Our March 29, 2015, I called our church to start praying for rehoboth. I was preaching Genesis 26:1-33 where God gave Isaac rehoboth. Isaac had been a wandering nomad for many years, and finally God gave him land. Rehoboth is the Hebrew word for “broad place” or “room.” Up until that sermon, we as a church had been wandering nomads too. We had rented a warehouse, a Bible college chapel, a gym, and a high school cafeteria in the middle of a cornfield. So we prayed and prayed and prayed that God would give us rehoboth, our own “broad place” and “room” in which to worship. Four years later, God answered our prayers.
On June 23, 2019, Northside Baptist Church voted overwhelmingly to give us their assets. They gave us their building and their land, which is our current property at 1373 Lobsinger Line, in Woolwich Township, just north of Waterloo and just south of St. Jacobs. Four years after calling the church to pray for rehoboth, God gave us rehoboth. He answered our prayers. Those were times of great rejoicing.
We renovated the classroom wing, installed a new sound system and kitchen, and upgraded the gymnasium. It was a time of great joy, and we looked forward to serving our community and worshipping our Saviour in this facility.
Our first Sunday worshipping together at our new facility was the first Sunday after the first lockdown, June 14, 2020. In total we have spent about eleven months together in our facility. Given the very visible stand we have taken over the last several months for the crown rights of Jesus over His worship and His headship of His church, I believe that was God’s perfect timing. He gave us exactly what we needed to accomplish the task He had for us.
Today, a court granted the Province of Ontario the authority to take our facility, at least until next Saturday, with the option of trying to get it for longer by going to court once again this coming week. For some of those eleven months in our facility, we have met in contravention of provincial dictates. We have participated in what the public health people consider high risk behaviour, namely the millennia old tradition of gathering weekly to worship our Creator. Not one of our pastors has ever buried someone who has died of COVID. We have around 600,000 people who live in this region. There are 588 active cases of COVID in the region, with 32 people in the ICU with COVID. That’s enough to deem the public worship of Jesus Christ dangerous and enough for the Province of Ontario to kick us off our land and bar our doors shut. I’m not saying we’ll never bury someone who dies of COVID. I’m not saying COVID hasn’t brought harm. I’m only saying our experience doesn’t line up with the hysteria whipped up by government and media, nor do the numbers warrant turning control of the Bride of Christ over to the Premier of Ontario.
The purpose of this seizure is to prevent us from meeting as a church. They believe that we will continue meeting in our facility, no matter the fines or the public shame heaped on us. We are willing to pay any price necessary to worship our Saviour because He is worth it. He died for us, and we want Him to receive a reward for His suffering. Churches used to sing songs like Charles Wesley’s “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing” and mean it. We still do. But it’s now cost us our facility. That’s after policemen sat outside our lot in cruisers on Sunday to chase our people down and ticket them after the service for gathering to worship. That’s after each elder received a ticket this past week for opening the church. That’s after the church itself received a ticket this week. That’s after we were convicted of our second count of contempt of court today. That’s after we’ve now received so many dozens of charges I’ve actually lost track. Combined we are facing over $40 million in fines with jail time. That’s not enough, so they’ve taken our building.
They took our building because they think that will stop us from worshipping. For twenty years our church has worshipped together each Lord’s Day, and we’ve only met in our own building for eleven months. So the best part of our history we have not owned a building. We managed just fine to gather together without our own building, and now we don’t have our own building again. The early church met in the catacombs under Rome. The Covenanters met in fields. John Bunyan led his services in forests. Churches find ways to worship together, as surely as water flows downhill.
Our building was a gift to us from God. We used it for a season to take a big stand for Him by opening it to the public against provincial orders. Now we have it no more. During that season we could have complied with all the nonsense protocols. But if we had done that, we would have already conceded the facility to the Province. The Province would have essentially owned not only our building, but also our fellowship and also our worship. We did not let them own our building. We did not let them own our worship. We did not let them own our fellowship. So they stole our building, at least temporarily. We’ll keep our worship. And we’ll keep our fellowship. Many churches around these parts think they still own their buildings, but they already voluntarily handed their buildings and their people and their worship over to Caesar months ago. We just forced Caesar to come and take the building, but we’ve kept the church. Caesar can have the brick and mortar. We’ve kept the church for Jesus. He who seeks to preserve his church will lose it, but he who loses the church for Christ’s sake will keep it.
“…you joyfully accepted the plundering or your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” (Hebrews 10:34).
I honestly do count it pure joy. In all of this I’ve wanted to personally prove my love for Christ by holding nothing from Him and paying whatever price necessary to lead His people to give Him the worship He deserves. We proved today that we love the Giver more than His gift. He gifted us a building. And we honoured Him by using it to tangibly assert His supremacy over the church and give Him the worship He deserves. That cost us the gift, at least for a while. But nothing can repay the debt of love we owe to the One shed His blood for us, giving us the irrevocable gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).
We obviously have some legal troubles. Feel free to give to our church by clicking here, and if you’d like to select the legal fund. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms continues to represent us pro bono in the courts, and I encourage you to give to them by clicking here; you can select the “defending religious freedom” option if you like.