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Still Closed by Pandemic, Some Churches Are Shifting to Biblical Home Church: 'God's Doing a New Thing'

08-04-2020
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In the early days of the pandemic, churches shut their doors to keep their congregants safe. More than five months later, many remain closed, either by government order or choice.  

As churches across the country grapple with when and how to safely reopen their doors, some pastors say they won't resume regular services until 2021. 

That's a big change from earlier this year when many thought the coronavirus shutdown would only last a few weeks.

CBN News took a closer look at the widespread uncertainty among pastors to find out when they will feel comfortable enough to reopen.

When COVID-19 forced houses of worship to end in-person services, many switched to streaming church online.

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While some have resumed traditional Sunday services, a growing number of pastors say the virus remains too much of a risk.

Pastor Andy Stanley of Atlanta's North Point Community Church recently announced plans to continue virtual services for the rest of the year.  

Stanley, who leads the 40,000 member congregation, says he can't ensure people's safety for in-person services.

Others like Pastor Brian Tome with Crossroad Church in Cincinnati, Ohio believe that in-person worship services are over for the rest of the year.

"We're not going to go back into buildings for the rest of 2020," Pastor Tome said.

As the COVID uncertainty stretches into August, the number of people watching online services has also declined from the record numbers seen four or five months ago.

According to a recent Barna survey, 32 percent of practicing Christians have stepped away from digital worship. 

"They're dealing with grief or they're dealing with depression," Pastor Tome added. "People are just thrown off their rhythms and they're just, they're just hanging on as best as they can. And that means they're dropping away from things they used to do. Unfortunately, like going to church or streaming services."

In order to bring people back, Pastor Tome has moved services from his megachurch to the surrounding area

"We're having community events at all of our buildings, we're a multi-site church," he said. "We're also having live events at a park in Cincinnati, social distancing, people wearing masks."

Southern Baptist President J.D. Greear, who is also pastor of The Summit Church, recently pivoted to house churches.

"We need to become, from now until at least the end of the year, basically a movement of house churches," Pastor Greear said. "Instead of The Summit Church being 12,000 people meeting in 12 different locations on the weekend, now we are going to be about 15,000 people meeting in about 2,400. Our primary focus moving forward is gonna be gathering together in small groups for worship and prayer in homes, multiple families."

Meanwhile, most spiritual leaders say they're willing to reopen their buildings if and when cases drop. 

Until then, they're holding out hope that these new ways of ministry will lead to greater opportunities.

"I would love if there were some miracle move of God - shoot, we could open up at Christmas - I would love that," Pastor Tome said. "God's doing a new thing and the more energy and effort we spend thinking about the old thing, instruction for the old thing and complain that we don't have the old thing, the less we're actually going to have something for the new thing."

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