The Idea of a “Worship Protest” seems a bit um…I do not know, since to the Ancient Christians, these words meant the same thing.
Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner
Before you come after me or the by-line, I know what Sean Feuchts and Bethel Worship is doing is supposed to be political activism. Bethel is not allowed to meet in person in CA and I know that, like most churches, they want to. I also want to set aside the very obvious theological problems, errors and heresies that have defined Bethel, some of the same accesses and enthusiasms were the reason Count Nicolas Ludwig Von Zinzendorf cited Munster in his entreaty to the second Moravian town against them. I have weighed in that I feel some governors have overstepped their bounds, but I think many pastors have as well resulting in dueling nastiness and fighting that is neither good for Christian Witness or Christianity in general. It belies common sense to demand we meet in person because we must have “faith over fear” especially when the bible tells us that we should never put God to the test. If it can be done safely, meet in person, if you are going to put image bearers at risk, then do not. Human Life is the ultimate Holy Thing on this planet, violating it on any level, whether it be in the womb or at the end, or anywhere in between, will draw a sharp rebuke on judgment day.
But let us be clear, Christian Worship is not to be used in Protest, it is, in and of itself a protest. It is not a tool to be used in protest, but a protest in and of itself and it can be done no matter the location of the Saints. Whether they are in a group or by themselves. Christian Worship is a protest because it says that we will not bow our knees to man and the governments of man but to God and God alone. It says that the people and gods of this world are not worthy of worship, but God alone is. Christian Worship exists all over the world in this manner, in the underground Churches in China and North Korea, in the beautiful cathedrals of Europe, the hills of Appalachia. It existed under Communism and still exists under it in some place, it exists under democracy, under autocratic regimes and socialist countries. It exists everywhere and it is the ultimate shunning of the earthly powers and principalities for the ultimate Kingdom of God that will one day be established over all the nations.
The Early Christians understood that, as they stood by at a Roman Entrails reading ceremony praying to God against the Romans, frustrating the emperor Nero and ultimately leading to their persecution. Then it happened in the Catacombs as the people of God gathered and sang praises to YHWH the God of the universe. It continued as the Martyrs sang songs of praise as they waited for the lion’s teeth and the gladiator’s sword. It was even on the lips of Polycarp as he was burned alive for not renouncing his Faith. The point was clear, do to me what you want you powerless rulers of this world, you cannot take away the faith that I have. You can drive me underground, you can throw me to the lions, you can burn me alive, but my death will be one seed of many that will take Christ around the world. You cannot silence or stop me.
The question is, do we have this same defiance today, not to go out and hold massive worship rallies as “protests” but to protest the Governments actions where we are. Revivalism has made us believe that we must have large gatherings, that we must have a glamorous teacher and preacher, bigger lights, more fire. But to those who have gone before, to the Martyrs all this would seem like a silly show, faux worship that focuses on the self and the desires of self, not the worship of the magnificent God who is over all things. We cannot stop the refining that is coming to the Church by the hand of God, the only option before us is to learn to worship as they did, around dinner tables and in prison cells. Both visibly and privately, making worship again our protest the tyrants of this world who demand our allegiance.
You see, like the Church, worship is not a tool, it is a way and means of life, it puts the God of the universe at the center and so literally everything we do, everything we are about is to bring glory to God and draw others to worship Him. Someone sees you feeding the homeless, or walking into the shelter to volunteer and they glorify God and you walk in their glorifying God and walking with Him and Proclaiming His name, you are worshiping Him and causing others to Worship Him.
I knew a guy like this when I worked at Christ’s Body in Denver, one of the cooks, I did not know a day there when Christ was not on his lips. He sang and worshiped and ministered and gave testimony. His Worship was against the injustices life had dealt him, life on the streets, poverty, drug addiction and so on, all things God had brought him out of and now in Worship, he was helping others out. I never heard him talk about how great he is, I always heard him talk about how great God was.
Christians, if we are going into cultural exile, then perhaps worship as a protest is our best way forward, not protesting through worldly means, but through the means given us by God, worship of the King of the Kingdom of Heaven. May our brothers and sisters abroad teach us how to endure the cultural exile they have lived with for a millennium, it may be that the testimony of Jesus requires us to sit at the lowest point of the table so that we can once again one day be asked to sit at the place of honor. One thing is for sure, our current way of trying to get that seat back is only hastening our path into exile, may we turn and repent and again turn our worship into a protest against the rulers and powers of this world until the whole world hears that Christ is Lord.
Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northern Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center