Thanks for taking the time to watch the video below or read this blog post. I have recorded this video to share my heart about our current situation and how we at The Living Room Church are responding to the issues that are facing us (approx. 22 min viewing time). If reading is more your thing, then you can by-pass the video and take the time to read the transcript instead (approx. 10 min reading time). Thank you.
TRANSCRIPT OF ABOVE VIDEO:
Do you remember the statement that Cazz has been making during our online videos lately? STAYING CONNECTED KEEPS US TOGETHER! It is an intentional response to what our Victorian Government has been saying during this whole pandemic, "Staying Apart Keeps Us Together". I understand what they are doing by making such a statement and how they are trying to keep this virus at bay. It has no doubt been very challenging to find suitable messages that people will actually connect with. But we cannot ignore how that statement is affecting the countless Australians who have never felt so isolated and alone. Mental illness is growing each day as people are locked down and the tension is rising as our basic need for human touch is being withheld. This is creating a deepening issue that is greater than the virus and it is also fuelling a growing division in our nation, within our families and Churches. I believe that we are yet to deal with the ramifications of what this season has forced us into. This is definitely a time for us to be praying and interceding for our towns, our State and our Nation.
Now, I'm not one to follow the latest conspiracy theory, nor am I interested in allowing the devil to set the agenda of my heart or our Church, but I want to live aware that what is happening is not as innocent as it appears to be. Let's not forget, we are in a spiritual war for the soul of our Nation and this pandemic has exposed some very troubling ideas and human reasoning that is literally reshaping the lives of millions of people. So, in my attempt to bring clarity to some of the pressing issues, this post will hopefully explain where we stand and what we will hold on to moving forward.
A common thought about what we now face is how we will move forward and find some sort of reality that can allow us the freedoms to exist without the fear of repeated lockdowns and frustrating restrictions? The politicians are selling it as the "roadmap to freedom". What has become obvious though, is that everything has been pinned on what I refer to as the "functional saviour" called the "COVID-19 Vaccine". It's all about the vaccine now. The old Bunnings Warehouse in Melton has been converted to a drive-thru vaccination centre. There is even talk about using the MCG as a central vaccination epicentre that will be able to vaccinate thousands per day. So where do you stand on this issue?
There have been several people lately that have been asking Cazz and I where we stand in relation to the push to get vaccinated and particularly the very real possibility of using vaccination passports to dictate where we can and cannot go. This will be THE issue facing us for the remainder of this year and moving into 2022. As our governmental leaders are trying to find a way out of this mess, we must decide what is worth fighting for and what is not our battle to fight. Great wisdom is needed by all of us to know the difference.
So, let me address the first issue...are we for or against the vaccine, whether it be the Astra-Zenica, Pfizer or any other vaccine that is coming? What is obvious is that even within our Church family there are strong opinions on both sides of this issue. Some will absolutely refuse to take the vaccine due to their personal convictions based on their research, while there are others who are already vaccinated and some will be very soon. Even within our own Leadership Team, as of this moment, the split is right down the middle, some are vaccinated and others are not. But have we allowed this to be a cause for division? No way and it never will be! This is an example of a battle that God is not calling us to fight. We will not fight each other to prove a point or enforce an opinion, no matter how right we think we are. Personally, as of this moment, no one in my family has been vaccinated. We have based that decision on how we see this being played out, on various aspects of this that concern us, and our interaction with various people that we trust. We are watching carefully and may at some point change our opinion and end up getting vaccinated, but until then we are choosing to show the same respect to others who have had the jab as we would hope would also be shown to us.
The point is, due to the wide-ranging opinions on this matter it’s vitally important to respect and honour one another, especially when it comes to personal choices that are not black or white or based on clear theological teachings. We are the family of God, and I know how much He loves us and is blessed when we love each other despite minor differences. Let’s work hard together to not make this issue into a point of division and let's show the world how it’s done Gods way! Of course, there are some issues in life which are clearly right or wrong, black or white and come into direct conflict with God's holy standard, but the vaccine issue is not one of them. As much as our real enemy wants society to be caught up in the “us” and "them" divisional way of thinking, I have full confidence that The Living Room Church family will not allow the spirit of division to infect our hearts and shape our view on those that we are called to love and be united to.
If you’re struggling on this issue, it is wise to stop, and seek God's heart on how He wants you to respond with honour and respect and also how you will interact with someone who has a differing opinion. Check with God whether or not He wants you to add that social media post or attend that protest march or whatever many have been doing lately. Let’s not give Satan any joy or room to use this for his perverted agenda. His grubby fingerprints are all over this and we have the power to choose the better way...the way of love, unity, humility and maturity.
I am reminded of how you and I have the power to answer a prayer that Jesus prayed. Yes, you read that correctly, we can answer Jesus' prayer! In John 17:21-23 (TPT) we read this heartfelt prayer that Jesus prayed for us...
I pray for them all to be joined together as one even as you and I, Father, are joined together as one. I pray for them to become one with us so that the world will recognize that you sent me. For the very glory you have given to me I have given them so that they will be joined together as one and experience the same unity that we enjoy. You live fully in me and now I live fully in them so that they will experience perfect unity, and the world will be convinced that you have sent me, for they will see that you love each one of them with the same passionate love that you have for me.
It is humbling to think that Jesus prayed for us, The Living Room Church family, and every other Christian Church on the planet. Unity is so important to Jesus that He made sure this prayer was included in the Bible so that we can re-adjust our responses when we enter times when unity is tested. He knew in advance that the unity in His Church would come under heavy attack in every generation. It seems to be a well-used tactic by the devil and sadly there are way too many casualties and split Churches throughout our 2,000 year history. So we answer Jesus' prayer when we live and interact with each other with a passionate commitment to unity and refuse offence, reject division or contention no matter how convinced we think we are about a particular issue. I know, it will take a lot of maturity and humility to live like that, but we've got God's promise to back us up when we choose to obey His Word.
This is proving to be a great test on the quality of our love and our ability to see it for what it is. Many Church leadership teams are meeting with urgency attempting to understand what to do with the growing division within their faith community and how to respond to the pressures from outside that can potentially create even more confusion. It’s important that we don’t throw stones of judgement and criticism at Church leaders because none of us have been here before and we are wholeheartedly trying our best to discern the times and seek God's wisdom on how we will come out of this stronger and more determined to shine in these dark times.
As some of you are aware, a group of pastors have issued a document addressed to our Prime Minister Scott Morrison titled "The Ezekiel Declaration". This document is well written and it covers some important things to consider as we navigate this new season. If you would like to read it and support it by adding your name in agreement, then please go to The Ezekiel Declaration website and read it for yourself.
So, the leadership of The Living Room Church are committed to protecting our unity and will not allow the vaccination issue, or any other related opinion, to create a wedge between us. We choose to answer Jesus' prayer with a resounding and united "YES Jesus! We will be one as You and the Father are one." I invite you to join us as we agree with Jesus' desire and answer His prayer for a united family of faith.
Another growing issue is of course the possible implementation of a vaccination passport that will serve to permit the vaccinated to attend various businesses and venues and also keep out the unvaccinated. If passed, this will affect the places that we go, the way we travel, the company we keep and the daily decisions we make. But this gets very concerning when such restrictions seek to dictate who can and who cannot attend our Church gatherings. Again, no laws or final decisions have been made by our State Government, but the talk is that it is not far away and may be active by the end of this year. The above-mentioned Ezekiel Declaration addresses this matter as well.
So, where do we stand on this potentially divisive scenario? I have found great wisdom from other Church leaders who have helped me shape these words carefully, such as our Leadership Team here at The Living Room, and also others across multiple church denominations who are also leading their faith communities through this issue. Of course, there are many aspects of this to consider and pray about.
Obviously, we will never create a two-tiered system where only a select few are permitted entrance into our Church locations and others are turned away because they have not met a particular health status. That is not how the gospel of Jesus works.
We have a core belief that our God will always be our loving, caring Father who provides everything we need to all people. Since the birth of the Church, He has made sure that we are never without a community of Christians who journey together with a common heart and purpose. Whether it is gathering together in freedom or meeting underground because of persecution, the Church has survived and thrived no matter how hard the devil or the systems of government have tried to kill it. Therefore, it is important to note that no government has the right to dictate who can and cannot attend a Church gathering. The Church that Jesus is building is all-inclusive, regardless of your vaccination status. We are all free to worship together, pray together and grow together. If this fundamental right is taken from us, I cannot begin to imagine how much more severe the condition of people's mental and spiritual health will worsen.
While it is good for us to provide a safe place of gathering that adheres to the various health advice and COVID-safe guidelines, we are also committed to providing a safe place for the spiritual wellbeing of all people, of all ages and all backgrounds. This is a practical expression of the gospel message that defines us and a fundamental human right that God has given us.
If you have a differing point of view, that's ok, we all need to navigate this while holding true to our integrity and upholding a culture of honour. But no matter what your view is, it should never prevent or obstruct a person's right to gather with other believers and worship God in a Church family. So let us all keep our focus on Jesus and refuse offence and division or get distracted from what matters most.
Of course, there are numerous other aspects to this that should be considered and some that we have not even thought about at this point, but what is obvious is that we need God's wisdom to lead through this and come out of it stronger and better positioned for what God wants to do next. Whatever happens and whatever the Church will look like coming out of this is exciting, but much of it is yet to be revealed. We will be faithful with what is in our hands right now and trust that God is up to something huge across His Church all around the world and that He will lead us to live beyond this in total victory and unity.
You are probably reading this and looking for a more definitive answer and at this stage I am unable to give one. No laws have been established yet. No defintive mandates have been given yet. So, we will wait with our ears attentive to God's voice and watch with eyes that are filtering everything from a Kingdom perspective. Will our future decisions be popular or received well by everyone? Probably not, but if we are confident that we have heard from God, then that will be our only course of action as we seek to faithfully move forward.
Finally, I want to encourage you with this. While there is so much that we don't know right now and no-one really knows how this will play out, I do know Who knows and knowing that He knows is enough for me to know. Try saying that fast 5 times! What that means is that none of this surprises God, nor does it bring Him anxiety. Walking with Jesus for all of these years has taught me that when in a season of mystery, don't fall into the trap of assuming or guessing. Don't look to push the blame on God or anyone else because it feels so frustrating. Don't give up asking and leaning in to God's voice because when we need to know what our next step is, He will surely reveal it. Remember, this is a walk of faith. Not knowing every turn or having a detailed roadmap is actually quite normal when you're walking with Jesus. So, rest and be still because we will be ok, Jesus will make sure of it.
As I mentioned in a recent message that I preached online titled "God The Builder" (you can watch it here), we are in a season of transition and preparation. Changes are coming and God is doing something beautiful behind the scenes and is setting His Church up for such amazing glory, such unusual power, such significant impact that the devil will regret ever having messed with the Church that Jesus is building. Of this I am convinced and that is enough for me.
We are in this together and united we will stand. Thank you for your continued prayers as we move into the glory days ahead. I love you all and Cazz and I, and also our amazing leadership team, are devoted to the cause of Christ in our Church family and we are united to believe that what we are about to step into is greater than any of us can comprehend in this moment. We belong to an amazing Church family. Thank you for being you!