About Paul Schlehlein

Follower of Jesus, husband, father of seven, and missionary church-planter to the Tsongas in rural South Africa.

Covid and the Church: Nine Pastoral Conclusions

  1. Theologically, I believe diseases, plagues and epidemics are often the judgment of God upon those in rebellion against Him (Ex 7-11, Deut 28, Amos 4:10; Rm 1:27, Rev 18:8). Another judgment of God upon rebellious people is madness (Ecc 9:3), confusion (Ex. 14:24), foolishness (Jdg 7:22), fear (Lev 26:36), timidity (Pr 28:1), disarray (2Chr. 20:22), panic (1Sm. 14:15) and mental blindness (Dt. 28:28).
  2. Evangelistically, I believe our sinful world deserves this judgment and much more. Anything less than Sodom’s fall is a mercy. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can answer and heal and restore. Only Jesus gives lasting forgiveness, which he does to all those who fall before him in humble repentance (1Jn. 1:7).  

  3. Compassionately, I believe Christians should empathize with the hard work and courage of doctors, nurses and researchers as well as with those who have lost loved ones, businesses and savings accounts (Rom 12:15). 

  4. Prayerfully, I believe Christians should ask God to give great wisdom to government leaders around the world (1Tim 2:2). 

  5. Scientifically, I believe and agree with today’s science that coronaviruses are somewhat common and coexist with humans and animals worldwide, some of which result in the common cold. I also believe there is a vast difference between respecting the scientific process of determining truth and accepting the “science” of today’s majority position (Rm. 12:2). The former sees some benefit with facemasks and clean hands. The latter is often not science at all. 

  6. Politically, I believe government often answers crises with extensive alterations to a society that otherwise thoughtful people would not allow (1Sam 8:11). Socialism is alluring to fallen people and very alluring to a fearful fallen people.

    Thomas Sowell has said that all the ideological movements of intellectuals in the 20th century (such as eugenics, global warming, feminism, homosexuality or socialism) use the same game plan. They emphasize the same four things: (1) There’s a big problem most don’t know about, (2) Big action is needed to address it, (3) Government needs to do this, (4) Anyone who disagrees is careless, heartless and negligent. Because most Covid responses worldwide have followed this pattern, it ought to cause great concern to Christians.

  7. Economically, I believe the initial information about Covid was incomplete, causing wildly inaccurate predictions (e.g. half a million deaths in the UK). Instead of responding to Covid as a severe seasonal respiratory illness, global governments took ill-advised and exaggerated measures (Prov 18:13).

    The result has been societal destruction, business and school closures, millions on unemployment, and trillion dollar stimulus packages from bankrupt governments. This latter step cheapens currency, devalues savings, encourages taxation and repudiates debts.

    And yet, in spite of Covid, bad times to the economy have always come and will always come (Job 5:7). Nations like the United States, for example, have faced some form of recession every five years or so. The practical way Christians should respond to this financial downturn is frugal living and careful saving.

  8. Civilly, I believe we must obey the civil authorities over us (1Pt. 2:13-14). I also believe there are times when the government is right to close churches should there be genuine catastrophes like a great plague. Christians should gladly comply with reasonable measures to deter the spread. However, Christians also have the right to express their grievances about sins done by the magistrate (Ac. 16:37; 22:25) and should their consciences be pricked, they should obey God rather than men (Ac. 5:29).

    Moreover, the civil authorities in Paul’s day were different than in our day. Paul was a subject. We are voting citizens. Our government leaders are accountable to us. Paul’s government leaders were not. Presidents and governors are different than Caesars and tribunes. The doctrine of the lesser magistrate is crucial because the Constitution in many nations is a higher authority than governors and chiefs. Christians should take this into account when writing letters to government and considering civil disobedience. Pastors who speak out thoughtfully and biblically should be not be ashamed. They should be joyful to have such an unusual right and privilege.

  9. Pastorally, I believe great damage is done to members that are not able to meet (Heb 10:25). Since the curve has leveled out, past extreme and temporary measures are no longer needed. It’s time to relax the extreme isolation rules by allowing churches to re-gather. High-risk church members such as the elderly should be cautioned but given the freedom to make their own decisions. 

    The Covid matter requires calm, courageous analysis by pastors. Wise pastors see oncoming danger (Pr 22:3) and skillfully take dozens of details into account, such as location, calling, public opinion, the police, community viewpoint, church size, citizenship etc. For example, a missionary (on a visitor’s visa) that pastors (a small church) may be trying with all his might just to reach a culture very different than his. His practical pastoral steps in his congregation might be very different than a pastor in a big city, though their overarching conclusions are identical.

    Moreover, pastors should also remember there may be suitable alternatives to Christians meeting together in one place or sanctuary. Home churches and small groups were ubiquitous in the early church and still have great value today. The great Reformed pastor Richard Baxter was a churchman, but I bet his almost daily practice of visiting his flock would have prepared him well for Covid-19.

Virtual Communion?

Crises in the world and in the church have always forced believers to wrestle with new ethical dilemmas. These challenges have compelled God’s men to bring Scripture to bear on scenarios they had previously never considered. The Apostle Paul never addressed the finer points of homoousios in his letters, but Athanasius did. Athanasius never addressed Popish anathemas, but Luther did. And Luther never addressed transgenderism, but here we are today.

One question the Covid crisis brings to the church’s doorstep is the matter of communion in abstentia. What should happen to communion when God’s people can’t commune? Is virtual communion valid? As a missionary, I’ve wrestled with versions of this question before. Suppose your church gathers in the middle of Mozambique and only has access to porridge and orange Fanta. In a more familiar setting, what about a deacon that brings the bread and wine to an isolated mother in the cry room? Are these legitimate? Continue reading

S-P-R-E-A-D: A Family Worship Guide

“Our home doesn’t practice family devotions because we don’t have enough time.”

Well, God’s mighty hand has now given the whole world plenty of time. Corona will either expose this excuse as a lie or push Christian families into the godly habit of morning and evening Family Worship.

Start with one gathering a day. Assemble at a time when concentration is high. Aim for 15 minutes and see where it goes. Be sure all the readers in the family have access to a Bible. Get everyone involved.  Continue reading

Corona Cons

Covid-19 has exposed Prosperity preachers for what they really are: heretics not healers. They are Corona Cons.

They are proud and arrogant and tremble not before God (2Pt. 2:10). They are womanizers, thirsting insatiably for sin (2Pt. 2:14). In their greed and faulty view of suffering, they prey upon new converts (2Pt. 2:20). They hunt gullible women (2Tm. 3:6) — the King James calling these women “silly”. Is there a better word to describe TB Joshua’s message?

Void of blacks masks, they steal the truth. Free of firearms, they rape and pillage the Church. In broad daylight they expose God’s people with false words. Any rational person would think these so-called healing churches would not only stay open, but have 24-hour access. Forget trillion dollar government packages. Let’s use the money to ship the sick to Nigerian healing centers. Continue reading

One Reason the Corona Virus is Good

Though the Corona Virus has caused immeasurable pain and suffering, can it also be good? Does COVID-19 have a moral benefit? Yes. Trials are good because suffering always teaches us something about the nature of God, our sin, or the world. Thomas Brooks:

“The humble soul sees the rod in his Father’s hand; but also the honey on the top of every twig. He sees sugar at the bottom of the bitterest cup, and knows that God’s house of correction is a school of instruction.”

So if trials are a school of instruction and Corona is a trial, what is it that God wants to teach us? What is the light at the end of the Corona tunnel? What good comes from death, gutted retirement funds, and cancelled activities?

Scriptures gives us dozens of ways why suffering is good. Here is one example. Trials help us see God as sovereign over all things. Continue reading

What I Read in 2019

It is difficult to understate the value of reading books. As someone said, you need grist for your mill. The books are the grain, your mind is the mill, and your imagination bakes the bread. We need to eat the bread, so make sure it is fresh, and make sure there is plenty of honey butter.

So make sure you find the best books, turn off the TV, get up an hour earlier and read, read, read.

I’m thankful for my books. These are some of my best friends. Their truths keep me going.

My 2019 book reviews can be found here. If you want to skip ahead to just the five-star books, you can look here.

A fuller list of some of the books I read in 2019 and beyond can be found here. My Book of the Year was The Father of Faith Missions by Robert Dann. My Surprise Book of the Year was Passions of the Heart by John Street.

Review: Flags Out Front

Douglas Wilson, Canon Press, 2018, 2016 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Summary: a satirical novel mocking the worst of evangelicalism to show all things rest beneath Christ’s feet

This book brims with current and vital themes in the church: courage under fire; weaponized apologies; strong, chivalrous masculinity; talented, clever femininity; the leprous effects of spineless Christianity; vapid feminism; Islam and her fruit; theological liberalism.

Wilson packages all this in a funny little novel, sprinkles in some romance, rebukes us for our fear and urges us to fight! The Christian flag story is just a platform for Wilson to show that Christ should reign at home, at school, and in the public square.

Pros: Wilson picks the right people to be the heroes. Hollywood loves carrying Jezebel and Ahab away on their shoulders. Not Wilson. I want my sons to be like the college kid Trevor (tough, competitive, and engaged to be married) and my wife to stay like Maria (savvy, beautiful, manager extraordinaire). And I want to be like Dr. Tom: humble and courageous. Wilson knows who the good guys are. These are the ones we’re to imitate (1Cor. 11:1). Continue reading