Virus of a Different Kind

A Virus of a Different Kind:
When Popular Stereotypes Become Poster Children

Misconceptions are easy to define who we are as people. Reality shows represent our understanding of beauty, love, hate, and family ties. Profanity amongst siblings or siblings to parents is palatable when the portrait of our lives are in the hands of actors who are profiting from our insatiable hunger for conflict.
Mischaracterizations are also easy to formulate, and for someone who loves the church, recent reports portraying our response to local officials is a stereotype that is becoming our new poster child. Although we cannot entirely blame social media or even our news reports, it is evident that what feeds our world’s appetite is not generosity, kindness, faithfulness, and goodness. In essence, they often delay those virtues until the final two to three minutes of our local and national news. They may say, “we will end on a positive note,” after spending almost an hour broadcasting the blues.
That philosophy sells but does immeasurable harm to society, not to mention how the characterization of the church is suffering from a cacophony of catastrophic spirituality, sold under the name and power of God.
My appeal, therefore, is for all who prefer to think using concrete proof and not speculation. I am requesting that the agnostic, the atheist, and the professing believer sit at the table of reason with me. Even if you may not agree with our proclamation of the love of God in Christ, if you prefer facts and data instead of speculation, this will benefit you. You may despise the truth claim we make that all are in sin and need of a gracious Savior. If you cannot accept that Christ came to die for sinners, something we all have in common, then let me at least address several misconceptions and offer some affirmations. The goal is for you to decide on the church, not on the pulpit abuse that makes the headlines, but on objective facts instead.
Let me first explain why this stereotype is what I call a virus. It is a virus in the sense that it spreads quickly. If you were to ever watch a clip from YouTube about a controversial preacher speaking out of character, that sells, and it increases their watch party. I assert that much of what you may witness in the news from “churches” morphs into an unfortunate stereotype turned poster child. Those stereotypes are not representing the teachings of Christ faithfully. So it spreads, but that is not fair, nor is it right to watch them dishonor Christ and His church. We must deny what they are doing and affirm what God’s word calls us to do.
(1) We Deny any Message “from God” without The Bible’s Validation (“thus says the Lord”)
What we mean is that if we cannot study the Bible and determine that what they are saying is accurate, we have no choice but to reject it. Every believer is a student of their Master, and He has given us His word to know and understand His will. In one of the books given to us by God (Acts 17:10-11), the message of the apostles had to stand under the scrutiny of God's word. In other words, their message was under the litmus test. The litmus test was Scripture, God’s word, written and printed for us, Genesis to Revelation.
Over the past few weeks, self-proclaimed “prophets” of God said God spoke to them. One of them authoritatively spoke to COVID-19 and made demands on it that we will never find in the Bible (1Kenneth Copeland). When God’s people were in need, they never at one time spoke to the water, wind, rain, soil, grass, wheat, or barley. God was the object of their request, and they made their requests for God to act according to His kindness. One of them was a great prophet of God, Elijah (1 Kings 17:1-18:46). God spoke through the prophet that Israel would face a famine.
Within that narrative, the prophet in offering a sacrifice to God, asks God to answer him so that “This people may know that you, O Yahweh, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Later in the same account (1 Kings 18:42), this great prophet of God goes on his knees, as an act of humility before God, requesting that God would send the much-needed rain. That is just one account of the many. Still, it helps to comprehend that when men claim they are standing before us on God’s behalf, lacking humility and dependence on God, or whenever they speak authoritatively to circumstances instead of petitioning directly to God, they are not credible.
Therefore we deny any message “from God” without the Bible’s validation.

(2) We Deny any Disrespectful Comments or Unnecessary Criticisms of Our Government but reserve the right to speak against the sins they commit

The church is God’s light to the world. The church is also a voice that rightfully addresses the problems in our society. First, we begin with our attitude toward earthly leaders. Our role is to pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1-7), honor them (1 Peter 2:13-17), pay taxes to them (Romans 13:7-8), see them as God’s ministers, and servants (Romans 13:4-6). Their responsibility is to rule righteously. From Proverbs 29, verse 4, it is “By justice a king builds up the land, but he who takes a bribe tears it down.” Our leader must demonstrate integrity.
Proverbs 16, verses 12-15 says:
"It is an abomination to kings to do evil,
for the throne is established by righteousness.
Righteous lips are the delight of a king,
and he loves him who speaks what is right.
A king’s wrath is a messenger of death,
and a wise man will appease it.
In the light of a king’s face there is life,
and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain."
“My son, fear the Lord and the king,
and do not join with those who do otherwise,
for disaster will arise suddenly from them,
and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?” (Proverbs 24:21-22)
You ask, but what happens when our leaders are wrong? The answer is, no one is perfect. God does not put anyone in leadership because they are perfect. That is why the church prays for them, rather than “preying” on them. There are too many criticisms made toward our government by many church leaders that are not in line with Scripture.
Therefore, we categorically deny their claims for standing for truth when they attack leadership’s character. A faithful church addresses issues without assassinating the character of our government officials.
But the church reserves the right to speak against the sins they commit
Policies that promote death (abortion) or harm to others, the church addresses them graciously but firmly. We stand for life, not because we hate women, but because we love them and the little ones in the womb. We submit to God’s word declaring that all life is precious and valuable, that no one should be misrepresented or ignored. Please do not take this as an attack on anyone; instead, see it as people whose convictions are much more profound than convenience.
(3) We Deny any Insensitivity Toward the Fear and Struggles We See
One pastor (2Rodney Howard-Browne) was critical of the COVID-19 pandemic, but his criticism did not display any sensitivity toward the families of the deceased. That is contrary to the Bible. We weep with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). There is a time to weep and a time for laughter (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Sadly, this “pastor” and his congregation took time to criticize, instead of showing sympathy toward those who were in fear.
In times of fear, caring shepherds know they must first calm the sheep before they continue with disciplining the sheep. They apply the ointment of a gracious shepherd like their Savior, who is compassionate (Mark 6:33-34). But these men, they are not caring shepherds; they are insensitive and uncaring. That also holds true for believers who had more time to criticize others on social media instead of praying for the weak, sick, and dying. They did not represent the compassion of our Savior.
We deny, and rightfully so, any insensitivity and criticism toward those who are in fear or mourning. We want to share in your loss. Please call us (562-596-8229) or email us ([email protected]) if you need help from our most gracious Savior. He is THE Wonderful Counselor.
(4) We Deny any Claim Presuming that God Would Protect  us from COVID When We Worship
This one may be tricky, but we are not without counsel. In light of the circumstances, we make decisions first on the authority of God’s word. Then we weigh the situation around us and do what is best for God’s glory and the good of others. The decision to worship is not up to the church nor the local government. Christ commands us to meet regularly, yet for the well-being of society, it was best to refrain for a season.
But, and I say, but, if we were to meet, it would never be because we are sure God would protect us, nor is it a badge of martyrdom to risk our lives over a virus. Believers may risk their lives to spread the hope of Christ, but over a virus? No.
The leaders who assure their congregants that they are covered (3various) are liars. There is no other category to put them in. We gather because, as a community of saints in Christ, there is no other way to participate if we do not meet congregationally. We meet as THE essential entity on earth, but we do not presume upon God and make claims about the uncertain future that God alone knows fully. We say, if the Lord wills, we will meet (James 4:13-17).
These are our denials
(1) We Deny any Message “from God” without The Bible’s Validation (“thus says the Lord”)
(2) We Deny any Disrespectful Comments or Unnecessary Criticisms of Our Government
(3) We Deny any Insensitivity Toward the Fear and Struggles We See
(4) We Deny any Claim Presuming that God Would Protect  Us from COVID When We Worship

Now to what we affirm.
(1) We affirm Our Conditional Support of Leaders
References in denial number 2 explain how we interact with our officials and leaders. The church submits to the extent that our leaders do not ask us to violate God’s word. When they do, we will not abide by that command but remain under their leadership. You can picture the church’s submission under our leaders like a marriage; if the husband requests for anything that goes against his wife’s conscience, the wife does not have to break ranks and refuse to submit for the rest of her life. Instead, that one issue is where she graciously explains why she is unable to accept his request.
That same is true for our leaders. Submission is not the voluntary surrender of our freedom to think. Submission is to voluntarily place ourselves under the leadership God gives for someone to exercise over us for our good. They will not get it right every time, but neither do we. When they are wrong, we respectfully refuse their request and instead will obey the word of our Savior from Scripture.
We affirm the conditional support of our Leaders.

(2) We Affirm that Our Conduct must be Bible-based with the Right Interpretation
What we mean by that is there is one interpretation for each passage we study. There is one intended meaning that we must understand to apply. Why is that relevant to the topic? The relevancy is that when quoting a passage without proper interpretation and understanding of how it applies is dangerous and misleading. As a pastor, it has been my pleasure to study a text and my first observations are not as accurate. When I investigate more by exploring the original language and using reliable study aids, my thoughts are more consistent with the text.
Here is a rule of thumb: when a preacher quotes 20-30 passages (in a sermon, not a blog), that does not mean he knows the Bible. Accurate knowledge of Scripture is to explain it prayerfully, studiously, and carefully. Sometimes, reliable preaching means you may only hear two to three verses, or if from multiple verses, the content comes from the same chapter or book.
Beware of anyone randomly quoting Scripture to justify their conduct.
We affirm that Our conduct must be Bible-based with the right interpretation

(3) We affirm That We are all a Work in Progress
Our Convictions are not always in line with God’s truth, so we ask for your understanding. God began a great work in us in salvation, and that work continues. Because we are a work in progress, we will dishonor Christ, sin against our fellow believers, and sadly disappoint you. Still, despite our great sins, we have a great Savior who is always ready to forgive us, cleanse us, and enable us to pursue the right course of action for His glory and our good.
May I speak of my most kind Master and Savior Jesus Christ. He is lovely and merciful. In offering His life as a sacrifice for sinners, when you trust in His life and death for you, you will receive the overwhelming forgiveness and love of God. You will stand in His presence forgiven and in fellowship with God and His people. In this unstable world, relationships are fragile and unpredictable. But our God, His steadfast love never fails. His mercies are new every morning, and His faithfulness is great.
Please email us, and we will gladly share with you more about our most glorious Savior!
For My Most Gracious Saviour and His Church,
Seymour Helligar

1.Kenneth Copeland Ministries. "Judgment Is Executed on COVID-19: by Kenneth Copeland." Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube, Mar 30, 2020. Web. April 16, 2020.
2.Google search results for "rodney howard-browne covid-19". Web.
3.NowThis News. "Conservative Pastors Encourage Congregants to Dismiss COVID-19 | NowThis." Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube, Mar 18, 2020. Web. April 16, 2020.
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