Popular US pastor John MacArthur has said that he is not concerned about the prospect of going to jail for disobeying guidance issued by authorities on indoor worship gatherings.
MacArthur's California megachurch, Grace Community Church, has continued to gather indoors despite numerous warnings from Los Angeles County officials that leaders of the church could face serious consequences, even jail time, if they do not cease and desist.
Unfazed, MacArthur says that a stint behind bars would grant him the opportunity to try his hand at prison ministry.
"We received a letter with the threat that we could be fined or I could go to jail for a maximum of six months," the pastor told Fox News on Tuesday. "If they want to tuck me into jail, I'm open for a jail ministry. I've done a lot of other ministries and haven't had the opportunity to do that one, so, bring it on."
At one point in the interview, Pastor MacArthur appeared to compare himself to the Apostle Paul, who was famously imprisoned for his faith and wrote four Epistles — Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon — during his time under house arrest in Rome.
"Of course, my biblical hero apart from the Lord Jesus Christ is the Apostle Paul,” MacArthur explained. “And when he went into a town he didn't ask what the hotel was like. He asked what the jail was like because he knew that's where he was going to spend his time.
“So I don't mind being a little apostolic."
On Sunday, the church broke an injunction issued by a Superior Court judge which upheld Los Angeles County health restrictions and prohibited Grace Community Church from gathering. During his Sunday sermon, MacArthur explained his reasons for flouting the rules, insisting that the order was "not constitutional".
"More importantly, it goes against the will of the Lord of the church, who calls us together," he added. “So look at the person next to you and say, 'I don't know who you are but I'm so glad I'm sitting next to you.'"
In comments made to CNN, MacArthur added that his church was simply functioning: "under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ" rather than state mandates. "He [Jesus] says to have church," Pastor John declared, "and we will".