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11 Percent of Pastors Say Church Attendance Is Close to Pre-COVID Numbers

11 Percent of Pastors Say Church Attendance Is Close to Pre-COVID Numbers

According to the latest survey by the Nashville-based LifeWay Research Center, the majority of Protestant churches in America have held in-person services in September but attendance has not been the same as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey, which was released Tuesday, found that 87 percent of Protestant pastors in the U.S. say their church met in person in September, while 13 percent did not.

Additionally, 60 percent of African American Protestant pastors said that their congregations did not physically meet in September.

LifeWay Research also found that 31 percent of mainline pastors are more likely to have physically gathered in September while 7 percent of evangelical pastors did not.

Regarding denominational groups, Methodists (22 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed (23 percent) are more likely to have not met in person as opposed to Lutherans (12 percent), pastors in the Restorationist movement (10 percent), or Baptists (9 percent).

Scott McConnell, the executive director of the LifeWay Research, explained that while “more and more churches across the U.S. have found ways to meet again, things are not back to normal.”

“The impact of regulations, caution and hardships mean more than 1 in 10 churches are still not meeting in person for any type of worship service,” he noted. “Churches are living organisms, and when more than a third of their members are missing, they are not whole.”

LifeWay, which has been tracking COVID-19’s impact on churches since March, found that pastors have had less than 70 percent of the congregation they have had since before the pandemic hit.

One in ten churches (9 percent) noted that their September attendance was less than 30 percent of what it was in February. Meanwhile, 20 percent stated that their attendance was between 30 percent and lower than 50 percent of what it used to be.

Moreover, 34 percent of pastors said that church attendance has reached 50 percent to less than 70 percent of pre-COVID levels while 21 percent of churches had an attendance rate between 70 percent to less than 90 percent.

The survey also found that a small number of pastors have had attendance that was similar to what it was prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

One in 10 pastors (11 percent) said that September’s attendance was 90 percent to 100 percent of February’s, while 4 percent noted that their churches had more attendees than what it was pre-COVID-19.

Between Sept. 2 to Oct. 1, 2020, 1,007 Protestant Pastors partook in the LifeWay Research Survey using both phone and online interviews.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Christin Lola

Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.

Trump, Biden Present Dramatically Different Visions for America in Final Debate

Trump, Biden Present Dramatically Different Visions for America in Final Debate

President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden displayed sharp differences on coronavirus response, energy, immigration and a host of other issues Thursday night during their second and final presidential debate.

The event at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., was far more civil than the first debate, partially because the candidates’ microphones were muted when it wasn’t their turn to speak. The two candidates agreed on little.

Asserting the nation needs to open back up, Trump said the recovery rate for individuals who contract the coronavirus is 99 percent, and 99.9 percent for young people.

“We can’t keep this country closed,” Trump said. “This is a massive country with a massive economy. People are losing their jobs. They’re committing suicide. There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level that nobody’s ever seen before. There’s abuse, tremendous abuse. We have to open our country. I’ve said it often: The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself, and that’s what’s happening. And [Biden] wants to close down. He’ll close down the country if one person in our massive bureaucracy says we should close it down.”

Biden said the nation can “walk and chew gum at the same time.”

“The standard is, if you have a reproduction rate in a community that’s above a certain level, everybody says, ‘Slow up. More social distancing. Do not open bars and do not open gymnasiums. Do not open until you get this under control.’ … But when you do open, give the people the capacity to be able to open and have the capacity to do it safely. For example, schools. … They need a lot of money to be open. They need to deal with ventilation systems. They need to deal with smaller classes, more teachers, more pods, and he’s refused to support that money.”

A vaccine, Trump said, is just around the corner as part of Operation Warp Speed.

“It’s going to be announced within weeks,” Trump said. “And it’s going to be delivered. … The military is going to distribute the vaccine.”

Biden countered, “We’re about to go into a dark winter … and he has no clear plan. And there’s no prospect that there’s going to be a vaccine available for the majority of the American people before the middle of next year.”

Trump responded, “I don’t think we’re going to have a dark winter at all. We’re opening up our country. We’ve learned and studied and understand the disease, which we didn’t at the beginning.”

The two men also disagreed on energy and the environment, including on the Obama-endorsed Paris Agreement. Trump in 2017 announced the U.S. would pull out of the agreement.

“I will not sacrifice tens of millions of jobs, thousands and thousands of companies, because of the Paris Accord,” Trump said. “It was so unfair. China doesn’t kick in until 2030, Russia goes back to a low standard, and we kicked in right away. … It would have destroyed our businesses. … We have done an incredible job environmentally. We have the cleanest air, the cleanest water, and the best carbon emission standards that we’ve seen in many, many years.”

Biden said he supports the Paris Agreement. He also called climate change “an existential threat to humanity.”

“We have a moral obligation to deal with it,” Biden said.

The Biden energy plan would involve solar and wind power and “create millions of new good-paying jobs,” the former vice president said.

“It’s going to create millions of jobs and it’s going to clean the environment,” Biden said. “Our health and our jobs are at stake.”

Asked if he would “close down the oil industry,” Biden responded, “I would transition from the oil industry, yes. … The oil industry pollutes. … It has to be replaced by renewable energy over time.”

Biden also said he would “stop giving federal subsidies” to the oil industry.

Trump and Biden also had a sharp disagreement on immigration.

Trump touted what he called “400 miles of brand new wall” along the border with Mexico.

“And we let people in, but they have to come in legally,” Trump said.

Asked about a report that the parents of more than 500 migrant children cannot be found, Trump said “we’re trying very hard” to locate them.

Biden criticized the Trump administration for separating the children from their parents: “They separated them at the border to make it a disincentive to come to begin with. … And it makes us a laughingstock and violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”

Biden defended the so-called catch-and-release program, which was used in Republican and Democratic administrations.

“You had a family come across and they were arrested, [and] they in fact were given a date to show up for their hearing. They were released. And guess what? They showed up for a hearing,” Biden said.

Trump said the program did not work.

“A murderer would come in. A rapist would come in. A very bad person would come in. We would take their name. We have to release them into our country. And then you say they come back,” Trump said. “Less than 1 percent of the people come back. We have to send ICE out and border patrol out to find them.”

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Staff

Video courtesy: C-Span

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Franklin Graham: Pope Francis’ Attempts to ‘Normalize Homosexuality’ Is to Say the Bible Is False

Franklin Graham: Pope Francis’ Attempts to ‘Normalize Homosexuality’ Is to Say the Bible Is False

In a lengthy Facebook post on Thursday, Evangelist Franklin Graham addressed Pope Francis’ endorsement of same-sex civil unions saying it contradicts the Bible’s take on homosexuality.

Graham wrote that the Pope’s comments, which were made in the new documentary Francesco, were “unthinkable in light of the Word of God.”

He went on to highlight God’s creation of humanity in Genesis and the definition of the family as “society’s most basic social unit.”

“The Bible teaches that when God created the human race, “He created them male and female, and blessed them …” (Genesis 5:2),” Graham noted. “The first family consisted of a male husband and a female wife, then their children, which is how God defines society’s most basic social unit, the family.”

But when humanity sinned, Graham explained that God’s design for marriage and sexual expression between males and females was distorted by homosexuality.

“Women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another …” (Romans 1:26-27),” he wrote, citing the Apostle Paul’s words.

Nevertheless, Graham stressed that God’s love is “completely inclusive” and that sinners can come to Him by turning to His Son Jesus Christ in faith and repentance. The evangelist asserted that the Pope’s approval of homosexuality ultimately distorts the Word of God and diminishes Christ’s redemptive work.

“For Pope Francis to attempt to normalize homosexuality is to say that Holy Scriptures are false, that our sins really don’t matter, and that we can continue living in them,” he explained. “If that were true, then Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection wouldn’t have been needed. The cross would have been for nothing. No one has the right or the authority to trivialize Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.”

Graham reiterated God’s love for humanity, noting that one can be a part of His family through repentance, according to the Bible.

“The Bible says, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19),” he wrote.

In his closing remarks, Graham explained that a lack of repentance bears eternal consequences for one’s soul and called for the complete surrender to God.

“I want everyone to know the truth and to find the peace that comes only from fully surrendering our lives to Him and His commands. The consequence of an unrepentant, unbelieving heart is also clear in the Word of God—eternal death,” Graham stressed.

“Unless we repent and receive His offer of forgiveness, surrendering our lives to Him, we will spend eternity as part of a different family when we leave this earth—the family of the condemned,” he concluded.


Look to Scripture, Not the Pope, for God’s View on Sexuality, Southern Baptist Leaders Say

Pope Francis Calls for Same-Sex Civil Unions: Why This Is So Important and How to Respond Biblically

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Drew Angerer/Staff

Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.