A Divine Shift
A Divine Shift
After my wife and I spent some time in prayer and fasting, I feel impressed to communicate this message. We are rightly concerned about the current pandemic and its effects on the economy and on our churches. We are praying for healing, protection, and supply of needs. We are eagerly awaiting the time when we can have normal church services again. At the same time, I believe God is telling us not to fear but to move forward boldly in faith. Two years ago, when the General Board was earnestly discussing plans for revival and growth, the Lord spoke to us with spiritual gifts and told us to prepare for “a divine shift.” In response, here is what I wrote to our fellowship at that time: “Sometimes we make plans, but they don’t develop as we intend. Then God steps in with a better plan and shifts us into a new dimension.” It is happening now.
Whatever the source or cause of this pandemic, God is doing something special. I challenge each church to seek new and creative ways to reach its community. God is giving us miracles of healing. He is leading us to many people we have never reached, people who have never heard of us before. He is stirring saints to new commitments. He is opening new doors. I have received many encouraging testimonies. One amazing report I can share only generally because of its confidential nature. Some of our ministers have recently had an unprecedented opportunity to minister online in secure facilities in multiple locations, and great revival has begun.
I believe we should claim the following promise that was originally given to ancient Israel:
But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. . . . Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:1–2, 19)
The Church and the Law
I originally posted the following information on social media. Because of requests, I am including it in this newsletter with minor revisions.
As a matter of US law, the government has the right to enact measures for health and safety. Thus, churches must follow building, fire, and health codes. The government sometimes shuts down meetings, including church services, that violate these safety regulations. It can’t discriminate against churches, and it must use the least restrictive means possible to accomplish its valid purpose. An ordinance of general applicability, based on professional medical advice for the safety of the community, is presumptively constitutional. Some jurisdictions have commendably treated churches with special respect, but they are still asking churches to cooperate voluntarily. They have both the law and public opinion on their side when they do.
We shouldn’t attack anyone if they try to have church, but that doesn’t mean their actions are legal, wise, or divinely ordained. We shouldn’t rejoice if they suffer consequences, but the burden of civil disobedience is to accept consequences. The burden of not following medical advice is either to have superior medical knowledge or ask God to intervene. However, it is one thing to trust God for oneself; it is another thing to take the responsibility for the entire community, including vulnerable people.
For those who believe they must have large gatherings in order to please God, I suggest that they think more creatively. While I endorse large crowds and buildings (having built a congregation of up to 1,000 and started a building of 100,000 square feet), we can’t say this method is biblically required. This method is highly effective, and over the long term we want to resume it. But in times of crisis such as war, pandemic, persecution, and natural disaster, we can use other methods, even as the apostolic church did in times of persecution. In doing so, we aren’t violating God’s Word, becoming cowards, or acting in unbelief. We are operating outside our modern, traditional, Western box.
Finally, we are right to be concerned about religious liberty. Some might want to use this situation for a future precedent to limit church activity, but we will fight against that idea if it surfaces, and we will have the Constitution on our side. Right now, we aren’t facing religious persecution in this situation, and we shouldn’t characterize it as such. If we do, and then we lose the argument, that itself could become a negative precedent. We must be vigilant to protect our freedom, but we must choose our battles wisely.
Payroll Protection Program (PPP)
I previously reported to our ministers about a US government program that can help businesses, churches, and self-employed individuals, if they can affirm that they have been harmed financially by the Covid-19 pandemic. For more information about the new SBA Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan, please visit the Delano Sherley and Associates website at dsacpainc.com to find information such as the CARES Act Summary, the PPP Loan Application, and a PPP Loan Calculator. (Delano Sherley is a UPCI member and a CPA.) Due to recent developments, some information provided may not be current. Please check back frequently, as new information will be posted as it is available. The following documents are also available for UPCI ministers at upciministers.com: PPP Overview, PPP Information Sheet, and PPP Application Form.
Each entity should determine if it needs or wants to participate in this type of federal program. If it has legal questions, it should contact an attorney. The SBA policy prohibits discrimination in employment practices based on race, color, national origin, sex, or age. (Sex has always meant male and female. Although the Obama Administration sought to redefine this term, the Trump Administration has abandoned this effort. Future court cases may address this issue.) Because of the First Amendment, employment law exempts ministerial positions and states that religious institutions can hire based on religious beliefs. On the PPP application the borrower must affirm: “I will comply, whenever applicable, with the civil rights and other limitations in this form.” This language allows for the religious exceptions. America’s Christian Credit Union, a partner of the UPCI Loan Fund, is offering loans under this program. The SBA has made the following statement:
All loans guaranteed by the SBA pursuant to the CARES Act will be made consistent with constitutional, statutory, and regulatory protections for religious liberty, including the First Amendment to the Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb-1 and bb-3, and SBA regulation at 13 C.F.R. 113.3-1h, which provides:
28 “Nothing in [SBA nondiscrimination regulations] shall apply to a religious corporation, association, educational institution or society with respect to the membership or the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution or society of its religious activities.” SBA intends to promptly issue additional guidance with regard to religious liberty protections under this program.
For further discussion of the entire CARES Act, including PPP, see the following article by Richard Hammar, JD, CPA:
Sincerely in Christ,
David K. Bernard
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