Last weekend the world saw a fearless man of God, Pastor Artur Pawlowski, arrested for leading a church service. This faithful pastor, who escaped the iron fist of communist rule in Poland as a child, was handcuffed on the streets of Canada and thrown in jail for refusing to shutter his church.
Not too long ago, this shocking display of repression would be unheard of in the western world. But over the last year, government efforts to curtail our freedom to worship have become all too common, and it has uncovered an uncomfortable problem in our church.
We are facing an identity crisis. Do we fearlessly follow the God who redeemed us, or serve the woke whims of our current culture?
Israel faced a similar dilemma in the Old Testament. At a time years of drought and the pressure of culture had pressed them hard, Elijah stood on Mount Carmel and challenged the people: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).
Simple. Direct. That’s the message for the church today.
We’ve been a nation locked down, divided, intimidated, pummeled, and marginalized with unrelenting narratives of fear, paranoia, and hopelessness. We’re enduring a global pandemic, historic violence, racial strife, civil unrest, and economic instability. Everywhere you turn, there is more bad news.
But this is not new to the church. Christ promised us that if we follow Him we will face persecution. He promised us “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
In my state of California, the church has been deemed non-essential by politicians who have no fear of God. Godless politicians have commanded us to forsake the gathering of the saints. They have commanded us to not lift up our voices in worship. They have demanded that we give up our duties as believers to be the hands and feet of Christ, shrink back, forgo His Holy Communion, and hide in fear.
Too many did, and the world suffered. Suicide rates exploded across many cities in America. Alcoholism, drug use, and the abuse of prescription drugs are at levels we never thought possible in our society. Families have been separated, unable to see each other from quarantine regulations and the strain of the season has sent even strong marriages into a tailspin.
When Americans needed hope the most, and our only connection was in a distorted virtual world, Big Tech kicked into overdrive to label Bible verses “offensive content” on social media platforms. This happened to me on Twitter. In fact, many of our “Let Us Worship” live worship and prayer gatherings were censored and in some cases erased altogether from Facebook and Instagram.
The enemy has been wreaking havoc across the land to carry out his primary job description of “killing, stealing and destroying” (John 10:10), and he has succeeded in many ways. Yet I believe the enemy has overplayed his hand.
God promises a fresh start. He is in the business of redemption and new beginnings. Isaiah 60:1-3 promises us: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you.”
We know that our battle is not against “flesh and blood,” but against “powers and principalities in the spiritual realm” (Ephesians 6:12). Because this is a spiritual battle, we must fight with spiritual weapons. Our greatest weapon in this spiritual battle is the place of prayer and worship.
It is time for the church in America to re-discover who she is and what God is capable of doing through a church fearlessly in love with Him. If God be God, we must follow Him, though all the world come against us.
Just like Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.” We are not non-essential. We are not just a Christian club. We are the ecclesia, or “ruling body government.” Our prayers carry divine authority to bind and to loose and set the captives free!
We cannot stop praying! We must not stop worshipping! For 2,000 years the Christian church has gathered, prayed, and worshipped through pandemics and persecution. And I believe that is the call of today.
The church is ready for a revival. Since pandemic orders locked down our communities more than a year ago, I’ve worshipped with hundreds of thousands of believers in 87 cities, and have witnessed a rising revival across America. We will not be stopped.
The church will no longer be pressured by the world into hiding our light under a bushel. We won’t be cowered by politicians to forsake our mission to gather, pray, and worship the God who saved us.
The church has been silent too long. Today, let’s remember our identity as the church, the Bride of Christ, that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against.
Let’s shake off the influence of those who would have us shrink back and stay silent. Let’s follow Pastor Pawlowski’s lead and be a bold church unafraid to serve God in a hostile culture. Let’s step into our God-given authority in prayer, and no matter what comes, let us worship.
Sean Feucht is a missionary, artist, speaker, author, activist, and the founder of LetUsWorship.us, a movement organizing worship rallies in America’s most troubled cities.