I Prayed have prayed
Lord, heal our land. Help us to listen to Your Holy Spirit and give us each discernment.

Two of the best-known pastors in America have offered very different (and very public) responses to governmental prohibitions to church gatherings. Pastor John MacArthur has said no to government overreach and encouraged other pastors to do the same. Pastor Andy Stanley has said yes to government guidelines and feels this is the best example to set. For my part, I agree with both of them.

But first, lest anyone think I’m trying to play both sides against the middle, nothing could be further from the truth.

My public disagreements with Pastor MacArthur are well-known, to the point that I wrote a full-length book, Authentic Fire, in response to his full-length book, Strange Fire(And I did so with the utmost respect for my elder colleague.)

My public disagreements with Pastor Stanley, whom I also hold in esteem, are also well-known, to the point that I told him half-jokingly I would need to write a full-length response to his latest book, Irresistible. (My proposed title was, Why Andy Stanley’s Irresistible Must Be Resisted. For our helpful discussion on radio, see here.)

So, I have no problem differing with these prominent leaders.

In this case, I feel that they are responding to different circumstances and I believe that each of them have valid points.

Pastor MacArthur believes that the California government has exceeded its rightful reach by forbidding church gatherings, also contending that COVID-19 poses little to no danger.

In his words, “I would say to pastors, ‘have church, open up, have church.’ You don’t have to fear someone’s going to die. You don’t have to fear you’re going to get sick, because they’re not going to be able to trace this back. I haven’t seen anything like that anywhere.”

He continued, “Health mandates and governors orders are not law. I don’t think you have to fear that. You need to open the church because this, of all times, when people fear is where they need to come. I don’t think you have to give a clinical explanation, I think you have to welcome them and not make them follow protocol that you know is pointless.”

On the one hand, I do not fully share Pastor MacArthur’s dismissal of health concerns, since I have colleagues who restarted their church services only to shut down because of a serious outbreak of the virus. I have read of other pastors (whom I do not know personally) who flaunted health and safety guidelines and are now dead.

On the other hand, I too have urged pastors to defy government hypocrisy and overreach. This would certainly apply to states like California, where mass, public BLM protests were welcomed but Christian gatherings were placed under severe restrictions (including, “Thou shalt not sing”!), and even home Bible studies were banned.

As for Pastor Stanley, his position is that the government is doing its best to solve a difficult problem, that churches are no more being singled out than professional sports leagues, and that this is how we love our neighbors. Plus, we have plenty of other ways to gather together. (Pastor MacArthur has emphasized the importance of our public gatherings during such a stressful and difficult time.) That’s why Pastor Stanley’s church has cancelled full public services for the balance of the year.

In his words, “This was just our way of loving our neighbors and loving our neighborhoods, trying to keep our neighborhoods safe as we get closer to school reopening.

“The schools are having a difficult enough time opening and staying open. Even the university systems, as you know. So it just seemed like the wisest thing to do as it related to the community and as we wait this thing out and figure out what’s going to happen.”

He added, “I can’t imagine a scenario in the United States of America where the only group being picked on is the Church unless it’s a specific local church.”

On the one hand, churches are being singled out for unfair treatment, as in Nevada, where casinos can meet at half-capacity but a congregation with a building that seats 2,000 is limited to 50 people in attendance. That’s why even the Department of Justice has weighed in on discrimination against churches.

On the other hand, Pastor Stanley shares some of the same reasoning I put forth in my COVID-19 book, When the World Stops: Words of Hope, Faith, and Wisdom in the Midst of Crisis. As much as possible, we should submit to government authority, and as much as possible, we should demonstrate love for our neighbor.

That’s why I have urged pastors to pray, take counsel, and come to decisions on their own. On the one hand, we cannot respond to a spirit of fear, paralyzing us from taking action. On the other hand, we cannot cultivate a spirit of rebellion that thrives on defiance to the law.

In this case, living in different states and making decisions for different reasons, I commend both Pastor MacArthur and Pastor Stanley for acting on their convictions out of love for God and their communities. May the name of Jesus be exalted, may the cause of the gospel be advanced, and may a hurting world be touched.

(Used with Permission from AskDrBrown. Article by Michael L. Brown. Photo Credit: Getty Images.)

What do you think about Dr. Brown’s stance on this topic? Do you agree?

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Delois
September 15, 2020

Agreeing with both is trying to fence sit. I agree with John MacArthur! The reason we are where we are is the Church has not stood and spoken out for righteousness; therefore, Satan has claimed territory. Many pastors have not led their flock as they should have. I am grieved and pray so hard. I believe that the God of Angel Armies hears us and it is His will that the Church awakens. I have hope and will be in Washington D.C. for the Prayer Walk and the Return on Sept. 26, the Lord willing.

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Mara Sours
September 15, 2020

The churches are not meeting together, leaving a vacuum which is cultivating the spirit of lawlessness via riots, violence, increased profane behaviors, increases in pornography and human trafficking, to name a few. Legal restrictions have certainly weakened the churches in the United States, and “the love of many has waxed cold.”
Evil has grown astronomically while the church hibernates. As we begin to return from hibernation, we find that our young people have established their lives with non-church routines and they are not returning to church. (While I am generalizing, this is still true for many churches.).
However, God is bringing revival … as we pray and repent. God is calling for a children’s revival; filling young people and children with ‘FIRE!” to preach in the streets, stores, everywhere. We must pray for this, and God will bring it forth.

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Joseph Soler
September 15, 2020

I don’t agree with agreeing to both positions. I agree to the sense that each pastor should make up his own mind. My own perspective is based on objective examination of the data on deaths and illness as a result of COVID 19. The facts point to people with underlying medical conditions (immunocompromised people such as people with cancer or recovering from cancer or other immune disorders, diabetics, people with heart disease, and COPD (respiratory issue), and obese people) are the ones at risk and those people should take precautions. Those that fall into those categories need to take precautions during flu season as well as the flu will kill them also. Those that do not fall into those categories can go about their lives as usual. This unfortunately has become a politicized issue being used for nefarious purposes to control people, make them fearful and influence the upcoming election. We must remember in all things that “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind” 2 Tim 1:7

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Jacquelyn Y Miller
September 15, 2020

Sadly, the world is watching the Church. They are watching to see if everything we have professed to be BEFORE the pandemic is playing out now. The First Century Church went through many trials from the Roman Government. They met in their homes, under trees near the waters, and any other place. People heard about Jesus through their witness and would send for them to tell them about Jesus. Our Christian Families in other countries don’t have the freedoms we in America have. They are being persecuted for their faith. They can’t pray in their homes. But, they still have a love for Christ that they will not deny. Many have lost their lives rather than to deny Jesus. We cannot even pray for them because we are being ‘inconvenienced’. Satan has set a trap and we have fallen into it. DIVIDE and CONQUER. It still works.

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Samuel D. Gifford
September 15, 2020

I don’t totally disagree but I think the most important aspect of suspending anything in person and going online is the absence of community. There is no replacement for a spirit filled meeting of like minded people. As I have watched this year unfold Christians are becoming increasingly agitated and vocal about politics and their position on the battle that is raging. I think this can become very troubling as it is rarely a good sermon that provides peace of mind and the feeling that we are in this together, but the community of believers living life on purpose together. The Bible is very clear that we will need to take a stance on our position in Christ and that in the end we could be put to death for our beliefs. The church is not found in a building but often our relationships are formed in that church building. I have listened to many who think it is wise to stop meeting with friends and communicate online. That is not relationship that is merely making contact. One day our church in America may be required to go underground to survive. True believers will find a way to continue to gather together as the Bible says. We need to understand that being a believer requires courage and the desire to stand firm in our faith not to cower to government rule. Follow the law yes but don’t become weak because we are called to Love, become bold because we were created on purpose for a purpose and for just a time such as this.

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Sherry
September 15, 2020

I live in north Atlanta…as is Pastor Stanley. Our church (large) has been open since end of May…with no problems. Staff has done excellent job implementing state guidelines and attendees respect them. We believe assembling as the body is vital for spiritual health.

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Linda k Rice
September 15, 2020

the original design, house church, would have prevented all this discussion.

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    Sherry
    September 15, 2020

    I live in north Atlanta…as is Pastor Stanley. Our church (large) has been open since end of May…with no problems. Staff has done excellent job implementing state guidelines and attendees respect them. We believe assembling as the body is vital for spiritual health.

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Trin
September 15, 2020

I read almost every article on IFAPray daily. I don’t agree with this perspective. I side with John MacArthur. What he is going up against is pure evil. Gov. Gavin Newsom just signed a bill reducing Penalties for Sodomy with Minors. If we don’t speak up now, we are all going down on this train fast. I thank God everyday that an 83 year old strong Christian, John MacArthur, is taking such a strong stand. We need to be together as the body of believers. We are stronger together. If we believe God can move mountains, why can’t He protect us? Doesn’t God know the numbers of hair on our heads (mine changes daily)? Doesn’t God already know when and how we will die?

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Luanne
September 14, 2020

Lord, we pray for all Pastors to hear your voice during these trying times. Give them wisdom, understanding, counsel and might and the knowledge and fear of you. Breathe your breath into them, fill them with your Spirit, protect them and their families, and guide them. Reveal yourself to them in new ways. Help our Pastors to push into you and hear what you are saying to them in this hour and in the season. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

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Jackson long
September 14, 2020

Pastor’s, leaders have to pray to God for guidance in directing the church. When a church first opened you can see the light of happiness when the congregation met for the first time in several months. Persons of different age groups were so happy to see each other. Especially the children and seniors. The seniors were the most vulnerable to the lockdown . With constant isolation they were susceptible to becoming depressed. The concept of drive up church in your car was smart. It gave persons a way of attending church in a in person setting. Pastor’s were at least able to preach in person and see to there congregants well being. Safety is a factor in any group setting but in person meetings in church are important for the spiritual well being of citizens. Worldly gatherings for movies, concerts gambling etc. Sanctioned by the government should be of no concern to christians. Christians should not compare the church, fellowship, bible study gatherings to worldly gatherings.It may not seem fair in a Christians eyes to open up a movie theatre and close a church. The focus must be maintained on a Christlike setting. Prayer, bible study , fellowship can still be had one’s home, park, etc. There are Christians in countries such as China whom hold there services in secret .They relish learning the gospel of Jesus Christ and often have memorized sections of the Bible in case they were caught. Christians in America had very little restrictions on what church they can worship at although in the early days there was oppression in some areas of the USA. The founding fathers were wise in setting the freedom of religion, worship. They did this because of the past tyrannical oppression of the British government which happened before America became a nation. Now when churches were closed down several months ago Christians saw our government in the same light. Christians thought How dare they close our churches and take our freedoms away. We can sort the reasons on why the government would do this but the problem was not just not closing down the church, but limiting of gatherings such as in one’s own home for bible study etc. Citizens would be threatened with fines, jail. Churches would be threatened with fines . Pastor’s would be threatened with fines, jail. Six months later it is still happening such as the case with Pastor MccArthur. Churches served the community with food banks, homeless, prison, education ministries and all of a sudden when a church that was closed down opened up they were threatened with fines, jail if the church stayed open. Did the local government forget how the church served the community to help the poor and needy? Yes they did, The church reopened and threats of fines ,jail , cease and desist orders, even health , law enforcement personnel being sent to churches to maintain compliance. Does it sound oppressive, tyrannical? Like something that can only happen in China or other countries where Christians are oppressed? Christians must ask these questions and more of themselves. Jesus Lord and Savior simply walked spreading the gospel,teaching preaching,healing. He taught the gospel to different size crowds. Some believed, some did not. The apostles did the same thing. They were oppressed to. Stand strong fellow Christians. Continue to pray, have faith and Thank you Jesus.

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Terry Bonham
September 14, 2020

Dr. Brown is living in lala land. I pray that God will open his eyes and realize what the Bible says about the gathering of his saints. Government overreach is not something that should be tolerated and through prayer and dedication to God it can be put down. Pastor McArther and many, many other pastors have it right.

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    Dee
    September 15, 2020

    I disagree with Dr.Brown….and I’m going to use a phrase that we all know but is not from scripture: “All that is needed for evil to succeed is for Good Men to sit back and do nothing!” We are literally in a spiritual World War III here and governors/mayors/media are seeing just how far they can push us, how much obedience can the principality known as Tyranny get from us ?? Please (Andy Stanley take note!) there’s a difference between showing LOVE through strength and cowering to demonic entities by calling government submission “love.” It is NOT! Ecclesiastes tells us there’s a time to every purpose under heaven: it is the Time of War against a raging demonic whirlwind!!! Buckle up church, put the full armor of God on now, stop this sickening display of weakness and fight for our King: He is “in the field “ and waits for our response

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Debra
September 14, 2020

Jesus pronounced woes on the Pharisees.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

The far-left is very hypocritical – abortion clinics, casinos, liquor stores, etc have less stringent rules than church. I pray constantly for America not to be deceived but to know truth. Father God, each of us must follow our own conscience. We must “live behind the lamp.” Your word is a lamp unto my feet. It shines only a little way in front of me and it is my privilege to stay behind this lamp of goodness. You are always a giver. We are deceived if we ever think you are a “taker.” Help us be wise and discerning in all things. And, PLEASE, give us the land of America for your purposes. Amen.

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Marlene Santefort
September 14, 2020

Wisdom is needed for each situation. Guidelines are good and useful and wise, too. And we also have very great promises of protection. Ps. 91 needs standing on. And God’s healing needs to be embraced. We have gone back to meeting at church and God’s Presence is awesome there. It is soooo goooood to be back, even with restrictions.

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Dina LaVey
September 14, 2020

I appreciate the thoughtfulness- I agree we need to hear from the Holy Spirit who does not give us a spirit of fear. I do believe it’s important to stand for the freedom to peacefully assemble and excercise religious freedoms bought with many lives. Praying Pastor’s seek Him and refuse to just go along with BLM and other Antichrist and anti family (and anti American) agendas without really looking to see what they stand for and holding that up to the scrutiny of the gospel. Praying for our country! God You have the highest place and let Your will be done here!!

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COLVENA ZOLLER
September 14, 2020

(sorry this is long)
Honestly can we as a Christian based nation come to the realization that We are in a Spiritual Battle. As it is written throughout the Bible, it is a Battle between Good vs Evil. An unseen Battle that has trapped all God fearing followers to believe the lie. Yes this virus may be deadly but mainly to those who have other health issues, the elderly & the vulnerable.
Church is the one place we should be able to go to. Government should’nt restrict the people to congregate. God is our source and i am pretty damned sure He cant believe that his people are being controlled by the devil who thinks he gots one over on Him. Let the people congregate be it out door settings. Or in house meetings. I am grateful my Pastor has kept opened our church. He has taken the precautions, mask n social distancing. It all works out. Its not full but we still can worship God n see our church family.
Satan n the devil is working thru the people n is throwing everything hes got to go against Trump (Good)vs DEMOCRATS (EVIL). Yes it is political if you cant see that you are in fearmode just where they want you. You are being controlled. And your faith has been slowly fading.
YOU must fight back… Prayer is Power. God is calling Us to get dressed in His Full Armor this is our protective gear from all attacks (fake news, lies, EVIL intentions mail in VOTING, cheating, cover ups, one set of for us and one set of rules for them etc). So don’t underestimate the power of prayer, go boldly to the throne of God tell him what u r AFRAID of. Strengthen your Faith n belief that HE will comfort u, protect u, guide u.
They took Him outta schools, discontinued pledge of allegiance, stopped prayers 1960- now.
WE THE CHURCH CANNOT ALLOW ANYMORE DISREGARD, DISOBEDIENCE, OF OUR FATHER GOD. We dont wanna lose His Favor on America. And that’s what Satan wants. Remember it is written: in the End WE WIN.
Who is China’s mascot? The Dragon… Think about that

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    Dina LaVey
    September 14, 2020

    SO GOOD!!! Yes & Amen!!!

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    Suzy
    September 14, 2020

    May we each asked ourselves, “What would Jesus do.” Would He continue preaching the Word in person to those He was sent to or would He observe the mandates of the government and only provide preaching on a virtual platform.

    Thank God, my Pastor of a mega Church is conducting services both in person (with PPE) and digitally. More people are getting the Word than in “normal” times. He is especially addressing through God’s Word the deception that satan is perpetuating, and minds and hearts are being set free. Using PPE, he even laid hands on the sick and many were healed. God knew COVID-19 would be used in 2020 to attempt to stop the Church and gave us instructions, “Don’t forsake the assembling of ourselves, …..as you see the day approaching.”

    Question: If indeed we are at the end of days, and things according to Matthews 28 will get progressively worst, exactly when do the Churches that don’t meet in person, intend to open up? The devil is not going to give up especially if he sees one of his tactics working —fear!!

    We pray that God is speaking to His Pastors and they will harken to His Word and His Way of how to feed His people at this time. Let them clearly have an ear to hear from You. Amen!

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    Pastor Judy Brooks
    September 15, 2020

    I AGREE WE NEED TO OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MAN…PEOPLE NEED HELP FROM THE BODY OF BELIEVERS WEED SHOP LIQUOR STORES OPEN ABORTION ON DEMAND…AND WE GOING TO CLOSE THE PLACE THAT OFFERS REFUGE AND HELP TO THE LOST ESPECIALLY NOW WHEN THEY NEED THE LORD THROUGH HIS REMENANT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE POWER OF THE HOLY GHOST.I STAND WITH THOSE PASTORS WILLING TO LAY DOWN THEIR LIVES AND PUT THEM ON THE LINE IN SERVING JESUS CHRIST AS MYSELF AS A PASTOR IM WILLING TO GO TO JAIL TO OBEY GOD. WE OUGHT TO BE ASHAMED NOT STANDING WHEN PASTOR AND SAINTS DIE EVERYDAY DEFENDING THE GOSPEL AND THE RIGHT TO KEEP THEIR CHURCHS OPEN FOR THE SHEEP AND THE LOST…STAND CHURCH STAND CHURCH WITH GOD AGAINST THIS EVIL SPIRIT OF TYRANNY IN JESUS NAME…

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Darlene Estlow
September 14, 2020

Thank you Dr. Brown.

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Maureen
September 14, 2020

Father God, you are the Great Physician. You endowed us with an amazing immune system that works to protect us. We need to look at the proof of this in Sweden, a country that gave responsibility to each citizen to protect themselves from covid, mask wearing was never mandated, lockdowns were not mandated, the economy stayed open and people continued to live. Their covid death rate is down to very low rates suggesting herd immunity.
Father this is how you created us …And as usual your ways are better than our ways.
Father we pray for wisdom and discernment for president Trump and the state governors to recognize Your plan. Your plan has always included community, and the church. Let us not forget Jesus example of loving and ministering to the lepors.
Father we pray that our leaders realize how much your church is needed, especially in such a time as this.
We pray for your truth to be known.
Amen

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    COLVENA ZOLLER
    September 14, 2020

    Beautifully said…I am in agreement w you sister

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Mel Teoh
September 14, 2020

Heavenly Father,
Thank You for this article. But this article made me sad because we as Christian supposed to do “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35.
In fact these public display of disagreement between these 2 Pastors frustrated me. Sorry Father, but I disagree with both of them. We are supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus who love one another who will talk and come out with agreement to unite the church and to show the world that our allegiance is only to YOU not to the government or other entity.

Father-God, I’m so glad to know that You’re in control and when we look stupid will make You look good. Holy Spirit, please talk to this 2 Pastors so that they can come to an agreement to have the Church meet following the guidelines of the State with social distancing, mask etc … etc… even 25% capacity that we can have more services in a day.
Holy Spirit, please also talk to all the mega church pastors who have disagreement in the past to come to an agreement. Their agenda MUST be only YOUR AGENDA and YOUR AGENDA is TO LOVE each other and nothing else.

Father-God, help us to live our life so that the world can see that living with you in our life is so much different, so peaceful, full of hope, full of compassion, more joyful, the outlook of life is hopeful. Yes we still make a lot of mistakes but we are able to forgive each other knowing that You’ve forgiven us much.

Father-God, I’m praying for the salvation of Gavin Newsom and his administration. Please make their heart so uneasy and only with You, they can feel peace. We pray that people around them who are Christian are ready to minister to them.
Father-God, let CA be a red state because Christ Jesus blood cover it. Let all the CA Christians go to vote in person on Nov 2020 for Your value.

Father-God, Your will be done always. In Jesus’ Name we pray and thank You. Amen.

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    COLVENA ZOLLER
    September 14, 2020

    Amen! Father we praise you. We will worship you until Jesus returns.
    Hallelujah!

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    Debra
    September 14, 2020

    Every day I pray fervently for this nation and this election. A lot of times I pray for wherever the President is. Today, he was in California so I prayed for California. I prayed that it would become a red state. The Ballotpedia website says that CA is a Democratic stronghold. But our weapons have power to tear down strongholds. Father God, thank you for giving me the faith to PRAY BIG. You are a big God. You created the heavens and the earth. You made CA from the dust of the earth. It belongs to you. Please show your power in this “stronghold.” Show your power to exalt your Name and your ways. And, please, help Eric Early to defeat Adam Schiff in the 28th district. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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