Andy Stanley, pastor of the multi-campus North Point Community Church in Georgia, announced the church will not resume in-person services until 2021 due to the risk of coronavirus.
North Point, which has more than 30,000 regular attendees, is the first major congregation to cancel services for the entire year.
In a Facebook video uploaded Tuesday, Stanley explained the change in the church's plan, which had originally been to reopen on August 9.
"Based on the uptick in COVID-19 cases, the results of our attendee surveys, and the experiences of churches that have already reopened, we've decided to suspend in-person adult worship services for the remainder of the year," Stanley said.
Stanley discussed the logistical difficulties of providing safety measures and of "contact tracing" should an outbreak be linked to the church and indicated that North Point would use this time to update its digital platform and create a strategy for limited physical gatherings.
Stanley also encouraged congregants that the mission of the church remains the same:
"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, online, or in our homes, the church is gonna be fine," Stanley said. "We're going to continue to meet other people's needs, we're going to continue to serve the community, we're gonna continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus in each other's lives, as well as the lives of people that aren't even a part of one of our churches."
? A recent Barna Group survey showed that 5% of churches are planning to wait until 2021 to reopen, with 49% of churches already open and 26% planning to open by the end of August.