Coronavirus restrictions are well down the list of problems the church needs to tackle.
I’m a great fan of Pastor Brian Houston and Hillsong Church.
For years I drove busloads of young people from Toowoomba to Sydney for Hillsong conferences.
One of the best things my wife and I did for our teenage children was make an annual family pilgrimage to be in the 20,000-strong crowds at the indoor arena at Olympic Park.
The worship of Jesus, the preaching from the Bible and the atmosphere of faith is extraordinary at these events.
So when Pastor Brian tweeted last week about the discriminatory coronavirus restrictions, he had my attention.
“It's time church leaders unite to take a stand,” he tweeted.
And he is right.
There were 40,000 people packed cheek-by-jowl into the Gabba on Saturday night for the AFL Grand Final and another 40,000 at the Olympic Park for the NRL last night.
Houston has a building which holds 4000 but he is only allowed to have 100 inside. Yet 300 are allowed indoors at weddings.
I was musing about this as I was wearing blue rubber gloves while cleaning seats with disinfectant wipes between Covid-limited services yesterday.
But something about pastor Brian’s tweet has bothered me and it has nothing to do with the crazy coronavirus rules.
I’ve rarely heard a Christian leader make a public call for unity.
Imagine what would happen if church leaders united. Full stop. Do we dare imagine John 17 or Psalm 133?
Imagine if they took a stand? Imagine if they took a united stand to address the problems and pain in their local communities. Together, regardless of brand.
Many churches, including the one I attend, do fantastic community work with the marginalised and disadvantaged.
And while there is some collaboration, most churches do their good works in silos.
Despite our best efforts we are scarcely touching the loneliness epidemic which has morphed into a suicide epidemic, according to an Ambulance officer friend of mine.
But when was the last time church leaders took a united stand for justice on issues that are seen as a bit tricky? Human rights for the unborn and proper support for their mothers don’t get a lot of air play outside the Catholic church.
In fairness there has been the odd occasion when joint letters to governments have been signed.
But Queensland recently passed horrific abortion-to-birth laws with no protections for women against male coercion of them and the church was virtually silent.
The church failed to mobilise during the debate to redefine marriage and now we are living with the consequences for freedom of speech and religion. The compulsory indoctrination of children into all manner of whacky gender fluid queer theory has only accelerated.
The Lord Mayor of Brisbane and his Council support gender fluid and adult entertainer drag queen role models reading to children in public libraries. Yet silence.
Despite some exceptions, silence has been the hallmark of the church for the past 50 years as law and culture has moved against the principles that are best for human flourishing.
Imagine if we united and took a public stand against pornography and for the dignity of women?
The church has become so spiritual we are of little earthly use.
Instead of bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth as Jesus asks us to do, we have been prepared to let God’s earth go to hell.
The truth has lacked public advocates and hearing just one powerful secular voice, the public like sheep without a shepherd have largely gone with the flow.
I saw first-hand the confusion of many Christians during the same-sex marriage debate. They had little or no formation in Christian social teaching.
Pastors were afraid to give it for fear of being labelled a bigot.
Even today, people ask me if we should engage in public debate.
My answer is always that if the issue affects the most vulnerable and voiceless, then we should. We should even engage in party politics. Love of neighbour should compel us.
Politics is war without the tanks and that’s how it should be – a battle for ideas. The church should be on the forefront of the political fight for women with unsupported pregnancies and for the lives of their children.
The church should be speaking the loudest in love to LGBTIQA+ political activists and gently but firmly telling them that they have no right to deliberately deprive a child of a mother so two men can form a family, and vice-versa.
The church, not just NSW politician Mark Latham, should be loudly proclaiming the science behind God’s creation of male and female in the face of teachers’ unions that are hell-bent on teaching little children they might have been born in the wrong body.
We are now at the point where speaking the truth puts us at risk of losing our jobs or of legal action. I know this from personal experience.
Yes, it is time for us to unite and take a stand.
And of course I want to see our churches again full of people worshiping Jesus and hearing God’s word.
The Covid rules are crazy.
But they are well down the list of problems a united church should be tackling.
Lyle Shelton’s new book, “I Kid You Not – Notes From 20 Years In The Trenches Of The Culture Wars” (Connor Court), can be purchased here for $35 (includes postage and handling).