Louisiana pastor calls out members for skipping church as state struggles with coronavirus

Pastor Tim Deason of Sugartown United Pentecostal Church in Louisiana with his wife.
Pastor Tim Deason of Sugartown United Pentecostal Church in Louisiana with his wife. | Facebook/Sugartown United Pentecostal Church

A Louisiana pastor is drawing criticism online for calling out his members by name during his sermon Sunday for skipping in-person church services despite ongoing fears about the new coronavirus.

Pastor Tim Deason of Sugartown United Pentecostal Church in Sugartown, Louisiana, told his congregants Sunday that he doesn’t mind if people go on vacations. He just doesn’t want them staying at home when he’s busy trying to get them to Heaven.

“You need church, you need church. Why do I get up here sometimes fussing and complaining? I’m trying to get you to Heaven — hallelujah. I’m gonna talk a little bit about that. I guess the Lord just knew you was gonna be here this morning,” Deason said from his pulpit.  

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“I want people to go on vacation, I do. But I don’t just want folks to stay home. If you’re not teaching your family faithfulness, you’re not exhibiting more of that attributes of God,” he said.

Deason’s rebuke of his members comes as a recent study shows that a majority of Americans, with the exception of white evangelicals, won’t be attending in-person church services during the coronavirus pandemic even if restrictions are lifted.

The study from the American Enterprise Institute showed that 64% of Americans felt "somewhat uncomfortable" or "very uncomfortable" attending in-person worship.

"We're seeing among lay people a significant amount of discomfort in going back to formal in-person religious practices," Daniel Cox, a research fellow at AEI who led the study, told America Magazine. "People are equivocating and uncertain about whether they feel comfortable attending."

The study, conducted in late May and early June among 3,504 Americans, showed that even among those who reported their congregations offered in-person worship in the past week, 56% of respondents said they chose not to go.

Louisiana began reopening for Phase 1 on May 15-16 then moved to Phase 2 on June 5. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced on June 22 that the state, seeing an alarming increase in cases and hospitalizations, would remain in Phase 2 for 28 more days, Nola reported.  There were at least 57,081 positive cases of the new coronavirus reported in the state as of Monday and more than 3,000 deaths.

Deason insisted that his flock come to church to be “faithful to the House of God.”

“I’m your pastor. So let me address you this morning. You must be faithful to the House of God. … This is not a one-service church — [that] means that you take a service on Sunday morning, and we established this quite some times ago. When we have a service, then the doors are open; we need to be in church," he said.

“We have Sunday school at 9:45. You don’t choose whether you come to Sunday school on Sunday morning. If the doors are open, you need to be in Sunday school. Everybody said amen! And the ones that’s on Facebook, everybody say amen out there? Good, I heard you, thank you, I’ll preach to you next Sunday.” 

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