A California megachurch that defied its county’s health restrictions and held indoor services has changed course and is now holding outdoor services in its parking lot.
North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, Calif, had tallied more than $50,000 in fines, with its pastor, Jack Trieber, recording social media-style videos urging the county to back down.
But on Sunday, Trieber led the congregation in an outdoor service and indicated the church would be in the parking lot for the near future, although he still hopes the two sides can come to an agreement. Attendees stayed in their cars and tuned to a radio station to hear him, honking their horns in place of “amens.”
Trieber said he came to the decision to hold outdoors services after much prayer and fasting.
“We have been so conditioned in America [that] we have to fight everything,” Trieber said.
Trieber read from Exodus 14:14 – “The Lord shall fight for you” -- and said he was handing the battle to God instead of personally fighting it. In Scripture, Trieber said, “God fought many of the battles with the people doing nothing.”
“I believe the battle is the Lord’s,” he said.
Santa Clara County had filed a lawsuit against the church but has dropped it in light of the church moving its services outdoors, he said.
“To me, that's a victory,” Trieber said.
Trieber urged attendees to pray for local and state leaders, and also to pray for an end to the virus. He spoke highly of the local health director who had led the legal battle against the church.
“According to the Bible, she's a public servant of God,” he said. “... My responsibility is to love her, to pray for her and to ask God to give her wisdom.”
The congregation had been social distancing during services by sitting in every other row, Trieber said.
“We reduced a 3,000-seat auditorium down to 1,500 seats, and then we reduced it more than that,” he said.
Trieber said he disagreed with those who want the building opened up as normal, without social distancing. He is responsible, he said, “for the safety of those that come into that building.”
“I do not want to see people lost on my watch,” he said, referencing the possibility of an attendee dying after contracting the coronavirus.
“I wonder if we could go every third row [in the building],” Trieber said, addressing the local health department. “I wonder if I can put X amount of people in there and preach two and three times on a Sunday morning.”
“I have confidence that they're going to try their best … to help to get the churches open at the right time,” he said of government officials. He told attendees: “Your job and my job is to keep letting God fight this battle. Your job and my job is to keep praying for them and for our church and for the gospel ministry of Jesus Christ. Your job and my job is to keep a joyful spirit and be happy in the Lord.”
Photo courtesy: North Valley Church screenshot
Video courtesy: North Valley Chruch YouTube Channel
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.