Following a letter from 450 churches in Ontario – which was then backed by the Orthodox Jewish community – the state government eventually allowed churches to open at 30% capacity without any further restrictions. However, Joe explains, it was only “because there was leadership and because we took a stand” that this was able to happen.
The trouble is that too many Christians within the church – let alone those who make the laws – have “accepted the notion that the church is a non-essential service,” Joe says. It’s not: the Church “is not just part of the state … it is established by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, it was the first free institution in the history of the Western world, it is the pillar and support of the truth, it’s the embassy of Jesus Christ.” When this is truly understood, then it naturally becomes essential that the churches be allowed to reopen safely to do the work that Jesus laid out for us to do.
Joe also shares the approach they took in Ontario, Canada to get the government to reopen the churches during lockdown.
“I pointed out that worship and work are not rights conferred by the government,” he explains. “The civil government doesn’t bestow on me a right to worship or work; those are given to me by God.” So when the government interferes in a Christian’s right to worship, as commanded by God, it is right for that to be challenged: “If the state forbids what God commands, or commands what God forbids, civil disobedience is a Christian duty,” explains Joe.
Within 24 hours of explaining this to the state government, along with a discussion on the role of the church in society, Joe was informed that the government would make accommodations for the churches to reopen.