The U.S. is recovering in fits and starts from the pandemic – including some churches that are having a hard time coming back. Back in January, for example, a mega-church known as The Potter's House shuttered its $12.2 million, 137,000-square-foot building for good and said it would meet only online. People were not coming back to the church building for services after the pandemic, and donations had declined sharply.
The pastor of the church, Touré Roberts, explained that the building's need for repairs and its lack of funds to meet those needs was the catalyst for the shutdown. The church intends to continue its outreach ministries, though, including its food bank.
Dr. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist-Dallas contends no matter how many people tune in to services on Facebook Live, The Potter's House Denver has ceased to be a church.
"A totally virtual church is a nonexistent church," Jeffress insists. "We use online to reach audiences we couldn't reach otherwise, but it's a cheap substitute for the in-person church."
Jeffress cites Hebrews 10:25-26, which warns against giving up meeting together. He says he's hearing from some churches that are thriving post-pandemic – and some, like The Potter's House, that are failing.
The Southern Baptist pastor continues: "Churches that went to either extreme in the pandemic are suffering. Some churches totally disregarded the pandemic. They threw caution to the wind, and I think they're now being deemed as probably irresponsible by a segment of their membership.
"[But] you have other churches that went to the opposite extreme," he goes on. "They shut down for two years, they've not been able to reopen yet, and I think they've lost many of their members to other churches."
He says that for churches which are fighting back, this Sunday might be a turning point.
"Churches every week are seeing more and more people return back," he concludes, "and I think actually Easter Sunday will be a great reset for a lot of people who may have been hesitant to come back and may say, 'This is the time to do it.'"