Next spiritual awakening may come through the internet - Greg Laurie

Greg Laurie

Buildings may be closed far and wide because of the coronavirus pandemic, but "the doors for the church have never been more open", says megachurch pastor Greg Laurie. 

Laurie, senior pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in California, says the pandemic could even bring about America's next spiritual revival. 

Writing in Newsweek, the preacher and author said his church's first online service when the lockdown started was watched by 250,000 people. 

He says attendance has continued to grow ever since, especially among Millennials, with participation by this age category increasing 235 per cent since the first Sunday of the lockdown. 

The numbers watching Laurie's online Sunday service had surpassed a million by mid-April. 

Laurie says he has been "pleasantly surprised" by the figures. 

"These are people literally from all around the world, from every age and background, who are missing church. So, to the best of our ability, we are bringing church to them," he said. 

But the "most surprising thing" about this new online congregation, he admits, is those coming to faith. 

At the close of every sermon, he's been offering an opportunity for people to pray and ask Jesus to come into their lives. 

He says over 31,000 people responded to that invitation from when the lockdown started to mid-April. 

"For decades, the church has been trying, seemingly in vain, to reach America's youngest generations—millennials and Generation Z—with the Gospel. All the while, we've seen headline after headline and poll after poll reminding us that church attendance has been falling, and rapidly," he said. 

He continued: "Enter a global pandemic. Could it be that simply by responding as best and as quickly as we could to something no one saw coming, we've unwittingly stumbled into part of God's answer to a generational riddle?" 

Laurie went on to say that virtual church could never replace physical church but suggested that God could be using it to reach millions of young people in a way that they are "very comfortable with". 

"Maybe it's a new piece to an ever-evolving puzzle: how to say something old to a new audience. Just as Paul wrote letters, as Gutenberg used the printing press and as Billy Graham used film and television, the church is called to engage the un-churched and under-churched, using whatever useful tools we have at our disposal," he said. 

"Don't misunderstand me. Nothing takes the place of the local church and gathering and worshipping in person. I am also alarmed by some of the overreach on the part of some government authorities who are not letting Christians gather even for a drive-in service on Easter morning.

"Nevertheless, we are in the fourth week of having the doors of our church building closed, and yet the doors for the church have never been more open.

"Harvest Christian Fellowship is already planning and looking forward to gathering with our congregation in person again, hopefully in the very near future.

"But in the meantime, while we are all still sheltering in place, we are seeing something take place that looks an awful lot to me like a spiritual awakening."