Famed pastor, author and theologian John MacArthur conducted services before a packed congregation at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California in defiance of local social distancing orders. In a blog post, MacArthur wrote that California’s ban on in-person church services — a ban which includes restaurants, bars, fitness centers, hair salons, barbershops and other public gathering places in several counties — was an overstep in government authority. “We, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services,” the blog said, saying the team must follow “‘Christ, not Caesar.”
Local authorities did not interfere with Grace Community’s service. One widely circulated photograph showed a full house with no facemasks in sight. The church reports an average weekly attendance of about 8,000 people.
“This is not a problem to be feared,” MacArthur declared. “This is a triumphant hour for the church to be the church. Standing for the glory of our Lord is more important in this hour than I’ve ever known it in my life. For His glory, we will stand and meet and worship and preach the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Experts say that COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — is particularly easy to transmit indoors and several church services have been responsible for alarming spikes across the U.S. One study from early July found that 650 cases have been linked to religious services. That’s why the CDC continues to recommend social distancing and, of course, facemasks whenever possible.
MacArthur has pastored Grace Community Church for fifty years.