Life.Church Senior Pastor Craig Groeschel and pastor and innovation leader at Life.Church Bobby Gruenewald have been quarantined by health officials after being exposed to the coronavirus at a conference in Germany.
In a video titled "Something Different This Month,” Groeschel, whose church has 90,000 attenders at its 34 campuses spread over 10 states, broke the news to Life.Church members late Wednesday afternoon.
"You might notice that the background for this month's video update looks a little different. Watch this video to find out why," Groeschel said, revealing he taped his video from his home instead of the church's headquarters.
"If it looks like I'm shooting out of my bedroom, the reason is it's because I'm shooting out of my bedroom," he said.
Groeschel said he and Gruenewald, founder of the YouVersion Bible app, were already on a plane headed home when they learned that someone at the three-day Willow Creek Germany summit had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
After sharing the news with a flight attendant, the pastors were met with health authorities once they landed.
"We decided to isolate ourselves for the full 14 days, no contact with anyone whatsoever," Groeschel said.
“The good news is, I’ve gotten time to pray,” he added. “I’ve written sermon outlines through like, the end of May.”
In his video, he made sure people knew that he and Gruenewald would not be at church to prevent any possible spread of the disease, adding that both men felt “great.”
"We will not be at church, don't worry. We're going to stay completely away. We're trying to do this out of an abundance of caution to ensure that everyone is safe," Groeschel said.
In the video, he did not specifically say when the quarantine period will be completed but he hinted that it would be over soon.
Groeschel asked that church members pray for him because he missed his family.
“I don’t think we need prayers for our health, I need prayers because I haven’t seen Amy or my kids in a long time,” he said. “We’re all doing great.”
Willow Creek Deutschland Leitungskongress 2020 took place Feb. 27-29 in Karlsruhe, in southwest Germany. The summit ended early after organizers become aware of the diagnosis. In a statement, they said the decision was a "preventative measure."
"We would like to inform you that we have ended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit 2020 in Karlsruhe early," said the announcement. "This was done for reasons of safety. According to health officials, participants were never in any danger.
"Nonetheless, we have decided to end this event as a preventative measure so all participants can get home safely."
As of Thursday, more than 87,137 cases of the illness had been reported globally, according to the World Health Organization. The United States confirmed its 11th death from the outbreak on Wednesday, along with more than 150 confirmed cases.
“More cases of COVID-19 are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States,” the CDC said on its website. “It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in communities in the United States. It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur.”
Vice President Mike Pence was assigned by President Trump to spearhead the U.S. federal government’s response to the global outbreak of coronavirus.
Last week, the White House Flickr account posted a photo taken on Feb. 26 showing Pence praying with members of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce in his White House office. The photo shows Pence in a circle with others bowing their heads in prayer.
Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham and the head of Samaritan’s Purse evangelical humanitarian charity, called the photo “touching” and “powerful.”
“Let’s join them in asking God for His wisdom, direction, & help in the response to this virus,” Graham tweeted.