Many news channels and newspapers reported this. The Otago Daily Times, for instance, said:
Destiny Church in Auckland is holding a service this morning for the first time since the lockdown – and pastor Bishop Brian Tamaki says it’s an act of “civil disobedience”.
Sunday’s service – named “We Stand for the Freedoms & Rights of All New Zealanders” – is being held at the church’s main branch on Druces Rd in Manukau, South Auckland.
The remainder of Tamaki’s flock are attending a drive-in service, watching the proceedings on big screens set up in the car park.
Three points that come to mind when I think about what Destiny Church did:
1. Ours is primarily a war in the spiritual realm:
The world may not realise it and even the human perpetrators may not be conscious of the full extent of what they are doing. The Bible says that it is a full-on war against God and God’s people. The enemies are not primarily human beings. The Apostle Paul words it like this:
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
And the side of good also has spiritual help. We have reinforcements that will ensure that we are never vanquished. True Christians will not fight back with violence. But then we do not need to because of Who is behind us.
2. We will choose God’s rules over man’s always.
True Christians follow the rules of the land and are good citizens. But if it comes to a choice between following God or following a human rule, it is a no-brainer for us.
Yesterday churches all over New Zealand obeyed the voice of God. This news item is an example. Some others just went ahead and gathered, breaking the law (but keeping social distancing, and common sense). Yet others, decided to wait for a week or two more and see if the Prime Minister will see sense.
3. The more you oppress the church, the stronger she becomes.
In New Zealand, we have seen the church being oppressed systematically in the last couple of years and extreme bills being passed into law under the watch of an otherwise pleasant Prime Minister, often hurriedly and in spite of a large number of submissions—Euthanasia, An extreme Abortion bill, and now another law that gives the government disproportionate rights.
A great writer (actually Tertullian, 155 A.D. to 220 A.D.) wrote: “Plures efficimur, quitiens metimur a vobis: semen est sanguis Christianorum.” which means “We spring up in greater numbers the more we are mown down by you: the blood of the Christians is the seed of a new life”
I probably should not use that quote lightly, when Christians in some parts of the world are actually persecuted to the point of shedding their blood. But the principle is still true that the more you oppress the church, the stronger she becomes.
When I posted this in Facebook, I had some good friends remind me that the Prime Minister’s concern is for the Covid-19 situation, to keep New Zealand safe. So I would like to add a few more thoughts in the blog version of this post.
Firstly, I was sent an excellent John MacArthur quote. He was asked: “Do you believe it’s biblical when some American pastors are continuing to hold services even though the government instructs them not to? This is his answer.
“Yeah, let me make very clear this question because it keeps coming up. If the government told us not to meet because Christianity was against the law, if the government told us not to meet because we would be punished, fined for our religion and our religious convictions, we would have no option but to meet anyway. And that takes you to the fifth chapter of Acts where the leaders of Israel said to the apostles, “Stop preaching.” And Peter’s response was very simple. He said, “You judge whether we obey God or men,” then he went right out and preached.
If the government tells us to stop worshiping, stop preaching, stop communicating the gospel, we don’t stop. We obey God rather than men. We don’t start a revolution about that; the apostles didn’t do that. If they put us in jail, we go to jail and we have a jail ministry. Like the apostle Paul said, “My being in jail has fallen out to the furtherance of the gospel.” So we don’t rebel, we don’t protest.
You don’t ever see Christians doing that in the book of Acts. If they were persecuted, they were faithful to proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ even if it took them to jail; and that’s been the pattern of true Christianity through all the centuries.
This quote beautifully explains my understanding of how we need to respond in situations when the government or the law of the land goes against the church. But our problem now lies in deciding whether that line has been crossed.
For small churches like South City, my church, this is not a huge worry. In a couple of weeks, we expect to be allowed to meet anyway. But for mega churches, like Destiny Church where 1000s attend, the situation would appear rather bleak, even if they were to split up their services.
Theologically, our church would be quite different from Brian Tamaki’s church, and I am not a big fan or anything like that. But I can understand where he is coming from. With the economic and mental-health situations deteriorating, these are times when people need their pastors and they need the fellowship (which can be achieved without hugging and shaking hands, as was shown yesterday).
It does seem unfair to me that schools, malls, cinemas, restaurants, and soccer games can be trusted to do the right thing but not churches. And then there is the extreme bill that got passed. All this makes me think that the government has overstepped the limit.
Is Destiny church right or wrong, I wouldnt be able to tell, but they have my admiration for now and I am glad that they did what they did carefully, with precautions in place, just as we would expect any mall or workplace to do.
Religious freedom is very important. This post is just to lay it out there that if we are going to be dished out any meanness, we will not respond with violence, but we will do what we need to do, and yet with common sense, gentleness, and love. Maybe we could describe this as disobedience of an extremely civil nature. 🙂