GUEST POST!!! A REBUTTAL TO SEAN FEUCHT
Sean Feucht leading a large worship event, October 2020 in Nashville Tennessee.
Here's a lucid first! A guest post! My buddy, Mike Foster, on the teaching team at my church, Vineyard Church of Ithaca, has written a fantastic piece responding to this article by Sean Feucht. Sean is a worship leader with political leanings at Bethel Church in Redding California.
He has gained infamy recently by leading very large worship events during the height of the Covid pandemic. Many saw his actions as a direct attack on CDC guidelines against mass gatherings. And here is Mike's thoughts:
A rebuttal to Sean Feucht’s “It’s Time For Christians To Stand Up And Proclaim We Will Never Stop Worshipping”
First and foremost, I believe Sean is a Christian, my brother in Christ, and that spiritual relationship is more important than any disagreements of theology or interpretations of Scripture. This is an attempt to present another way of seeing. Holy God, may there be unity in Your Church.
Sean points to Pastor Artur Pawlowski as an icon of sorts for Christians facing persecution due to our desire to gather together and worship God. However, Mr. Pawlowski’s infamous reputation proceeds him. He had the Charitable Organization status of the church he leads, then known as Kings Glory Fellowship, revoked by Canada Revenue Agency in 2010 due to preaching politics and not the gospel of Christ. (This is the same as how an American church would lose its tax-exempt status for doing the same thing.) Lack of clarity on how money was spent was also a factor in the decision. Mr. Pawlowski was fined in 2014 for attempting to participate in the Calgary Stampede parade with his followers without official permission, an act perpetrated in 2012 as reported by Calgary Herald. More complete tracking of his legal issues can be found by a simple and quick Wikipedia search and following the sources linked to it. Mr. Pawlowski has also blamed floods on homosexuals, and in recent weeks can be seen on video screaming at police that they are Nazis when they confront him in his church about repeated refusal to follow COVID safety guidelines while holding services. Why Sean chose this man to hold up as an example of the Christ who teaches us to love our enemies, to be patient, to be peaceful, forgiving, merciful, is beyond me.
Sean wrote that for 2000 years the church has held services anyway during pandemics. This is false, at least in the sense that the blanket statement is inaccurate. Martin Luther wrote on this in 1527 during the Bubonic Plague addressing a question on if Christians should flee pandemics, “Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. … See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.” Luther laid out that Christians stay, care for the sick even if it costs us our own lives, and do nothing that could cause another to fall ill (such as Sunday church service). He continued to say the Christian who does not take precautions to ensure others don’t get sick during a pandemic is guilty of murder should their actions cause another to die.
Sean presents a Christianity that favors support of The State. But Christianity Today published a piece on May 6, 2021, detailing a study that supports The State causes significant harm to Christianity. The original peer-reviewed study was published in the journal of Sociology and Religion. To quote the author, Nilay Saiya, “In our statistical analysis of a global sample of 166 countries from 2010 to 2020, we find that the most important determinate of Christian vitality is the extent to which governments give official support to Christianity through their laws and policies. However, it is not in the way devout believers might expect. As governmental support for Christianity increases, the number of Christians declines significantly. This relationship holds even when accounting for other factors that might be driving Christian growth rates, such as overall demographic trends.”
This relationship with the government is addressed often in our church history, and not in the view that Sean presents. Tertullian (155AD-220AD) wrote that there is nothing more foreign to Christians than affairs of State. Hippolytus (170AD-235AD) wrote that politicians had to resign or they couldn’t be baptized into the church when he wrote, “Any Proconsul or Magistrate who wears the purple and governs by the sword must give it up or be rejected.” And of course, we see Jesus and Biblical authors defining the Kingdom of God is not found in governments when Jesus differentiates between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God when Luke uses “Augustus”, the first written use of his Latin name instead of his Greek name (a literary technique to contrast Caesar’s non-divinity with God’s Divinity), and the multiple contrasts drawn in Luke’s “Christmas Story” between governments and The Kingdom of God such as appropriating the word “Gospel”, of birthday celebrations, of peace for ALL mankind as opposed to the relatively insignificant Pax Romana.
Sean calls this “a shocking display of repression”. But no one has come after Christians for their beliefs or the way we live as citizens of The Kingdom of God. Mr. Pawlowski was arrested for breaking the law, repeatedly, and was given far more chances than most people get. We as Christians submit to the government unless it goes against God. Wearing a mask and social distancing doesn’t go against God, and such actions have been promoted by some “heroes” of our faith tradition.
Given Sean’s statements on his website that he has a focus on political activism, I am concerned that this isn’t really about Worship at all. At the very least, facts show us that taking the stance he is as a Christian is debatable. Maybe we could point at incredible testimonies that come from the events Sean hosts, but God working despite us is nothing new, so I don’t know that’s a valid barometer. May we, if nothing else, at least be able to talk to each other in love, as brothers and sisters in Christ about these issues.
Mike Foster, 5/13/21