women praying in church

Oklahoma Megachurch Holds First In-Person Services in ‘Touchless Environment’

  • Members attending in-person service are asked to reserve a seat.

  • People hospitalized in Oklahoma for the coronavirus has been declining.

  • Gruenewald says he is confident in the steps to create a safe environment.

After weeks of prayer and thoughtful preparation, Life Church in Oklahoma City has reopened its sanctuary for weekend worship services. The Oklahoma City campus — along with the multi-site church’s other 21 locations — held gatherings on Saturday and Sunday after weeks of monitoring health guidelines and best practices for meeting safely.

In a statement to Faithwire, Bobby Gruenewald, founder of the YouVersion Bible app and a pastor at Life Church, described the body of believers as “an important place of refuge for those seeking peace, comfort, and healing.”

Gruenewald went on to say he is “confident” in the steps Life Church has taken to create a safe environment for returning congregants.

“We feel confident in our church’s ability to create a sanitary, touchless environment that allows for physical distancing and exceeds government recommendations for safety,” the pastor explained. “However, we encourage our attendees to make the best choice for their family as they consider attending a physical location or continuing to worship with us at Life Church Online.”

Over the weekend, Craig Groeschel, founding pastor of the Oklahoma megachurch, preached a message on the importance of remaining positive, calling his congregants to be “unshakably optimistic about the future,” even in the midst of trying times.

“Optimism is not a denial of the reality,” he said. “It’s not blind faith.”

All members who want to attend an in-person service at Life Church are asked to reserve a seat at the campus they plan to visit. They also have to answer the following questions:

  • “Am I showing any flu-like symptoms?”
  • “Have I had a fever of 100.4 or higher in the past 14 days?”
  • “Have I had prolonged exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?”
  • “Is there any medical reason why I believe I shouldn’t be around others?”

If a potential church-goer answers “yes” to any of those four queries, he or she is “strongly encourage[d]” to attend church virtually online rather than traveling to a campus for a worship service.

In order to ensure proper social distancing, the church has significantly reduced the number of people who can attend any given service at any of the church’s 22 locations.

Life.Church, it should be noted, has not yet resumed its children’s component, LifeKids.

Chris Beall, one of the church’s campus pastors, described the in-person services on Saturday and Sunday as “super emotional.”

“We’re gonna make adjustments going forward, and this is a very fluid situation,” he explained in a video posted to Facebook on Monday, encouraging congregants to check the church’s website for the most up-to-date information about worship services.

The megachurch’s reopening came the same week Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) announced plans to begin phase two of reopening the Sooner State on Friday.

Stitt said Monday that 25,000 coronavirus tests were performed last week, marking a 50% increase in the number of tests administered the week prior. The number of cases, he noted, remained flat. As of Wednesday, state health officials reported a total of 4,852 coronavirus cases and no new deaths.

The number of people hospitalized in Oklahoma for the coronavirus has been declining for six weeks, even as more people have tested positive for the illness. There has also been a steep decline in the number of people requiring intensive care for the coronavirus. On March 31, for example, there were 562 Oklahomans in the hospital for COVID-19. By Tuesday, that number was down to 218.