LIVE with Pastor Mike McClure—Part 1
LIVE with Pastor Mike McClure—Part 1

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LIVE with Pastor Mike McClure—Part 1

Compiled by Sherri Spencer

This is Part 1 of a live interview on July 30 with Mike McClure, who has been senior pastor of Calvary Christian Fellowship, a Calvary Chapel affiliate in San Jose, CA, since 2003. Mike and his wife, Brenda, have seven children. In Part 1, Mike discusses with Calvary Chapel Magazine Editor Tom Price about his fellowship’s decision to open for indoor services despite opposition from local authorities. He also shares why churches, and the Gospel, are so essential during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Part 2 of this interview will follow tomorrow.

Tom: From the beginning of COVID-19—not knowing how serious it was or how long it would last—how did the shutdown impact your fellowship?

Mike: It's been frustrating for every pastor I know. In the beginning, the U.S. President [closed] the country down for two weeks; then he did it for another two weeks, and then the governors took over. The frustrating thing is that you have people in your church that are sick, not necessarily with COVID-19. We had some people that had COVID-19, but they have recovered. I don't know anyone personally that died of it, but we've had other issues. You can’t go to the hospitals or visit people, and all the rules that are going on are just frustrating. Of course, the liquor stores are open, Planned Parenthood is open, but churches can't be open because they are considered “nonessential.”

Tom: God has used this pandemic to increase the visibility of the churches. Some that were not online before had to learn the hard way through this. But God has prepared us. Did you have to make any changes?

Mike: We invested in fixing a lot of our streaming [equipment]. We went to YouTube Live and then started doing some other things. I've talked to a number of pastors that are doing that and it's been good, but I [learned] one thing from different pastors that have researched the number of [their] Zoom followers. One pastor said he had 1,000 followers; when he researched it, [he found] they were actually in the Ukraine, not going to come to his church.

I have heard from a lot of pastors saying, “I’m giving up. I have more people following me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and I don't know if we want to open.” I think the danger is when you open, you may not have anybody in your church. That’s the one thing that we should be afraid of. If you do open, especially in California and in the county we're in, the danger is going to jail, [facing] fines and all the rest, but I think it's gone too far. The misinformation is so vast that you really can't keep up with it.

Tom: You mentioned the other day that people are literally dying from suicide; that alcoholism, child abuse, and domestic violence is up. How can you shepherd your flock if you can’t be with them?

Mike: We opened up on Sunday, May 31. The [local] district attorney called and told me we couldn’t open, and I told him that we can because people have needs. I know from people in our church who work in hospitals that the suicide rate is up exponentially. Another guy in the church who goes to Alcoholics Anonymous [told me] some guys that he [knows] have drunk themselves to death. So, you have domestic violence, child abuse—all these things are up across the charts.

I told the district attorney, “If there's a child in the middle of the street or by an expressway, and you're telling me I can't go help that kid because it's against the law, I'm [still] going to go help them. So, if you want to arrest me …, then that's between you and your authorities; but my authority comes from God, [who] says I need to help people.” I don't see how that could be illegal—the church is essential. Hospitals and education systems in America were started by the church. Historian David Barton says, I think, that 98% of all universities today were at one time seminaries.

So, you have the church that has been essential from the foundation of this country, and even before that with the revivals and the Great Awakening that took place with John Wesley. There’s a great book by Eric Metaxas that talks about the founding fathers and also about the Great Awakening that really spurred America to become America as we know it today. It was the churches that were praying for righteousness. It was the pastors that were speaking up for the freedom to worship that really drove the war for independence. I think we've forgotten [that] the revivals have brought the Gospel, [which] has brought freedom.

Also, on Amazon Prime, there’s a Billy Graham’s documentary called “An Extraordinary Journey.” The documentary goes through the history of his life from when he got saved to all the things that he has done. He's preached to more people live than anybody else—but he [helped bring] down what was going on in the south, segregation. [Sharing] the Gospel [helped break] segregation in this country.

Tom: Share with us a little about the Bill Graham documentary.

Mike: I think it's just a great thing to watch because they give the Gospel through it. What [it] talks about … is that [Billy] refused to go to the South unless he could have a non-segregated meeting. So, when the meeting began and thousands were showing up, they had separated the whites and the blacks, [with] a rope down the middle dividing everybody. Billy said, “Look, I agreed not to have a segregated meeting.” So, he went to the head usher and said, “I have to do something about that, can you please remove that rope?” The usher refused. So, in the middle of the crowd with everything going on, Billy went down there himself and he removed the rope.

[The documentary] pinpointed to that moment what really began to change the way people were looking at segregation—and it was the Gospel. Of course, Billy was working with other people at the time, too, but that was really the moment that things began to change in the South. So, [it’s a] great history of what God does through those who are willing to stand up for what’s right, for the Gospel, and not so much against something. That's what I loved [about] Billy’s life—everything was always about Christ. The documentary goes on to talk about Russia and what happened with the Iron Curtain coming down, but it was the Gospel that changed all of these events; it's as powerful today as it was then. That's what we forget.

I think as pastors we have forgotten that we're so essential … We've got to get the Gospel out, [our] culture is dying. People are literally killing themselves, and God's called us to take that message out, and we should not be ashamed of it. We should be so thankful for [the Gospel and its] results in history, and know that God's going to do it again. He will do it again if we go out.

Tom: This pandemic is going to make pastors across our country say, “Jesus is essential, the church is essential, and people need the message of the Gospel right now.” If it comes to a head and people get arrested, well, then that's what's going to happen. Share your thoughts on people being arrested for ministering during these times.

Mike: It [becomes] a prison ministry. [Leaders] keep letting people out of California prisons, and the joke around here is, “Well, they're just letting all the prisoners out to put the pastors and the Christians into jail.”

We had a Zoom call with pastors in our area right after we opened, and they said they were praying for us and asked if the sheriff or the police showed up. I said, “There was some police, but they were here for church, not to arrest me.” In fact, they actually thanked us for opening and said, “The civil disobedience at this point is without question something [we] are going to do even as officers for the San Jose Police Department.” I think [the] message out to all the pastors is that the only friends the police have right now [are in] the church.

[Calvary Chapel churches are] focused on the Gospel—not the social gospel and not social justice. I think those things are distractions from the truth and are other [paths] that God would not have us go down. [We are] to stay true to the Gospel, just like Paul in the Book of Acts. I think that's [what] the Lord is wanting us to do if there's going to be a revival. I can imagine Paul, [who] went into a town and was like, “I’m going to let the chips fall where they may.” He ended up in jail at times and getting beaten, yet God honored it. And I think that’s what He is looking for—those who would do the same thing. It says in Psalms 138:2 that we hold His Word above His name, that it would be that valuable [and] important to get out: I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word above all Your name.

Tom: How would you encourage other pastors as they may be wondering what to do during these difficult times and are unsure of how to approach this biblically?

Mike: I wanted to open right away--the mandate at our church is “to love Jesus and make His love known.” I just thought, “We're a church, a church that’s here like a hospital. We should help people.” People want to come to church, and I had to pray about it. I needed all of our board, our elders, and our staff to be on the same page. So, when we opened, we would meet and pray, and some things hit me as I kept just asking the Lord, waiting for peace. It's frustrating because you have the pressure, the fear, the breaking of the law.

I had to go back and study the Scripture again and remind myself of what are we called to do. What's our mission? Romans 13 talks about that governing authority; and of course, 1 Peter 2 talks about obeying the magistrate, those governors, those in authority, the law. A lot of pastors are looking at this and saying, “What should we do when they’re telling us we can’t meet?” I think that’s where you have to realize both Paul and Peter were killed for disobeying the law. There [comes] a point, like with the story of Corrie ten Boom (who unlawfully hid Jews during World War II), where you [decide you] have to obey God rather than man. We’re at that point personally; what do we do about that?

So, I came to that point and had to examine if I was a pastor or a hireling. I was struggling with that because a hireling is there just for the job; doing the livestream is easy, [but] dealing with people is messy. It a hard job, like being in the ER versus being a virtual doctor telling people how to put their IV in. You can’t do ministry that way. You have to be with the sheep, smell like the sheep, because that’s what a shepherd does.

I was really wanting to meet and praying and praying. We were going through Psalm 73. As you study Asaph, he’s going through the pain and suffering of just watching evil people get away with everything—he was so upset and frustrated. He almost slipped and walked away from the Lord. In the middle of that psalm [he said] that [when] he came into the sanctuary [he] recognized their end, … that they were going straight down to fire. They were going to be judged. It changed his perspective, and that perspective changes [for us] when we come to church.

So, every Sunday now … people always line up, and I always have at least three people in tears, saying to me, “I’m so glad you opened” or “This isn’t my church, but I just needed to come because I'm desperate for fellowship.” Our sanctuary is almost full. I've told the pastors in town, “I have all your people here, and I'm not badmouthing anybody.” I love these [pastors]. I've encouraged them to open, and I'm not judging them if they don't. But I am telling them, “Look, these people are desperate. Someone's got to minister to them.”

Like I told the district attorney's office, “You can't tell me to stop helping people. If you want to come arrest me, you know where I am.” He's gotten to know us. We're almost on a first name basis. He calls me once a week now and says, “You guys aren't social distancing, and you had these kids in this location. You’re going to open your school now, and you can’t do that.” He’ll also say to me, “It doesn’t mean I agree with these rules; I actually agree with you, but I have to give you these rules.”

What’s happening in our culture is mass confusion. What I told the pastors in town is that we can’t look at the county, the mayor, the governor, or anyone else for leadership. Never in the history of the church did Paul go to the council of the city to ask if he could preach the Gospel or if he could meet. You just never do that. Why in America are we trusting these pagan leaders to know what’s best for the people?

I had a pastor come to me and basically say, “You shouldn’t open, and don’t tell us to open because I know God told us not to open ... They’re not telling us we can’t worship.” I [warned him], “Listen, that’s coming next.” A week later the governor said we [couldn’t] sing. They’re trying to squeeze us out. It’s a political year and we know there’s a bunch of things going on, but I don’t have time to sit on the sidelines.

Since we have opened, I’ve been blessed every Sunday. My wife will say, “If you just open the church for me to gather with other believers, it was worth it for me.” She said [she] needed to get a [proper] perspective, and [we’re] not getting it, especially in our town, where everyone's absolutely scared to death—and we've only had 181 people die of COVID-19. We've called the county multiple times, and they blocked our number because they won't give us the stats on suicide, domestic violence, or all the other [dangers]. They refused to give us those numbers probably because they're much higher than the COVID-19 numbers. It's frustrating living in a country that's working against you as a pastor or minister for the first time. But that's where you have to say “God, I'm just going to go do it, whatever that looks like for a church.”

We have three other churches that are using our facility, because they're renting a place [where] they can't [currently] meet. So, we're just letting anyone that wants it to come and use our facility because I know [the pressure] they're going through. If you just do whatever you can do to meet the needs of the people as a pastor, that's what we're supposed to do. This county, Santa Clara County, is supposedly the strictest county in California right now, but they haven't done anything [yet]. They haven’t showed up.

calvarysj.org

Part 2 of this interview will run tomorrow.

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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