Washington Post had a story earlier this year that looked at how Fox News was replacing pastors and marginalizing the Bible. And how evangelicals were buying into disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact of the matter is that many evangelicals live in fear and when that drives you common sense or appealing to the facts is often difficult and goes no where. You can read more in, “When Fox News Competes Against the Pastor in the COVID-19 Era. Also When the Coronavirus Epidemic is Over What Will the Death Toll Be for White Evangelicals Who Consume Fox?“
- In Monroe, Ohio there is a Pentecostal church that defied authorities to meet during the pandemic. Solid Rock Church provoked the Ohio Governor who was forced to address them. In the community where Solid Rock resided angry neighbors pleaded for the church to follow health guidelines. On social media people asked for the church to follow health guidelines and petitioned them to think of their neighbor. I received a couple of nasty responses myself when I wrote about this place. To read more go to , “When a Church Becomes a Threat to its Community. Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio Continues to Meet During a Pandemic While Public Anger Grows Toward the Church.”
- Outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin I found myself writing about my former Third Wave charismatic church. What led to this post? Seeing people I once knew sharing conspiracy theories and junk science online. The writer of this blog rejects conspiracy theories. Its one thing to talk about the Grassy Knoll in Dallas, its another when you are pushing evangelicals to reject vaccines, disregard physicians advice and more. And people wonder why so many evangelicals are lost? This post is about Wooded Hills Church which when I was a member was called Wooded Hills Bible Church. You can read more in, “Wooded Hills Church in the Milwaukee Area, Junk Science and the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
- One thing that is ugly about evangelicalism that this blog did a brief post about is the following. A large number of evangelicals were screaming religious freedom and wanting to be exempt from federal law while simultaneously accepting financial aid from the United States government in the CARES Act. The blatant hypocrisy was troubling and shows the double minded nature of many in evangelicalism. To read more go to, “The Hypocrisy of Evangelical Churches During a Pandemic: They Want to be Exempt From Federal Law While Asking for Federal Funding.”
- Another ugly and disturbing situation happened in my hometown of Fresno, California. An Assembly of God called Cornerstone vowed to meet in person and defy health guidelines putting many people at risk. Many parts of evangelicalism are nothing but making money they are businesses. And in this situation you see what happens when a pastor prioritizes financial giving over his congregations’ physical health. You can read more in, “Why You Should Sign a Do Not Resuscitate Order Before You Attend Jim Franklin’s Cornerstone Church in Fresno, California.”
- John Piper wrote something that was very dark during the coronavirus pandemic. It was a book called, “Coronavirus and Christ.” In it he spoke about God’s sovereignty and illustrated how Calvinistic theology makes the problem of evil or pain and suffering worse. John Piper is an expert at contributing to people’s suffering. This blog wrote a response as to how John Piper would be a miserable comforter to New York City during the pandemic in, “Why John Piper Would be a Miserable Comforter for New York City Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
- A sick situation happened at an Assembly of God church in Fort Myers, Florida. A church disregarded health rules and threw a party that led to a teenager cancer survivor to contract COVID-19. Carsyn Davis died two days after her 18th birthday hooked to a ventilator in an ICU. Her mother was into Christian nationalism and gave her daughter Hydroxychloroquine because Donald Trump advocated misleading information. To read this tragic story go to, “The Tragic Death of Carsyn Leigh Davis Who Attended a Party at First Assembly of God in Fort Myers, Florida and Contracted COVID-19.”
- In Alabama a Southern Baptist Church decided to hold a revival in the middle of a pandemic. A pastor sickened half his congregation and put a couple of people in the hospital and defended his behavior. This blog called for such pastors to be arrested and prosecuted for neglect. You can read more in, “Southern Baptist Church Has a Revival in Alabama and Has a Massive COVID-19 Outbreak. Pastor Daryl Ross Defends it and Why Such Pastors Should Be Prosecuted.”
- Then another in what seems to be an endless supply of stories came from an evangelical church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. At Candlelight Christian Fellowship a pastor discouraged face masks and downplayed the pandemic. Then he contracted COVID-19 and ended up in the ICU where he still encouraged his church to meet. It honestly amazes me as to how some evangelicals can prove that Charles Darwin is right about evolution. To read more go to, “Senior Pastor Paul Van Noy of Candlelight Christian Fellowship in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Did Not Believe in Face Masks. He Then Contracted COVID-19 and Ended Up in the ICU.”
- Last night I worked on another disturbing post about Sean Feucht of Bethel Church in Redding, California. He’s holding worship events in states struggling with COVID-19 and discouraging face masks and social distancing. Its quite disturbing and shows how many evangelicals don’t care about their neighbors and are narcissistic. To read more go to, “#LetUsWorship Sean Feucht of Bethel Leads Worship Protests as COVID-19 Pandemic in Wisconsin Gets Worse.”
The COVID-19 Pandemic Will Not Bring Revival Here’s Why
With both Bob Jennerich’s blog post and in other parts of evangelicalism I keep seeing claims about how the COVID-19 pandemic will bring revival to the United States. I find it peculiar in that it shows the alternative universe in which many evangelicals live. Those positive stories that I wrote above are really the exception to the norm. This COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the brokenness and flaws of evangelicalism by showing the narcissism of many pastors, financial motives of church planting, or what happens when many reject science. The reason why much of evangelicalism is flawed and sick is because love really does not exist. Evangelicals do not love their neighbor and as a result also show how many do not love God. And for evangelicals revival is not about re-launching their faith or having a fresh or born again relationship about God, its often about extolling yourself. All I would point you to is to look at how many evangelical churches ignore their neighborhoods and neglect those around them. In evangelicalism the concept of revival is a dog whistle and the equivalent of a dog chasing a truck or car. Its a table that is often pounded but has little meaning.
Closing Thoughts Evangelicals Often Have a Higher View of Themselves Than What Reality Shows
And its with that in mind that I will close this blog post with a problem I often see. Evangelical Christianity is a movement that lives and thrives in a bubble. All actions are within the concept of that bubble. And this is why it often fails because it can’t react or relate to those around them. Many evangelicals never will reach those around them outside their bubble. Many evangelicals think of themselves as higher or with a high view within the bubble. How do those outside the bubble who will never step into a church view evangelicals? They view them as hypocritical, political, arrogant and condescending. The writer of this blog has transitioned out of evangelicalism and is part of the dones. How do I view evangelicals? Well it depends. When it comes to the Calvinist movement which I had a brush against I view them as authoritarian, dictatorial and drunk on power. I look at the abuse and problems which came from organizations like Acts 29, Sovereign Grace, 9 Marks, and more and that makes my point. For the regular evangelicals I view them more as a political organization or political party. The constant culture wars and involvement in politics is ugly in many ways. My final church had problems and an uptick in Christian nationalism which is why I walked away from it. In this camp I would say many evangelicals do not worship Jesus. Instead they worship Donald Trump who is often their personal Lord and Savior.
But if evangelicals really want to know what people think about hem I would reach outside the bubble and speak to outsiders. Many evangelicals have a higher view of themselves and that is not grounded in reality. What this blog is going to do is since Bob Jennerich quoted from the musical Fiddler on the Roof I will leave with that song.