Atlanta megachurch pastor Andy Stanley has announced his church will suspend in-person services for adults for the remainder of 2020.
Stanley is the founder and pastor of North Point Community Church – a non-denominational, evangelical Christian megachurch in Alpharetta, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. It currently averages more than 40,000 people in attendance per week and is one of the largest churches in the US.
“We cannot guarantee your safety and that is a big part of this decision.” – Pastor Andy Stanley
“As you imagine, that was not a casual decision,” Stanley said in a video message for church members. He outlined how the uptick in COVID-19 cases, results from attendee surveys and the experiences of churches which had already resumed services all factored into the decision.
Back in May, North Point Ministries officials announced plans to reopen in early August. But, Stanley explained, that was when “COVID numbers were actually moving in the right direction.”
“That has changed,” he said. “Consequently, we cannot guarantee your safety and that is a big part of this decision,” he said.
Stanley – a popular leadership teacher – acknowledged there would be a range of responses to the announcement from church members.
“One of the things that I love about our churches is that we attract all kinds of people with all kinds of opinions and persuasions,” he said. “So for some of you, this makes perfect sense and you may even be relieved. For others of you, this seems like an unnecessary precaution, perhaps a lack of faith on my part. You might even interpret this decision through a political filter. And honestly, I get all of that.”
Stanley went on to explain if the church opened up and a volunteer, child, student or adult tested positive after attending, North Point would be responsible for doing all the contact tracing.
“That would be the right thing to do, that’s the responsible thing to do, but that would be pretty much an impossible thing to do … That’s just one of several unforeseen factors many other churches are running into,” he said.
“I believe that the church and our local churches will not only survive this, but ultimately thrive as a result.” – Andy Stanley
“The truth is I have a lot of faith,” Stanley said, declaring “I believe that the church and our local churches will not only survive this, but I think ultimately we’re going to thrive as a result.”
“Besides, as you’ve heard me say on many occasions, we are the church. And whether we gather in circles in driveways, in the church parking lot, or online or in our homes, the church is going to be fine.”
He said the church would continue to meet the needs of church members and community members who don’t even attend the church.
“When we re-open, I’m absolutely confident we’re going to re-open strong. And I’m confident in that because I’m confident in you. And 2000 years of church history attests to the fact that Jesus is actually building his church and we are simply invited to participate in the process.”
In the meantime, Stanley said the church would be updating its online platforms, continuing to stream services online, and would release a strategy for limited in-person gatherings.