Pastors’ Blog

This page will contain blogs from our pastoral staff.  They might be articles, devotions, reflections, current events, or even something humorous or silly.  We pray that this page and the things that we share here are useful and encouraging to you!

Our latest blog:

EHBC COVID Response: Part 2

This article was initially published in EHBC’s custom back page of The Baptist New Mexican on about January 22, 2021.  Section headings have been added here for ease of reading and reference.
Last week, I tried to address the prayer, Scripture application, and reasoning behind our approach to the various complexities of the practices of the church during the pandemic. Full disclosure: as I write this second article, my first one has yet to be published and seen by anyone. Our articles are due in by Thursday the week before publication, so I’m writing this one basically blind as far as how well I communicated last week. Also, since I haven’t received any feedback yet, you may bring up a question or comment after reading last week’s article that I will not address in this article.
How parts 1 and 2 (last week and this week) connect
My goal with this article (and likely the next couple of articles, considering the length of this one) is to start to address some of the questions and issues that have come up in my various discussions with people regarding our COVID response. As I said last week, this is a divisive topic. So let me state, first of all, that there is no condescension in what I’m about to write. Last week, I said that it is entirely possible to disagree on the question of the church’s response to COVID and still be in loving fellowship and harmony with one another. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable. I don’t write in order to create division or to condemn or even necessarily to argue the decisions that we have made. It’s really more to explain how those decisions have fit into our overall ethos of making our decisions based on and for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We aren’t going to navigate this perfectly, but at every turn, we have prayerfully approached the various complexities that have arisen and sought to honor Christ in our decision-making.
The most common question
The single most discussed issue regarding our COVID response has been related to the government and whether we have been overly submissive to the decisions and restrictions that our governor has enacted. Several have shared with me the choices and decisions that John MacArthur and the elders of Grace Community Church (Sun Valley, CA) have made throughout this pandemic, and have asked why we have not taken the same stance. On more than one occasion, it has been suggested to me that we consider participating in Legacy’s (here in Albuquerque) suit against the governor, or that we ourselves bring suit against our state such as the suit brought against New York. These are all valid questions, and I have attempted to answer each as they have come up.
Romans 13:1-7: clearly about the government
First and foremost, ultimately we must answer to the Lord Jesus Christ for our responses. I believe that Romans 13:1-7 speaks most loudly to this concern. “Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves.” (v. 1-2, CSB, emphasis mine) I’ve had it suggested that this passage does not have in mind the “government” per se, but specifically the government structure of the local church body. This interpretation is untenable because of concepts brought out in the remainder of the passage: rulers being a “terror” to bad conduct (3) as they “carry the sword” as “an avenger” (4), that the leadership is to be submitted to “because of wrath” (5), and the paying of taxes (6) and tolls (7). The church is and does none of these things, and to argue that the leadership of the church does so in some metaphorical sense is to read into the text something that just is not there.
When we CAN comply and when we CAN’T
The plain reading of this text in its context following Romans 12:9-21 illuminates the fact that Paul here is instructing Christians living in a hostile government to live as generally submissive citizens, so that they might “conquer evil with good.” (12:21) Unless we have another clear Scriptural mandate to oppose the government, we do so at our own peril, because we oppose “God’s command,” and we “bring judgment” on ourselves (13:2). Biblically, I believe that it is clear that if we can comply in wisdom, in good conscience, and in faith, then we should. However, this is not unilateral. For example, when Governor Lujan-Grisham released the “All Together New Mexico” guidelines at the beginning of the reopening phase last summer, it required that churches: “Discontinue choir or congregation singing or chanting.” (All Together New Mexico, May 15, 2020 version, p. 29) Several studies have shown that masked congregational singing is no more risky than just being in the same room, and singing is a vital means of our expressing our faith together. So we have chosen not to comply with this questionable “one-size-fits-all” requirement (to be fair, this instruction was moved from “Required” to “Best Practices” in the January 6, 2021 version). Furthermore, I believe that it is clear that the government cannot compel us not to preach or proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, cannot compel us not to worship the Lord, cannot compel us not to pray, and cannot compel us not to love one another, for examples. These are each commanded in Scripture that we MUST do them.
The (current) bottom line of the issue
There may come a day when the government may attempt to compel us not to do these things, or enact some baseless, irresponsible, or irrational restriction. It will be our place at that time to boldly stand against the government’s assaults, even at great risk. Most the apostles faced the same challenge, and paid the ultimate price, temporally speaking. However, we do not believe that we have reached this point. For the moment, we are inconvenienced in the wearing of masks, and slightly limited in our ability to meet together. Even pre-COVID, we averaged about 340 on Sunday mornings. Since gathering together again, the most we have had in the building for service is 204, because many have chosen to stay home and join us online. According to the gathering restrictions and our building size, we can have up to 301 in person for our worship gathering, so for the moment, we aren’t being hindered by complying with that restriction. Incredibly, the weekly viewership of our service stream is in the thousands. More are hearing the Gospel through Eastern Hills than maybe ever before! Praise the Lord for His amazing work!
Sorry this article was so long again… I’ll write more next week, and I’ll probably apologize for the length again. =o) Blessings to you all!