God’s Glorious Church in Perilous Times
An Interview with Paul Mooney
Paul D. Mooney is one of the truly great preachers of the Apostolic movement, a much sought-after speaker throughout the U.S. and abroad, speaking hundreds of times each year at conferences, seminars, camps and other meetings. He has pastored Calvary Tabernacle for 32 years, is the president of both Indiana Bible College and Calvary Christian School. He has served as district superintendent of the Michigan and Indiana districts, as a member of the UPCI Foreign Mission’s Board, and currently serves as Assistant General Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church, International. He is also publisher of this magazine, the IBC Perspectives. The editorial board felt it was important to have his perspective on our current crisis.
Pastor Mooney, we are facing unprecedented times. What are your thoughts about what is happening?
This virus is very troubling. Most people, even older people who have been through things, have never seen anything like it. It in some ways it is even more devastating than war. I can’t speak for the organization, but throughout our fellowship ministers are talking and interacting with each other. Most all are cooperating with those in authority. That’s a good thing. Some have pushed back on authorities telling us we can’t have church. Personally, I think that’s dangerous. At first, I too had that attitude, but then realized it could cause someone to lose their life. So, I decided to cooperate. We have had a good relationship with our mayor and governor and don’t want to be viewed as rebel rousers. I felt that following their guidelines was the best way for us to go.
At the same time, we need to think about the spiritual implications of this and its impact upon the church. I don’t have all the answers. Some of our pastors and independents are pushing back, believing that the government has no right to shut down a worship service. But at this point, I don’t think the government is trying to infringe upon our freedom of worship. I think it’s exactly as it appears – they are trying to protect public safety. Those who are challenging government mandates need to weigh the pros and cons of their actions and carefully consider how this is viewed in their communities. This crisis is real. People are dying. It is severally impacting the elderly and those with compromised immune systems and respiratory problems. I would hate to be responsible for someone getting sick because I thought I needed to take a political stand. We transitioned Indiana Bible College to online instruction because it was just the wise thing to do. This is a medical problem. I believe strongly in God’s protection and healing, but we are having pastors and evangelists getting sick with this virus and some have died because of it. We must err on the side of caution for the sake of our saints and loved ones.
What effect is this virus having on the UPCI in general?
I want to be careful and not speak for the organization, but I think the greatest concern is for the health of our ministers and saints and the financial impact this will have in the long term. There will eventually be an end of this, and we have to think about what the future will look like. Just like the government is concerned about the economy, we are concerned about how this will impact churches, national programs, and missions. Missionaries have not been able to deputize and raise money. Tithes and offerings will be down. We will need to work together to minimize its impact upon our global mission and spiritual mandate.
What is the message you are trying to share with saints as we go through this crisis together?
First, we should all be watching, caring, and encouraging one another. Stay in touch, pray for and with people, especially those who are isolated and don’t have a large support group. But I personally think we need to be careful and maintain social distancing guidelines as best we can. It appears to be working to some degree and the sooner the critical numbers like infection rates, hospitalization, and deaths begin to drop, the better. But I also want to caution everyone not to gossip. Don’t think you have the solution to this crisis. Stay humble, prayerful, and supportive of your fellow Christians and family members. Together we will get through this.
I also want to caution people not to look at this as some kind of judgment from God. I remember my parents talking about the Spanish flu, polio and other illnesses that affected people. We lost people to these diseases back then, and we will likely lose people now. So, this is not a new thing. The church has weathered many natural disasters and we don’t normally see these as God’s judgment but as part of living in the natural world. In my opinion, we need to be careful trying turn this into a ‘God is punishing the world’ kind of thing.
The spiritual lesson I feel we should take from this is a divine wake-up call. God has allowed this to happen. We obviously don’t have immunity. God’s people are dying too. We tend to see ourselves as technologically advanced – we have computers and jets and the internet. We can pick up our cell phone and call anywhere in the world. So, we arrogantly see ourselves as being able to deal with any problem. But all it takes is a tiny virus to bring the entire world to its knees in just a few weeks. This crisis should humble us and help us see our dependency on God. We need to acknowledge our humanity. Even the Prime Minister of England got this thing. Despite all precautions and medical advancements, you too can get this virus. So, we have got to trust God and put our lives in His hands, putting our faith and confidence in His divine providence. We should be humbled by this experience. We should know that God is God and we are not.
What is Calvary doing as far as church services.
We have been having short services online on regular church nights. I also have done a few special broadcasts online to calm and reassure people. We have also started a weekly prayer meeting online. We were already doing this monthly, but we started doing it weekly and it’s been good.
In your opinion, has the government reacted properly, shutting down everything like it has?
I think they are befuddled and doing the best they can. They have no choice but to listen to the experts, and the experts are saying this could really get out of hand. But you can tell they really don’t know what to do. In spite of all their money, science and medical knowledge, they still don’t have a solution or easy fix. This is a force of nature, like a tornado. You can’t control these things. But they are trying to balance public safety with economic wisdom and it’s a hard line to walk. Just because nothing has happened to you or those close to you doesn’t mean that there are not others whose loved ones have gotten sick and even died. We need to stay humble and be very careful thinking we have better answers. After this is all over, perhaps we can look back and see how things might have been handled better. But right now, we must be cautious in our approach. Life is precious and when it’s your life, or your spouse, children or parents, you tend to be much more prudent.
Do you see this as having any implications on end-time prophecy or last day events?
Well, throughout history Christians have often looked at massive natural disasters as being associated with end-time events. Someday they are going to be right. There could be some aspect of that right now. But like a lot of people, I have been praying and I have not heard any Word from the Lord that this should be viewed in that light.
To what degree can this be something we can use to see souls saved or reach the lost?
I think with every person you meet you should look for an opportunity to witness. Obviously, this trial provides just such an opportunity. Folks are shook up, and people often come to God during a time of personal crisis. So, we should be sensitive and do all we can to help people. This is our Christian mandate. But we also need to admit our own human frailties and our need for help ourselves. However, people outside the church don’t have the same degree of peace and comfort that comes with trusting God. We need to be sensitive to how devastating this can be to the unsaved and look for opportunities to share a Christian witness and express our faith in God.
We must acknowledge that God works in mysterious ways. We can’t always figure out what He is doing. This is not a good time to be cavalier. We should be humble, praying, “God help us get though this.” I have gotten many phone calls from great Christians that are struggling with severe problems arising from this crisis. I think we could have revival out of this. Some backsliders will return to God, and hopefully we will come out of this with a closer walk with God. But we should admit we don’t have all the answers. This is a bigger event than most of us can grasp. We will be talking about this for years to come. I think we will look back and see that God was always in complete control.