Churches Worship Both Online and Onsite in Coronavirus Pandemic

Kevin Shrum, pastor of Inglewood Baptist Church in Nashville, stands in the balcony of an empty sanctuary Sunday morning (March 14) to bring a message from Joshua chapter 1 to his congregation, who tuned in to watch it online. The scene was representative of thousands of churches across the U.S. as they respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Screen capture from Inglewood Baptist Church video

DALLAS (BP) — Onsite worship drew some 2,000 people to First Baptist Church of Dallas Sunday (March 15) in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, Pastor Robert Jeffress told Baptist Press. But the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will paint a different picture this coming Sunday.

“The situation is changing,” Jeffress told BP Monday (March 16). “We felt like since the city (Dallas) allowed it, and given where we were last week, that we wanted to have our people together as much as possible for the encouragement they need, but also to send a message that we were not fearful.

“A.W. Tozer said, ‘A scared world needs a fearless church.’ But we also believe God wants us to exercise common sense. And with the new CDC guidelines that just came out … we made the decision that we will be totally online next week with our worship services.”

In Washington state, where Johns Hopkins University counts at least 42 of some 61 U.S. deaths, church plant pastor Mark Ford streamed offsite worship to Facebook groups. Go Church, which he pastors, lost its worship space March 12 when the Ridgefield School District closed school doors to outside rental groups.

While Ford previously told BP moving to online services alone might provide an opportunity to strengthen the church’s small group ministry, he now feels the church plant might grow stronger during the coronavirus ordeal.

“It’s possible that absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Ford told BP Monday. “You know when you take something away from people, even if they didn’t even take advantage of it, sometimes when you give it back they want it.

“This idea that people are realizing, ‘What, I couldn’t go to church if I wanted to.’ Well maybe when we can again, some of those will be like, ‘Let’s go to church.'”

Go Church’s Facebook Live session registered 42 homes online, which Ford estimated to include as many as 150 viewers. He said it was viewed 800 times.

In its latest guidance issued Sunday, the CDC recommended that groups and individuals postpone in-person events for the next eight weeks that would draw 50 or more people at a time. In a Monday afternoon press conference, President Donald Trump issued new national guidelines restricting crowds to 10.

In the ever changing COVID-19 pandemic, churches are increasingly moving to online services only, referencing safety and love for their congregations, and a desire to respect governmental authorities.

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Source: Baptist Press

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