Cheryl is a poet, freelance writer, author, and former newspaper columnist. She has degrees in Psychology and Biblical studies
COVID-19 is a game changer
Andy Stanley is pastor of North Point Community Church in the Atlanta area. The ministry has multiple locations and about 38,000 attendees on a weekly basis. Stanley has decided that it is best not to attempt to reopen the buildings for services for the rest of 2020. A Barna Research survey indicates that 5% of pastors nationwide feel the same way. This comes after dates announced for reopening various churches have had to be changed more than once. An increasing number of pastors have decided that it is best to stop trying to wait and see and give new dates each month. In a video sent out to members, Stanley said that even if services resumed right away, only a small portion of members would attend at this present time. During an interview Stanley said the following:
“By suspending Sunday morning in-person gatherings we are able to create a strategy that impacts 100 percent of our attendees and has the potential to impact their friends as well,” he said. “In-person services during COVID is neither missional nor evangelistic—unless of course the mission of the church is to gather in a building on Sunday morning.”
Although a growing number of pastors are in agreement with Andy Stanley's views, not everyone feels the same way. Many churches across the United States have continued to hold services either in the parking lot or in small groups in their buildings. There have been debates on Facebook between those who take Galatians 10:25 literally and insist that believers must attend weekly services because God commands it. Others, like Stanley, believe the evangelical mission is outside of the four walls. Some say that Paul was not talking about church buildings in Galatians because there were none in his day. Instead, they say he is referring to the gathering with Jesus when He returns in His second coming. I have talked to pastors who say that God told them to reopen their buildings and host services once again. I also know of situations where parking lot services failed. In one case, a pastor had a heat stroke because he was preaching in 90-degree weather. In several others, church members claimed it was too hot in the parking lot and those pastors began broadcasting live streams from their homes. There have also been numerous cases of churches reopening and the members testing positive for the coronavirus and in some cases, death occurred. Each pastor must make his or her own decision based on what he or she believes God is saying. If, however, the decision is resulting in sickness and death, perhaps it should be reconsidered in the best interest of all concerned.
Wisdom is key
The Barna research found that 49% of pastors surveyed said they were back in their buildings which was down from 56% in June. This is probably because some churches that reopened have closed again. Georgia governor Gavin Newsome said that in his state, whether or not a church opens or closes depends on how COVID-19 has affected that particular location. Barna also noted that most pastors indicated that giving initially declined, but now find tithing is steady or has increased. This seems to indicate that churchgoers desire to see the finances of their local congregation continue even though they are not making personal appearances. Wisdom is key here because everyone has an opinion. No one questions when a church closes for treacherous weather but the government ordaining the building to remain short seems to bother a lot of people. I recall one Wednesday in February when it was snowing, and sleeping and the local temperature was about 4 degrees. Every church sent announcements to the local news that they were closing, except the one I attended. I was instructed by the church office on behalf of the pastor to call all church leaders and tell them that he expected them in service that night. My husband and I picked up his mother and drove to church and it was pretty slippery. What I noticed upon arriving was that the pastor's wife and children had stayed home. He risked the lives of his members while using wisdom with his own family. Motive is something else to think about.
What is the motive for ministry
If the people are giving while the church doors are shut, then the money is coming in and expenses will be less. If a church reopens but only a few members attend or support financially then this will eventually become a problem. In addition to the pastor, the pianist or organist must be paid and any other staff that are performing their duties. The lights and air conditioning will be utilized more than if there was no service. This will cause expenditures to increase while money is decreasing. No once would have thought that COVID-19 would be hanging around this long and as the months go by there will be collateral damage. This is not a negative statement but one if fact. There will be some congregations that will not be able to ever function again. A megachurch such as the one Andy Stanley pastors probably has enough money in the bank as well as large givers to keep them going, in or out of the building. Even prior to the coronavirus there have been small churches all over the nation that were shutting down or merging with other ministries just to survive.
Time will tell all
There are also churches where the major focus is prosperity and without the people in the building, tithing, and sowing financial seeds, the funds will drop. This will reveal that it was man and not God who enriched these pastors and they don't want to be exposed. My Facebook news feed is filled with posts from people saying that pastors are threatening them and listing names of members who are no longer tithing. Even in a pandemic, the shysters continue to try to fill their own coffers. Time will tell whether or not additional pastors will agree with Stanley's approach and not hold services until next year. Time will also reveal which ministries are able to weather the storm of the pandemic aftermath. Andy Stanley's method may work for him but this is not a one size fits all, so other pastors will do what is best for themselves and their congregant.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Cheryl E Preston
Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on August 07, 2020:
Yes so true.
Sp Greaney from Ireland on August 07, 2020:
I see his point and he probably didn't make this decision lightly. There is always a risk and he is better off waiting to see how things turn out.
OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on August 01, 2020:
Get wisdom, it is the principal thing...
Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on July 31, 2020:
Thank you, Linda Courtney, for reading,
Linda Courtney from Bloomsburg, PA on July 31, 2020:
I can understand why Andy Stanley is doing what he is doing as that is a big congregation and it would be hard to keep people safe. You hear instances on the news of congregations getting sick from one person infected. Most pastors, I would think, would not want to be held responsible for people's lives in that regard. I still give to my church regularly even though I just watch them online. They do have in-person teachings too, but in a scaled-down fashion. I live in a rural area where case counts are not high at all. Everyone should do what is best for them and pray to God for guidance. In times like this, we need our churches!