My friend Phil Hopper is a pastor and joining me live in the studio as we talk about corporate gathering with a body of believers, and how we do that even if our city tells us we can’t. How do we obey our governing authorities when what they are governing is unbiblical or unconstitutional? The Lord has given us an opportunity to stand, and Phil will share how he has done that with his church in his community. We don’t have to sit back and stand down. Listen in!
Transcribed version of podcast is below.
Today’s Scripture Writing Challenge Verse
- Jeremiah 9:23-24
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Phil Hopper has been the lead pastor of Abundant Life Church in Lee’s Summit, Missouri since 2000. He watched God do extraordinary things in the life of the church as it has grown from 100 people to a church touching thousands of people each week. Prior to entering the ministry, he was a police officer and sergeant with the Kansas City Police Department where he served as a SWAT team member. It was through this experience that God uniquely prepared him for the ministry. Phil lives in the Lee’s Summit area with his wife, Christa. They have three adult children – Jake, Makay and Josh.
Hey everybody. This is Heidi St. John. Thanks for joining me today. It is Friday, 3rd of July. You guys, one more day to Independence Day, although it doesn’t feel like it right now, does it? This is episode number 950. Welcome to the Heidi St. John Podcast. Today’s Meet My Friend Friday, and I always like to have people who are thought leaders in the Christian community and people who have demonstrated an ability to see things through the lens of discernment in light of the gospel. And today is no exception.
My friend, pastor Phil Hopper is back on the show with me today, but he’s actually here in the studio. So he braved getting on an airplane with his wife, Christa, and they’re here at the Firmly Planted Homeschool Resource Center in Vancouver. And we’re going to commit today a little bit about Romans 13 in light of what’s happening around us and what should the response of the church be? This is going to be a great conversation. Stick around, I think you’re going to be encouraged.
So a lots going on today. First of all, I have kind of a sad announcement to make. I received a phone call yesterday morning and looks like the rest of my speaking season has been canceled. Teach Them Diligently has canceled the rest of their events. We got one more hanging on and I will keep you guys posted. The Florida Parent Educators Association, which has had a fantastic event for many, many years. You guys need to pray for them. They’re hanging on by a thread right now, and I’m still planning on flying to Orlando for that event.
And in the meantime, I guess I would just ask you guys to continue to keep these Christian conferences in your prayers. I’m not going to sugar coat it for you guys. Listen to me, you know how I feel about this and it’s a very sad time for people who speak for a living, for vendors whose incomes depend on these conferences. And I’m pretty sure CHAP was just canceled too a couple of days ago. I was going to be speaking there in Pennsylvania, that has now been canceled as well. And so I’m going to ask you guys to kind of keep praying for these individuals, especially the people who are trying to bring these events to you. I know they’re very discouraged right now and we need to pray for each other.
We were called to pray for each other. My event Faith That Speaks is still on for Indiana and will be just outside of Indianapolis. Registration for that is going to open on Monday. And so I know a lot of you’ve been talking about coming to see me there. We are planning to be there and that is happening just outside of Indianapolis on September 11th and 12th. So be praying about that. Faith That Speaks Oregon will be happening on the 25th and the 26th of September. So those two events are still on the calendar and I will keep you posted if anything changes.
All right. I’m pretty excited today because you guys know this, right? So I love Abundant Life Church in Lee’s Summit and I kind of wished I lived there actually right now. Some people actually live in Washington, so stop complaining. All right. So we have been talking for a long time here at the podcast about the need to put our faith into action. What does it look like to live a godly life when you are surrounded really by persecution in many cases and unrest, which is certainly what we’re facing in the church right now and around the country?
And I’ve been watching what’s been happening at Abundant Life Church and you guys have heard pastor Phil here on the show with me before. He’s the author of two books, Defeating the Enemy and Weapons of Our Warfare of which I was really, really pleased to be able to write the foreword for. Phil and his wife Christa live in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. They have three grown children and these guys are warriors for the Lord and I’m so happy to have him here in the studio with me. Phil, welcome to the show.
[Phil] Always exciting and honored to be with you, Heidi. So thankful for your voice in America today. Real exciting to be here at the Firmly Planted Studios for the first time. First time in the Pacific Northwest. So it’s just awesome. Thank you for the invitation.
[Heidi] Yeah. You got the rain.
[Heidi] The rain and the Rona.
[Phil] Well, it’s 92 degrees back home. The sun is out, but it’s also 92 degrees humidity. So you just choose your cross in life I guess.
[Heidi] That’s right. It’s funny because we’re here and we rarely get humidity here ever. Even when it’s hot, we just don’t have humidity. So when we do get it, it literally makes the news and people cry and whine and complain and I’m like, “Y’all, don’t know what you’re talking about. You need to go to Kansas City.: If you really want to understand humidity, get out of the car and your glasses fog up and you can’t see, and that’s kind of the deal, right?
[Phil] We got it. Somebody wants it and doesn’t have it. We got some to share.
[Heidi] We’re going to be cruising around. You are on the board, you and Steve Lambert and Jane of Firmly Planted Family, which is the nonprofit that oversees the ministry here. And you’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest.
[Heidi] So we’re having a little board meeting in the San Juans.
[Phil] I’ve always heard about them. Never seen them.
[Heidi] It’s going to be good.
[Phil] Can’t wait.
[Heidi] It’s going to be really good. I want to jump into talking about some things that are happening in the culture today. You and I have had conversations about this back and forth, just not on the air. And one of the questions we get frequently here at the show is how do Christians respond to what’s happening in light of Romans 13 and how do pastors respond? We’re going to take the show and do two days of it because I have so many questions I want to ask you. And I so appreciate your voice in the culture right now, because you are a full-time pastor. You’re the Senior Pastor of Abundant Life Church.
Just on fire, awesome community of believers, just outside of Kansas City, Missouri. And I know that you guys have faced this directly. So I like to start there. Your church actually sued, right? For the right to open. So can you talk to us about that? Because my plea for pastors for about the last two months is open your churches, open your churches. And I’d love to just hear what’s happening there in Lee’s Summit.
[Phil] Yeah. Well, I can have a lot of grace and compassion for pastors all over the country because we’re all leading through something we have never been through before. There’s so many factors to consider from what is best for your body of believers you shepherd to— how do you maintain a really godly reputation in your city? How do you navigate the legislation and the laws that are flying that we’ve never seen before from mandating mass and public and limiting occupancy? All these kinds of things.
So I said from the very beginning as a church body, as Christians, we have a biblical mandate to follow and obey our governing authorities. It’s very, very clear in Romans chapter 13. One of the three institutions of God for the good order of society is human government. God teaches that. Clearly you have marriage and family as the first institution, you have the church as the second institution, and then the third institution, God has given society for its peace and prosperity is human government.
So Romans 13 really outlines that in the New Testament. Peter said in 1 Peter 2:13, “To obey every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” In other words, for the sake of God’s reputation that we carry for his name, for his fame, we are as Christians mandated to obey our human authorities, our civil authorities when we can. So I told our church at the time, biblically we are going to close the doors of the church building. The church itself never closes.
[Heidi] That’s right.
[Phil] Because it’s not a building. So the church hadn’t closed, the ministry goes forward, the ministry goes on. In this age of technology, we can meet online. We can meet at home and church at home has been a big win for our church. And so we did everything we could to work with our government locally, not against our government locally, right? But when they began to reopen the city and the community, as it related to businesses, we were waiting again to reopen with them, not against them.
And when they finally came out with the guidelines, they were allowing restaurants and bars to reopen with limited occupancy, but they were not allowing churches to reopen at all. And so I was shocked. We were all stunned by that. I mean, this is just common sense. Anybody with even a basic fundamental understanding of the way our society is governed from its very inception and clearly see, this is whether they meant to or not, whether it’s malicious or not intentionally or, it’s clearly discriminatory that the activity in a building does not make it any less safe.
So if it is safe enough for friends to gather at a bar and go drinking together, it is safe enough for friends to gather at a church building and go worshiping together. And so that is when we decided for the sake of the church and our county, not just our church and some could argue the best thing for our church would have been to do nothing. We were doing just fine already. But for the sake of the church at large, we were going to file a lawsuit and we did.
And the lawsuit was filed because it is simply discriminatory to allow a restaurant or a bar to reopen with limited occupancy and not allow churches to reopen at all. And so I don’t regret it. It was the right decision, though one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made as a church and as a pastoral and leadership team in 20 years. Because we knew what would happen when we did. And the bullets immediately started flying. And the animosity that hatred from those in our community, obviously that disagreed. I knew it would be very controversial even within the church.
It was controversial, though the church community at large was very supportive. I heard from so many pastors around their county that I didn’t even know were there, smaller churches. Well, a lot of people don’t realize that while our church has the resources to have a really, really, really strong online presence. There are dozens of smaller churches that don’t have an online presence that are really, really suffering when they can’t meet, and it is simply unconstitutional.
And so Heidi people say, “Well, how does that correspond to these passages like Romans 13 or 1 Peter 2:13 where we are told to obey our governing authorities?” Well, again, you go to scripture and I think there are principles of scripture that apply to everything in life. And you can’t take every context that Paul and the Apostles navigated 2000 years ago and apply it perfectly 2000 years later to the context of our culture. We’re living in times they could not have fathomed or imagined. It’s just a different age we live completely.
But while Peter said in 1 Peter 2:13, “Obey every ordinance of man.” It was that very same Apostle Peter in Acts 5:29 that said, “We ought to make God rather than men.” So people would say, “Well, those are competing concepts, aren’t they?” No. They’re not competing, they’re completing. When you see those places in Scripture that appear to compete with each other or they’re contrary to each other, they’re not competing against each other. They’re completing each other. Peter is completing these thoughts.
And what he’s teaching us is that when we can obey every ordinance of man, we should. But when the ordinance of man begins to go against the ordinance of God, the command of God, then God wins. God is our ultimate governing authority. So I told our church, as we announced the lawsuit, there was a time for civil disobedience. This is not the time. We have legal channels to take. We don’t have to meet illegally. And we have been given legal channels to take. We have a legal document called the US Constitution. We have a state document…
[Heidi] Which is the law of the land.
[Phil] It is the law of the land.
[Heidi] I think people need to understand that the constitution is the law of the land.
[Phil] It still is and I explained in the same way the Apostle Paul, what made him unique among the Apostles as he was a Roman citizen. And he had rights as a Roman citizen, the other Apostles did not have. So at one point, he appealed to one of his rights as a Roman citizen when he appealed to Caesar. As a church, as Christians, we’re Christians first, American second, but we are American citizens. We are kingdom citizens, first and foremost, citizens of heaven, but we are American citizens. What that means is like Paul appealed to his rights as a Roman, there comes a time to appeal to your rights as an American.
And we’re going to appeal to our rights under the first amendment to begin gathering free from government discrimination. Now we weren’t asking to gather free from any restraints, any guidelines. We were simply asking to be treated equally with other businesses, restaurants, bars, et cetera. So we reopened using the same guidelines, which was a very limited occupancy, but it did allow us to begin to reenter and meet on site again for those that were ready. A lot of people weren’t.
I told our church go at your own pace. You’re not ready to come back, don’t come back yet. Keep worshiping online. And people are going to come back and start worshiping onsite gradually at their own level I think of caution. But for those that want to come back, they ought to be free to come back and worship and assemble as we have been guaranteed under the first amendment. So we did that I think the second Sunday of May was our first Sunday back onsite after two months of meeting strictly online.
[Heidi] It’s interesting to me to note the conversations that are happening in the church right now, because many of the churches and I’ve talked about this too, here at the podcast. Here in our area, most of them are not open. And it’s not that they can’t open, it’s that they don’t want to open it. They feel there’s too many restrictions. It’s too hard. It’s easier really to just be online right now. And I’ve heard from pastors who are telling me that their insurance, they’re worried about insurance waivers. They’re worried about what happens if we open in someone says, “I got COVID-19 of the church.” I think it’s interesting.
I did a quick internet search and if you just type in church and COVID-19, you’ll see that there are headlines all over the country in almost every newspaper talking about how the Rona spreads more quickly in churches. So if you sing in the church, then you’re going to spread the Rona. I feel like and I’d love to hear your take on this, but I feel like clearly the church has been targeted. It’s become the source of contempt. We’re seeing contempt from government officials. We’re seeing contempt from people who don’t believe in the message or the mission of the church to try to shame the church into not opening. And sadly, I think it’s effective. It’s being effective.
And I have argued that while I’m grateful for our ability to gather online and you’re right, the church is definitely not a building. But I do not believe that an online community will be nearly as effective as coming together where we’re called to come together to stir each other up to love and good works. We do that by meeting in-person and this fear that has shrouded our nation, particularly our churches right now. To me, I see fear.
Just yesterday, there’s an article out of Springfield that says, is it Taney County? Confirms 11 new COVID cases, including an unmasked church. And I thought, “Why? Why do they have to say we have 11 new cases? Oh, and by the way, there was a church who didn’t wear a mask.” You see what I’m saying? And so all of these pastors who are telling me, “Well, we’re doing this for the safety of our people and for unity in our church.” I guess I would challenge that. I’d love to hear your perspective as a pastor, because I challenge that by saying, “Listen, the suicide rate is skyrocketing.”
Jesus did not avoid the lepers. He hung out with people who were sick. He laid hands on the sick. He healed them. We have the power in Jesus name to bring healing and hope. And the large part of how we do that is by gathering in-person saying, “I’m going to love on you and pray for you.” If someone wants to come to your church and be prayed for and be prayed over, isn’t this a time that we should be opening our doors and demonstrating that we trust in the Lord of heaven’s armies? He is the one that we trust. And so what do you say to that?
[Phil] Well, there is a spirit of fear over our nation, really over the world. When you look at a 2 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a power and love and a sound mind.” Outward spirit is not allegorical. It implies a demonic spirit. There’s a spirit of fear. And while COVID-19 is, it is a deadly disease, the data does not support the level of panic in my opinion that we are seeing. And I think courageous leadership is needed now more than ever, fearless leadership of willing to do difficult things and make hard decisions.
And our churches need to see that we are fighting for them. The members of our church need to see that we’re fighting for them, that we’re not going to hunker down, put the electric blanket over our head and just wait for Jesus to come back. And so I have a lot of grace, Heidi, as a pastor for pastors. I love my brother pastors. I have a lot of grace for each of them. I know what they’re going through. The most difficult times of church leadership in generations is upon us. We’re navigating waters we’ve never been through.
I know that it differs from place to place. Context is not the same in my community, as it may be in another community a thousand miles away. And so I’m not passing judgment on pastors at all, but I would say that it is time and we are desperate for courageous men in the pulpits, courageous men that are going to lead from off the platform. And that if the church will not stand up for itself, who’s going to?
[Heidi] That’s right.
[Phil] Who’s going to come to our rescue? Nobody’s going to come to our rescue. If we will not stand for the first amendment, if we will not stand for religious liberty, who’s going to? Somebody has to. And I understand what’s at stake. I never wanted to be the church in town to sue Jackson County. I want to be the church in town, listen, our mission statement is to be living proof of a loving God to a watching world. We have broke our back for 20 years to serve our city. We have sacrificed, sweated, served our city.
We give away a million pounds of groceries a year through our food pantry. We just sent over a thousand people last Saturday into our community, serving our city with 60 different serving projects, 30 different not-for-profits. We have done everything we know to do in 20 years to prove the love of God and put it on display in a tangible way. The reputation I wanted for Abundant Life, “Oh, that’s the church with that amazing food pantry. Look at how they love people.”
I understand no pastor wants to be known as the church that sued their city or sued their county. But in the end, we are setting precedents moving forward that will last generations. This is not going to be the last virus. This is probably..
[Heidi] And it’s not the first. Surprise.
[Phil] And it probably will not be the last stay-at-home order. So we felt like we needed to make a statement upfront early on. There’s a lot of people that don’t know case law, the longer you wait, the less case you have. You wait six months later, “Well, why didn’t you say something if it was so important? Why didn’t you say this when this started?” So we decided it’s worth…
[Heidi] They don’t understand they’re losing ground.
[Phil] They’re losing the ground.
[Heidi] Every day that passes. Yeah.
[Phil] That ground is being taken from us. Now we need to do and I told her church, we need to do this in a way that says living proof of a loving God to a watching world. We’re not asking to go back to everything like it’s normal. It’s not normal. Our community needs to see us trying to take measures and safeguards to keep everybody safe. Our community needs to see that we’re taking the CDC guidelines. We’re doing social distancing.
[Heidi] Although interesting, the CDC and the WHO don’t necessarily agree with each other. I mean, this is part of the problem, right? We’re getting conflicting messages.
[Phil] That’s part of the problem.
[Heidi] So who do you…
[Phil] Who do you listen to?
[Heidi] Who do you listen to? And what you were saying a few minutes ago about the spirit of fear. I keep saying here on the podcast, look, we know that that fear is not from the Lord. God did not give us a spirit of fear. Where is all this confusion coming from? God is not the author of confusion and yet, what do we see coming out of the CDC and even conflicting messages from the White House and the Coronavirus Task Force? I know Mike Pence came out today and he said, “Nevermind, we want you to wear face masks.” Well, this is a new development.
That wasn’t the case before and now that we’re way into this thing, right? And so all of a sudden, the lockdowns are getting worse. The mandates are broadening, strengthening really across the country. And so that’s part of the problem. I think we’re looking at all of this confusion, which we know isn’t from the Lord. And we’re saying, as Christians, “We need more than ever discernment. We need to be a voice of reason and a voice of wisdom in the culture.” The Bible says, “Wisdom comes from God.” It’s not going to come from men.
So, how do you respond to all of the competing ideas, the competing voices? Anyone who listens to me or follows me online knows I don’t believe that masks work. I think if they did work the CDC would be like, “Here’s your mask. It has to look just like this. It has to fit.” They don’t care what you wear in the grocery store so as long as you have something on your face, which tells me not about safety, it’s about compliance. That’s very disturbing to me. It’s very, very troubling. And so, when a Christian says, “Well, you’re not being a very good witness if you don’t want to wear a mask,” there’s lots of reasons why God fearing people are saying, “No, this is a freedom issue.” And we have freedom that’s been given to us by God. The government does not give you freedom. The Bible says, “Where the spirit of the Lord is there’s freedom too.” And so, with all of these competing ideas, I want to get your thoughts on the issue of do good Christians wear a mask?
Does it make you a bad Christian? If you say, “No, I don’t want to do this.” You know, you guys just flew here. You handled it better than I did. I flew from Portland to Washington D.C., so for six hours I had a mask on my face, actually that’s not entirely true, Lord forgive me, I had it around my chin most of the time, but it bothered me. It’s like an oppression, like a spirit that’s attached to it. The fear, I mean, could you feel it on the plane when you came here, a quietness? It’s very weird. I fly all the time. The airlines are on their head right now.
[Heidi] It’s very, very weird. So I’d love to get your thoughts on that and then I’m going to ask you about Hebrews 10:25.
[Phil] Sure. Okay. Just back to the confusion, the chaos. Look, the WHO says three feet.
[Heidi] Yeah, yeah.
[Phil] The CDC says six feet.
[Heidi] Which is a military standard, by the way. Interesting.
[Phil] The WHO says, “Masks aren’t that effective.” The CDC says, “Oh, you’ve got to wear them.” The WHO says, “Asymptomatic spread of COVID19 is very, very rare.” The CDC says, “Oh, asymptomatic carriers are spreading. You don’t know you have it until it’s too late.” So who do you believe? Well, it tells me that this whole thing has been politicized, it’s been weaponized. There is a motive behind what we’re hearing we don’t fully know yet, we don’t fully understand, but as I wrote in my book, Weapons of Our Warfare and Defeating the Enemy, there’s always more going on than meets the eye. There are spiritual powers pulling the strings behind the scenes. That’s what we have to remember. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, powers, rulers of darkness of this age, spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. Remember, we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. The real issue is not COVID-19. The real issue is not even our governing leaders who themselves seem to be the blind leading the blind sometimes. The real issue is there are two kingdoms colliding.
[Heidi] Yes. Come on.
[Phil] There is light and darkness in opposition one to another.
[Heidi] That’s right.
[Phil] And allegiances in the days ahead will be defined. The lines are being drawn. The age of cultural Christianity is over in America.
[Phil] We are not mainstream. We don’t have home field advantage anymore.
[Phil] Jesus taught the Parable of the Wheat in the Tares, and I think theologically speaking, the context is the kingdom age at the end of mono kingdom. But the wheat in the tares very much applies in a devotional sense today. In other words, you’re going to have to determine, are you really a Christian and are you going to stand with Jesus or will you cave into the world?
[Phil] It used to be easy to say I’m a Christian and have one foot in the world.
[Phil] Those days are behind us. Allegiances are going to be defined in the days ahead. And when it comes to the mask issue, I do think it’s a freedom issue, Heidi. It is a freedom issue and I would look at it biblically even within the body of Christ as a liberty issue.
[Phil] The big debate in Corinth was, should believers eat meat sacrificed to idols? And Paul was very clear. “You’re not wrong if you do. You’re not wrong if you don’t.” It’s a conscience issue before God.
[Heidi] That’s right.
[Phil] Your conscience before God has to be your guide. If you feel that you can’t be a good Godly witness without a mask on, then wear a mask. But don’t judge those who don’t.
[Heidi] That’s right.
[Phil] My own dad is 80 years old. He’s in the high risk category. When he leaves the house, he wears a mask. I don’t fault him for that. I might feel differently about if I were 80. Personally, I’ve worn a mass exactly twice since this whole thing began.
[Heidi] Once on the plane coming to see me.
[Phil] Once was on the plane coming to see you, and I had to.
[Phil] And so in my mind, “This is worth the cost.” Once was at the Apple store because I really needed something really, really, really bad.
[Heidi] You really, really got to go, yeah.
[Phil] Exactly. So I think it’s a liberty issue, both constitutionally it’s a freedom issue, but biblically where one’s conscience before God should be your guide. I personally don’t think I’m being a bad Christian witness if I don’t wear a mask in public. My conscience is clean before God. But if another believers is, then they should wear a mask. And in the end, I think in the body of Christ, look, the world is divided already so as the body of Christ, let’s try not to divide over things we absolutely don’t have to. But Heidi, you’re living in a different part of the country than a lot of us are living.
[Heidi] Lucky me.
[Phil] Politically speaking. It’s a different climate here altogether.
[Heidi] Yeah. We were talking about this last night. It is definitely, what starts on the East Coast and the West Coast absolutely seeps into the Heartland, and we’re seeing that. You’re seeing it now.
[Phil] It’s coming. It’s everywhere. So Kansas City, Missouri [inaudible 00:05:57] Summit in Blue Springs where we have both of our campuses at Abundant Life are suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri.
[Phil] And the suburbs usually follow the Kansas City proper, and so effective today, if you’re in public in Kansas City, Missouri, you have to wear a mask. That’s the first time.
[Phil] And that’s coming probably to an area near everybody.
[Heidi] We’re up to where we choose again, and here they mandated it last week. I mean, they’ve taken things that we normally enjoy like going to the grocery store and they’ve made it just a tyranny to go. I don’t even like to go anymore. I don’t like to go to the grocery store. I don’t feel good about wearing a mask. I don’t think it’s good for me. I don’t think it’s good for my kids, for lots of reasons. But then you go and if you don’t do it, you feel like people are looking at you. Definitely, there’s a spirit attached to this whole thing, and it really is I think time for us to be discerning and to say, “Lord, open our eyes to what’s actually happening.” For somebody like me watching our freedoms, and I travel around this great nation and have for many, many years, I love this country, I love that we were founded on freedom, we came here so that we could worship the Lord, we came here for freedom and we’re watching our freedom being taken from us.
And that should concern every American that’s listening to this. Over the years on the show, we’ve had Constitutional attorneys trying to explain to audiences, “Listen, you’ve got to understand the founding of this country and you’ve got to understand the Constitution.” And so many of our young people don’t understand it anymore and our Christians don’t understand it, and frankly, we don’t even understand the role of the church.
[Heidi] And I do think that the lines are being drawn. Your wife and I, Christa and I, were talking about this on the way to the studio today, was just the fact that you’re absolutely right, we’re no longer going to be able to hang out in the middle. You’re going to have to choose, and that’s a tough place to be. And so I want to end today, there’s two more questions I want to ask you and we’ll do it for the Monday’s podcast, but I wanted to just end by talking about Hebrews 10:25. So I spoke to pastors in a very, very strong voice a couple of weeks ago and I said, “Listen, the Bible instructs us clearly not to stop meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing but he says we should encourage each other all the more as we see the day approaching.” I do not know a Christian alive, at least not one who’s walking with the Lord who believes that we’re not living in the end times.
[Heidi] Almost every believer that I talk to says, “Yes, these are the last days. We are definitely in the last days.” This is something I want to talk to you about on Monday cause this is something you’re very well versed in.
[Phil] You bet.
[Heidi] And I think it’s interesting that in this passage Paul says, “Especially now, as you see the day of the Lord approaching, it is especially now important that you meet together because the Lord’s coming back and we need to be together.” What do you do with a passage like Hebrews 10:25 in light of what’s happening right now?
[Phil] We are never more vulnerable to the adversary than when we’re living in isolation.
[Heidi] Thank you. That’s exactly right.
[Phil] We are easy prey for the enemy when we are not active in biblical community. So this is a time, if you look behind the scenes at who’s pulling the string, Satan would love to isolate believers from the larger body of Christ. Now, people can argue, “Well, we can still gather outside that corporate gathering on Sunday,” and we were, we have been, and we will continue to. As a church at Abundant Life, we have over 3000 people in small groups, for example. They’re in biblical community, that smaller gathering. But this is what I know, throughout 2000 years of church history, even in times of intense persecution during the Roman era and even after that, during the Muslim invasion of the Holy Land, believers never gave up gathering corporately.
[Phil] You can go to Rome today and you can tour the catacombs underneath the city and you can find evidence, even when it was illegal for Christians to gather that they were gathering corporately for worship. Even when they couldn’t put a sign on a building that said church on it, they were still gathering corporately. That is how much it meant to them historically.
[Phil] If you go on the Holy Land Tour with us, Heidi, we will go to a place that’s Roman rock quarries in huge, huge quarried caves, and in one of those caves we will go, you’ll see crosses etched.
[Phil] Because those caves became a secret place for assembly where 600 followers of Jesus were all martyred at the same time in the seventh century by Muslims who found out they were meeting their corporately when it was illegal and they were meeting even knowing it could cost them their life. And I’m amazed how Christians today will so quickly abandon that corporate gathering as if it means nothing when other Christians have literally died historically for the chance to meet together.
[Heidi] It’s happening right now in China.
[Phil] It’s happening right now. The fastest growing church in the world is in Iran.
[Phil] Hey, if there’s an upside to what we’re seeing, anywhere historically the church has died is because Christians were left alive. In 2000 years of church history where Christians were persecuted and personally died, the church has thrived. And so the upside I’m convinced is that the church that is left in the days ahead, when this is over, the true church of which statistically 80% of American churches aren’t churches at all …
[Heidi] That’s right.
[Phil] … they’ve abandoned the basic tenants of the Christian faith, they don’t believe in biblical inerrancy, biblical authority, they don’t believe in Christ’s atonement of Calvary, they don’t believe in Christ’s sovereignty. I mean, there are a lot of churches today that are churches in name only. But I’m talking about the true church that is left, this could be the greatest hour in American history, in Western civilization, for the bride of Christ to arise and shine like never before. And that’s how we have to look at this right now. Listen, my heart is heavy. I know your heart is heavy. I know that many, many followers of Jesus that love this nation and most of all of the true and living God, listen, our hearts are broken for what we see happening in the erosion of a nation.
And the walls are falling and the foundation is crumbling. I mean, we have this sense the tide is turning and it may never go back. But be encouraged in this, that this could be the greatest moment ever for the true follower of Jesus, the end times army of sold out, spirit filled followers of Jesus Christ. There is a rising taking place right now.
[Heidi] Amen. And we’re going home.
[Heidi] We’re going home.
[Heidi] I mean, this world is not our home one day soon, right? We’re just passing through.
[Phil] One day soon.
[Heidi] We’re just passing through.
[Heidi] Phil Hopper, I so appreciate you coming on the show with me. I know it’s encouraging. One of the things I love about you so much is you’re not afraid to talk about what’s going on. I think that honesty is so important. We were talking about this last night. You guys are so gracious to sit up and talk to us for a little while after you’ve flown across the country and it’s so late. But just acknowledging that there is a sadness right now, the church is feeling it, I’m feeling it, you feel it, but to say we know that this world is not our home and we got something to look forward to.
[Phil] Amen we do.
[Heidi] We’ve got heaven to look forward to, and this is our opportunity to choose and the Lord’s given us an opportunity to stand like never before. And you have studied the end times and that’s what I’d really love to talk to you about on Monday. So would you come back and we’ll do this again?
[Phil] Let’s do it. Would love to.
[Heidi] All right. For more information, you guys, on Pastor Phil Hopper and his ministry, you can visit Abundant Life Church. I will link back to him in the show notes today. And also, Phil’s got his own pretty fun little blogs. So you can go there too. Phil, what’s your blog address? Where can people find you online?
[Phil] They can find me at philhopper.org or they can find me on Facebook as well.
[Heidi] Find you on Facebook. And really go to his blog because I think that Christian voices are going to be silenced on Facebook pretty soon. I’ve got pretty ample evidence now to say that. So definitely find him on Facebook, but you’re going to want to find him online and follow the Ministry of Abundant Life Church as well. So I will link back to all those things in the show notes today. Thank you guys for listening. Listen, the spirit of the living God is still at work. God is on his throne. This is not taking the Lord of Heaven’s armies by surprise. He’s not sitting up in heaven going, “Golly, I did not see that coming.” The Lord knew this was happening and you were born for such a time as this. So stay faithful, everybody. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you back here on Monday.