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Church online services reach record-breaking numbers as coronavirus shuts down large gatherings

Church online services reach record-breaking numbers as coronavirus shuts down large gatherings

Christ Place Campus of Flowery Branch, Georgia. | Marybeth Martin

With swiftly changing circumstances and new guidelines regarding COVID-19 in relation to large gatherings, churches have turned to livestreaming, garnering millions of views. 

Megachurch pastor Joel Osteen canceled all his worship services at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, over the weekend to help contain the coronavirus. Osteen’s sermons were instead broadcast on Facebook, YouTube, Roku, AppleTV and online at JoelOsteen.com.    

“We saw 4.51 million people tune in throughout the weekend across platforms,” the church shared with The Christian Post on Monday. 

“This broke our previous record of 4.17 million in November of last year when we broadcast Kanye West’s Sunday service from Lakewood.  This number could increase throughout the week.”

On Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that there not be gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks to reduce the virus' spread. 

“Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals,” the CDC said Sunday.

Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas also saw a high turnout for his church's online service.

“We had a TREMENDOUS day of worship at First Baptist Dallas! Also, had over 150,000 watch on internet,” Jeffress tweeted.

As of Wednesday morning, more than 204,000 people worldwide have tested positive for COVID-19 and 8,241 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University

President Donald Trump was also among hundreds of thousands of people who attended church online across the nation on Sunday. 

“I am watching a great and beautiful service by Pastor Jentezen Franklin. Thank you! @Jentezen,” Trump tweeted.

Churches across the United States will continue to stream their services online until instructed otherwise. However, research from the Nashville-based LifeWay Research conducted last fall showed that not every church might be prepared to take services online. The 2019 survey found that just 22% of pastors livestream their entire service while about 10% livestream their sermon only. 

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