Updates on My Former Classmate in Jail for Church Gathering3
Today let's soberly obey Hebrews 13:3 "Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body."
Scroll to the bottom for updated prayer requests for Pastor James Coates from his elders and updates from his wife.
This hits close to home as this pastor is a classmate of mine in my seminary program at Masters that I just came back from 5 weeks ago. James is a like-minded brother with a similar size church to ours but Tuesday 2/21 he was taken to jail and has been in an isolation cell since. His "crime" has been letting those who are healthy in their church body gather and he and his elders haven't agreed to orders to close or earlier worship restrictions. He is a married man and dad with children at home and his family isn't able to see him. I stand wholeheartedly with my brother in his stand for his flock and pray this will move many who now sit at home to stand up for the Lord of the church.
Our brother James has simply done what so many others of us have, worship and preach King Jesus according to his conscience and the commands of scripture as a gathered church, and he's not turning away those who come to join him. The difference is he's the first one in North America (Canada) to be behind bars for it. This story honestly sounds more like another continent than ours, but here we are!
On December they were told only a fraction of their church could gather (15-per-limit and no home visits or even outdoor gatherings of more than 10) and then on January 29 they were ordered to close. His legal counsel wrote: "He is now being held in jail unless he commits to cease holding church services. He could not, in good conscience, agree to this condition... [His] first loyalty is to obey their God, not government."
Let's unite in prayer for Pastor James Coates especially and his family and church family this week! My prayer is that this might be a turning point and wake up call for churches to what’s going on, and let’s pray that non-Christians will turn to salvation under Christ’s Lordship too. May this convict our apathy and complacency, may we gather with the saved to sing loudly and share the gospel with the lost more boldly, as his wife Erin so powerfully exhorts us to worship below!
(SEE UPDATED PRAYER REQUESTS FROM THEIR ELDERS AT THE BOTTOM)
With all the media attention, I appreciated how well my fellow classmate presented the gospel at the end of their public statement on their home that has been linked to news outlet pages all over: https://gracelife.ca
Let's pray the gospel that can't be chained will keep going forth up North, and let's pray for much gospel fruit and that this will embolden more witness for our Lord!
2/17 PM UPDATE FROM HIS WIFE ERIN. SHE GAVE PERMISSION TO SHARE:
"My heart is broken ... I read to my children the work the Lord is doing in peoples through James so they can see the sacrifice of their father is not in vain. My prayer is that men will stand! They can't see that if they shut us down on this issue they will shut us down on any issue they deem "a danger to the health and safety" ... He could walk [away from prison] if he just set aside his God-given pastoral duties but he can't do that"
[see screen shot below for the latest]
FROM ERIN 2/18:
UPDATE FROM PASTOR MIKE RICCARDI:
"He was to be released if he promised not to hold further religious services or step foot on the property. He respectfully refused... one of the brothers saw him with cuff on his hands and wrists and was told they were taking him to the prison North of Edmonton called the Remand Centre. He is most likely to be there until the court case on March 31."
PRAYER REQUESTS FROM HIS ELDERS (SHARED ON FB WED. 2/17):
- Please pray earnestly that our Lord’s will would be done and that His name would be magnified and made great among the nations.
- Pray that regardless of what happens, that Pastor James would find his circumstances such that he can “consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4). This will naturally be a particularly trying season for him even while he remains resolved at the start of this marathon.
- Pray for the Coates’ family that they will both endure and thrive in the midst of this trial set out before them also. They will be in much need of prayer and support and we must show our love for them in this season.
- Pray for the elders and elders in development as we navigate this season and seek our Lord’s will for ourselves and GraceLife Church, especially as we meet tomorrow evening [2/18] to discuss in detail what our next steps will be.
- Pray for yourselves and each other, knowing that everyone’s faith and resolve will be tested in the days ahead. Stay strong, firm and resolute knowing that our Lord is sovereign and in control. His purposes will stand. We are His children. No lasting harm can befall us. We are safe and secure even if for a short time we experience sorrow and grief in the midst of everything else happening around us.
FOR MORE OF THE STORY AND A VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH PASTOR JAMES:
From other former classmates of mine at the excellent Cripplegate blog: https://thecripplegate.com/masters-seminary-pastor-jailed/#more-225104
Below is another church with a fellow classmate in my program that I spent time talking with last month. They have some connections to the Canadian church and Pastor Costi on the left some of you will recognize from the excellent video "American Gospel":