Zoom home church is here until Jesus comes. As Daniel Whyte III has said before, most people are worshipping at home and will continue to do so, and believe it or not, most of the true, born-again, sincere Christian people will worship at home going forward.
Daniel Whyte III says that God and the coronavirus plague that He has chastised the church with has caused the church to change the way it worships until Jesus comes. Even though I have great love, respect, and admiration for Dr. John MacArthur, a major portion of all churches will be attending via Zoom or some technological service like that from now on. The main reason why is that some bad pastors and some bad church members have made it bad for others because they chose to use the church for everything else but the worship of God and the worship of Jesus Christ, such as for social reasons, for entertainment purposes, for personal reasons, or just to feel good momentarily, for business reasons, for what we used to call courting reasons. In other words, some people chose to use the church as a hookup place for sex and sidepieces and booty calls be it heterosexual or homosexual, and so-called divorce care, which turned out in many places to be nothing but a glorified hookup site for sex-starved people who were going through a divorce or who were divorced. Many pastors got caught up with those aspects because it seemed to please the people. However, it did not please God and it did not please Jesus Christ, who said in Revelation 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” So do not get mad at God or Jesus Christ or the coronavirus plague that he has used against the church to chastise her, get mad at yourselves. Sad to say, what you are going to find is that the sincere Christians who don’t need the social aspect that much because they have a healthy family life, who don’t need a hug because they have a healthy married life, who don’t need to try to hook up with anybody for sex because they have a healthy sex life with their spouse, who don’t need entertainment or a momentary weekly fix of happiness because they have joy every day due to the fact that they have family devotions every morning and they pray throughout the day, these are they who are going to be the people who worship at home through Zoom and other means. In other words, it will be many healthy and strong Christians who are pulling out of the congregation setting because of all the hypocrisy, foolishness, phoniness, and unnecessary pageantry they have to deal with when people gather together such as young men painting their faces white and wearing white gloves and miming, which is nothing but a way of erasing their manhood-we do not need that garbage in the church and sincere people are sick of it. So, pastors, you better hurry up and do what pastor J.D. Greear of Summit Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, has done according to the article below from the Wall Street Journal, and that is you better get out in front of what is happening and create a whole bunch of home churches connected to your church, and make it indefinite, sort of like how they did in the early church when they met “from house to house” (Acts 20:20).
PHILADELPHIA—The pews were only half full at St. Raymond of Penafort on a recent Sunday morning. At the height of lockdowns, that was OK as scores of parishioners grew accustomed to watching services online, hinting at what a post-pandemic future might look like.
But on this day, the church’s high-speed internet connection was down.
“If you want to text them,” Rev. Chris Walsh told the Catholic congregation, “tell them they can get in the car and drive here, and they’ll be here in no time.”
Across the country, Christian leaders are wrestling with how to keep their congregations going with fewer people showing up.
The number of churchgoers has steadily dropped in the U.S. over the past few decades. But Covid-19 and its lockdown restrictions accelerated that fall. In-person church attendance is roughly 30% to 50% lower than it was before the pandemic, estimates Barna Group, a research firm that studies faith in the U.S.
While religious leaders expect some rebound once the pandemic recedes, many don’t expect attendance to return to previous levels. That has left churches looking for different approaches to connect with existing members and attract new ones.
In Catholic, mainline Protestant, evangelical and other congregations, many religious leaders are laying plans for a more hybrid future with permanent online services—a shift from the in-person gatherings that have been at the core of worship for centuries.
Beyond technology, some churches are focused on boosting engagement with small gatherings of congregants for discussion groups or community service and putting more emphasis on a one-on-one relationship with God.
Barna Group’s research suggests that tens of thousands of churches are at risk of closing because of membership declines and other long-term problems that the pandemic made worse. A dip in tithes and offerings is forcing some to prepare for permanently smaller budgets, with less real estate, fewer staff members and smaller programs.
The Archdiocese of Boston had been losing about 2.5% of its Mass-going population each year since the early 1980s, said Rev. Paul Soper, the archdiocese’s secretary for evangelization and discipleship. He estimates that attendance at its churches now is down roughly 30% from before the pandemic. The archdiocese’s 258 parishes took out $15 million in federal Paycheck Protection Program loans to offset declines in donations.
Some priests, he said, have extended hours for confession and Eucharistic Adoration, where Holy Communion is placed inside a vessel called a monstrance so that churchgoers can pray more directly with Jesus outside of Mass. Father Soper, who is also the co-pastor of two parishes in Westwood, Mass., goes on Facebook Live a few afternoons each week to pray the rosary with parishioners.
“If there’s not obligation pressure driving them, if there is not social pressure again, how are they going to form the habit again?” he said. “The answer is this forces us to focus on the love relationship [with God], which is what we should have been focusing on.”
Some churches expect that worship will increasingly move outside their buildings and expand into new ways to meet in person. That includes so-called micro-gatherings of members of the same church, or at-home events designed to attract those who feel more comfortable in informal settings.
The Summit Church, a 12-site Southern Baptist congregation in North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham area, re-engineered its offerings during the pandemic to spawn hundreds of home-based church groups of between 10 to 20 people who worship together on weekends. A few dozen are still running with an in-person leader who engages the participants in a video streamed church service led by Summit Pastor J.D. Greear and helps them process the sermon. Summit plans to keep the program indefinitely.
“For people who are skeptical of church…it’s just a good front door,” said Mr. Greear, a past president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Linda Milburn-Pyle, a 50-year-old who hadn’t attended church since her Catholic upbringing as a teenager, said that a string of trial visits to Mr. Greear’s home worship group early in the pandemic prompted her to join Summit Church after meeting him at a CrossFit gym.
“It just made the church smaller and more intimate,” said Ms. Milburn-Pyle, an audit executive who lives in Raleigh. She now worships most Sundays at an actual Summit location, and meets virtually or in person on Wednesdays with a small group to dissect Mr. Greear’s message for the week.
Also focusing on small-group worship are Rev. Jad Levi and his wife, Rev. Jaime Levi, who founded Trinitas Church in Phoenix six years ago as part of the Church of the Nazarene, a Protestant denomination. They ditched the in-person gathering space they were leasing even before the pandemic and now exist solely as a collective of small communities that perform mission work, attracting new members by word-of-mouth.
They have more than a dozen groups of five to 40 people who gather inside veterans’ and women’s centers, a YMCA and other places where they feed people, help the homeless find housing and cultivate their faith.
At the downtown Phoenix YMCA, which has dozens of transitional housing units, Mr. Levi shows up every Sunday morning with a griddle and makes pancakes for anyone who wants to join. Then he leads the group in praying for one another, shares an encouraging word from the Bible and offers Communion to whoever wants it.
“What we are trying to build is something that is Covid-proof and recession-proof,” he said.
“What we are trying to build is something that is Covid-proof and recession-proof,” he said.
Some churches say a tighter congregation of devoted members will be stronger in the long run. “The crisis actually helped us gain clarity on our vision and mission,” said Chris De Vos, executive pastor at Pillar Church in Holland, Mich., which was founded 174 years ago as a Dutch reformed congregation.
Pillar Church’s “growing small” effort focuses on embodying the gospel outside the four walls of the church. Members gave gift packages to struggling local businesses during the pandemic and put up signs of appreciation for staff at a nearby hospital. The church this year started renting part of its historic building to a preschool and is letting businesses and civic groups that need more space meet there free. It plans to keep offering a Zoom class for people curious about Christianity because attendees seem more comfortable expressing doubts in the virtual format, Mr. De Vos said.
“This pandemic may happen again and again,” Mr. De Vos said. “What are the other ways we can still be in mission of what we sense God has called us to do?”
Many traditional churches say they’ll keep offering livestreamed and recorded Sunday services, but will position them as a “side door” for elderly congregants, or when members are sick or have other good reasons not to come to the building. Catholic churches, in particular, are wary of Sunday Mass moving permanently online because the church’s sacramental foundation is built on gathering in person and receiving Holy Communion.
“It’s not a show. It’s an act of participation that we’re supposed to be part of,” said Dan Cellucci, chief executive of the Catholic Leadership Institute in Malvern, Pa. “We don’t want people kind of taking it in as they are their Netflix.”
Other churches say that virtual Sunday services have allowed them to reach worshipers across the country and are key to attracting younger members. Some Bible study groups that moved to Zoom last year plan to stay there to allow more people to participate, leaders say.
Pastor Levi Lusko started the 11-site Fresh Life Church with his wife, Jennie Lusko, almost 15 years ago. With locations stretching from Montana to Utah and Oregon, for every one person who worships in person, there are another 100 who worship online.
“Long before Covid, the internet was already altering people’s spiritual consumption,” he said. “There’s a rich heritage of the church embracing technology to get the message out,” he added, citing the late Rev. Billy Graham’s success in leveraging TV.
In Philadelphia, Father Walsh is working to draw parishioners back to the red brick building that houses his 80-year-old congregation on the city’s northwest side. In-person weekend church attendance at St. Raymond of Penafort is about three-quarters of what it was before the pandemic, he said. That drop has been offset by the hundreds of people who watch the live and recorded service online each week. The feature had been introduced pre-pandemic but attracted just a few dozen weekly viewers back then.
“The very identity of the church is a community that gathers,” Father Walsh said. “I don’t believe it’s the same as being there in person. But at the same time we have to recognize that’s where a lot of people are.”
Until recently, Brandi Whitehead, the 31-year-old office manager at St. Raymond, and her five children would wake up, eat breakfast, brush their teeth and gather around their big TV to watch the livestreamed 10 a.m. Mass. When Sunday school resumed this fall, she started coming in person again and reserves virtual worship for when her family is out of town. “It gives you an option,” she said.
Staff at St. Raymond are planning a big pre-Christmas push to draw more parishioners back by sending them postcards and calling to make sure they know the holiday Mass schedule. The church recently launched an Instagram account to reach younger people.
Samuel Pauling, a 53-year-old consultant for Verizon, was raised Baptist in South Carolina and had stopped going to church. The start of the pandemic triggered a wave of stresses. His wife, a nurse, contracted Covid-19. His teenage son struggled after being bullied at school. His elderly mother who lives nearby needed more help.
Mr. Pauling’s 17-year-old son, Alex, who had met Father Walsh through his Catholic school, suggested they check out St. Raymond. They came for Mass and Mr. Pauling felt like he belonged. Father Walsh held Zoom meetings with the pair to prepare them to convert to Catholicism. He baptized them in May.
“Life was really stressful,” said Mr. Pauling. “I just felt saved by the church.”
On the Sunday the internet was down, Father Walsh laced his homily with requests for attendees to turn to the person sitting beside them and help spread God’s word. He walked up to a group sitting in the front row, extended his mahogany-colored Bible and offered to show them his “favorite magic trick.”
“Watch this,” Father Walsh said as he hoisted his Bible in the air and let the cover drop to the side. “It opens.” The congregation erupted in laughter.
“Friends, if we’re going to be prophets,” he continued, “then we have to be immersed in the word of God, whether we’re listening to it on a podcast or the radio in the car or opening it up or joining us at Bible study on Wednesday nights.”
Or, he added, engaging with God’s word on YouTube. “You don’t just have to watch videos about cats,” Father Walsh told the group. “You can learn about the Bible on YouTube as well.”