Rodney Howard-Browne was arrested on Monday and is facing misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and violation of public health rules.
The megachurch pastor had several hundred in attendance at The River at Tampa Bay church on Sunday—and held two services.
“His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk, and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week, in danger,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said at the press conference.
Howard-Browne has been outspoken about churches that close their doors. Will his church now be shuttered in the wake of the arrest until the coronavirus falls flat? He has vowed his church will “never close.”
Howard-Browne considers church an essential service that is therefore exempt from the coronavirus orders.
“In a time of crisis, people are fearful and in need of comfort and community, more than ever before, a Facebook post on the church’s page said. “Even people who do not attend church regularly, or perhaps never go to church, need to know that there is somewhere for them to go when they need help.”
Prophetically speaking, what is going on here?
Prophets have been prophesying about a “new era.” More churches are going digital in the face of this plague. But is this the beginning of a new era that will see the church persecuted in the United States?
Never mind trend toward saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” that President Trump helped reestablish when he took up residence in the Oval Office.
Never mind the influence of Paula White, Jentezen Franklin and other megachurch pastors on the president’s policy.
Never mind the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
Never mind moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Christians have been celebrating all the Christ-centric moves, and they should be celebrated. But will Howard-Browne—who is one of many pastors who prayed and laid hands on the president in 2017—be the first of many pastors to go to jail for his beliefs?
Prophetically speaking, this is just the beginning. This goes beyond the debate over stopping a virus to a larger end-times issue. This new era is not what some thought it was, or at least they weren’t expecting this hard left turn. It’s time to prepare for persecution, not from the perspective of fear but from the perspective of endurance.
You may not consider Howard-Browne’s arrest persecution. You may agree with the need to stop this man at any cost. But that’s not the point. The larger point is a door has been opened wide to force churches to shut down, and even arrest the pastor.
Persecution is coming. Paul wrote these words to his spiritual son Timothy: “For all who choose to live passionately and faithfully as worshipers of Jesus, the Anointed One, will also experience persecution.”
You might say, “Well, Pastor Rodney should have known better. This is not persecution. He was warned.”
We don’t need to debate over one man’s decision. Rather, we need to look at this arrest from a prophetic perspective. Again, see the big picture here. What is happening is beyond a brazen pastor’s apparent defiance.
By the way, Howard-Browne is not the first to be arrested. A Greek priest was arrested for holding Mass amid coronavirus restrictions. But this is America. You might expect the police to shut down a building, but to arrest a pastor? A pastor in Nepal was arrested for praying against the COVID-19 virus, but this is America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.
You may think Howard-Browne is stupid rather than brave. But step back from the emotions for a minute and consider the bigger picture.
Yes, this is a new era in America. This is a flash point. Get used to it. And get ready. Don’t be the slowly boiled frog.
This will lead to a Great Awakening and a great harvest.