‘How Do You Handcuff the Holy Spirit?’: Over 400 California Churches to Reopen on Pentecost

Pastor Shane Idleman and hundreds of other pastors will reopen their churches in line with CDC guidelines for big-box stores.

By Nancy Flory Published on May 9, 2020

Over 400 California pastors have decided to reopen their churches on Pentecost Sunday whether Gov. Gavin Newsom approves or not. By Pentecost, May 31, the churches will have been closed for two and a half months. Now the pastors have signed a letter to Gov. Newsom outlining why they should be able to open their doors.

“We’ve been respectful and submitting,” said Westside Christian Fellowship pastor and Stream contributor Shane Idleman, “but at some point, you begin to realize, ‘Okay, we’ve gotta we’ve got to step it up a little bit here’ and can’t wait for the governor’s okay to open churches when everything else is open from Lowe’s and Home Depot to Walmart.”

Equal Treatment

Pastor Jim Franklin of Cornerstone Church in Fresno told The Stream that churches just want equal treatment as those large stores. And they will be operating in line with CDC guidelines. They’ll be using “best practices” and social distancing. Attendance will be “scaleable” to protect their people.

Idleman’s church in Leona Valley, California, will be following California’s guidelines of 30-40% capacity, but they also have overflow areas as well. And they will have a large tent outside of the church where they can pray with people. “You’ve still got the social distancing but now we’re able to at least pray with people and encourage fellowship and things like that.”

He added, “It’s not like we’re going to say, ‘I don’t care about the social distancing. I don’t care about the math. We’re going to honor the same guidelines that a big store honors. We’re not doing this in a spirit of rebellion, we’re actually doing it in the spirit of submission. [We submitted] to the government officials for the last two and a half months. But now it needs to transition to a submission to God.”

Constitutional Right

Franklin said it’s also important to point out that churches “have a constitutional right to assemble. When authorities have overstepped their boundaries, somebody has to challenge that. MLK did this,” with the civil rights movement. Idleman said that if there’s pushback on the churches for doing this, they’ll have to cross that bridge when they come to it. “Law enforcement are actually sworn to uphold the constitution. So, if the governor is telling us to do things that actually oppose the constitution, the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, then the law enforcement is going to have a challenge.” He added that although there are some bad reports out there, “a lot of sheriffs are not enforcing these draconian orders.”

Spiritual Wellbeing

People are scared. They don’t know what to do with their fear and their anxiety, Idleman said. “Alcoholism is up 240% in our nation. Domestic violence is skyrocketing and suicide — so you have all these things that are happening with the church being closed.” He added, “so we see it as an important time for the church to come together.” Franklin said that they will do everything to “keep people safe — body, mind and soul,” but they know that their spiritual well being is paramount.

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As Idleman wrote in a recent article at The Stream, “I have seen vacuum repair stores and donut shops open while churches remain closed, as if a clean house and a full belly are more essential than a human soul. This can’t continue. I know that some in our own congregation have gone back to destructive addictions and marriages are on the verge of divorce, and I don’t believe our church is the only one seeing this trend. Streaming services, video conferences, and social media are not going to solve those issues. We need to be together.”

Praying for the Holy Spirit to Move

Pastors all across California are praying and fasting in preparation for the event. “There’s a lot of churches here in California that have been on conference calls and meetings with attorneys and praying and fasting to launch our churches on May 31st as a united effort,” said Idleman. “Many, many people have been fasting. I went on a two-week water fast and prayed about this decision. And there’s a lot of confirmation. There’s a peace. So I think we can still respect the governing authority. There’s not a spirit of rebellion, but at the same time [we must] make the needed adjustments.”

Idleman is asking for prayer as the churches reopen. “If they could, be in prayer and fasting with us that God really uses that day to move in a mighty way. What if the Holy Spirit moves in a powerful way and people are drawn to the altar in times of revival? I mean, how do you handcuff the Holy Spirit?”

Watch Idleman’s video that explains the reopening:


COVID-19 is causing massive disruptions in life. The Stream’s parent organization, LIFE Outreach International, is helping send a first wave of help.

LIFE’s local mission partners are already distributing thousands of surgical masks, gloves and other sanitary supplies to first responders, hospitals and nursing homes. In addition, other partners have focused on distributing as many meals as possible to help those who need food.

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Nancy Flory is an associate editor at The Stream. You can follow her @NancyFlory3, and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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