Written by: Ashley Hewitt
Today, 26 March 2021, marks a full year since South Africa went into lockdown, which was originally only meant to last 21 days, in an effort to help curb the spread of the corona virus. Churches, entire industries and everyday South Africans agreed to take the steps necessary to protect the physical health and well-being of our citizens.
However, as time went by and restrictions began to change and ease off at different stages, concern arose over the lack of ease in the regulations that had been applied to the Church in particular. Now, one full year later, the Church is still limited to tight restrictions, with a maximum number of 100 people permitted to attend services. This, while many churches are well-equipped to welcome more people safely and responsibly – with numerous churches having the capacity to seat hundreds, or in some cases, thousands of congregants in any one service.
Scripture tells us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
In a time when South Africans from all walks of life have found themselves facing very challenging circumstances, following unprecedented job losses, health pressures and other concerns, shouldn’t the Church be the first place where people can go to worship God, pray, receive support and pursue a relationship with the one true living God? Suicide rates have increased over the past year and people are crying out for spiritual help and guidance, yet the very place where these crucial elements are freely available is being forced to operate under strict limitations, if at all.
Recently, the movement #openthechurches was launched, spearheaded by Pastor Nicky van der Westhuizen of New Beginnings Christian Family Church, and it is going viral!
“We must create awareness. That is what it’s all about. The Church must open. The Church is essential for us. We cannot go without the Church.” Pastor van der Westhuizen said.
While shopping malls, casinos, bars and cinemas are permitted to operate, the Church is being limited and labelled a “hot-spot” by officials.
“Church is a powerful institution, and the devil tries to shut down the church. But I am standing here, as a father of a movement to tell you we are not going to submit to the pressures coming from anti-Christ systems that tell us we’re not opening.” Pastor van der Westhuizen said.
MyFaith.TV, which has far-reaching impact in homes and churches throughout South Africa and beyond, is championing this movement and said in a recent statement, “In the midst of our fight for the safe and responsible re-opening of churches, we are especially looking forward to churches being opened in order that we as believers are able to fellowship and celebrate the life of Jesus together over Resurrection Sunday.”
Click anywhere on the red block below to see a short video by MyFaith.TV
In a meeting with South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, on 17 March, church leaders presented a document on behalf of all leaders from Pentecostal Charismatic and SACC Churches, who unanimously requested the safe re-opening of churches in South Africa, with attendance of 50% capacity of church buildings permitted for Easter and thereafter.
Pastor van der Westhuizen went on to say, “We fight for the Church to be opened. The Church is the place where the people get healed. The Church is the place where the people get restored and loved. The Church is not just a building, the Church is Jesus!”
The #openthechurches movement has quickly gained momentum, with the Body of Christ coming together to pray together and speak up for the Church to be opened. Many Pastors from around the country have spoken out in support of this movement.
In a moving message, Pastor Allan Bagg, Senior Pastor from The Bay Christian Family Church said, “We as the Church, we stand together, united, knowing that Jesus has called us together as the Church. We ask you, Mr. President, that you consider, with all your leaders around you, that just as other parts of society have been opened, and there’s legislation out there for 50% capacity, we as the Church, in the Name of Jesus ask that you consider opening our buildings to 50% capacity. As you do that, we commit from our side to be responsible. We will uphold the rule of the law. We will maintain our social distancing. We will keep our masks on. We will sanitize. But we want to meet, and it is right for us to meet. Constitutionally, we have a right to freedom of religion. Spiritually, we are called to gather, as Saints. We pray for you daily. We pray for you and for the leadership of this nation.”
God’s Words tells us, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17 Therefore, it is crucial that the Body of Christ be allowed to gather together to hear the Word of God to increase faith and pray for the country, especially during such turbulent times.
Mr President 🇿🇦 Pls open churches to 50% capacity. Not 100 limit. Not 250 limit but 50% of seating capacity. Example: Doesn’t make sense to put a 250 limit on a 3000 seater. Thank you. #openourchurchesPosted by The Bay Christian Family Church on Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Pastor At Boshoff, Senior Pastor at Christian Revival Church, stated, “It is when we come together as the Body of Christ that we have the authority to overcome every adversity we face! Not when we are in isolation! The Holy Spirit brings us together and makes us bold and fearless so that we don’t bow to the pressures of this world! When we come together we have the corporate anointing! The Church is the place where God mobilizes His people to alleviate suffering, uplift the poor and see the lost saved!”
We, as South African Christians, are called to join the movement and pray for the churches to be opened. Now, more than ever, the Church needs to be seen and heard, making a stand for the Word of God to be freely available to all who seek it. As the Church, we must gather together in fellowship to pray for one another and for our country, to submit to God and worship Him, and receive corporate anointing. Life’s biggest questions can only be answered in Church. It’s time to open the Churches!
Date published: 26/03/2021
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